Just five minutes into his morning organic chemistry class,
associate professor Mike Lewis is in full swing, scribbling what
looks like a series of hieroglyphs across a large screen projected
at the front of the room.
Hes working through a series of chemistry problems, tossing
around references to carbons, solvents, ketones and aldehydes.
Throughout the class, students chime in with suggestions or ask for
clarification on the tougher points.
All in all, it looks like a typical college classroom. Except
that something is missing.
At no point during the 50-minute class does Lewis break into
anything resembling a lecture.
Not this day. Not on any day in this version of Principles of
Chemistry II at St. Louis University.
In education-speak, it is a flipped classroom, where students
such as Theresa Schafer are assumed to have watched a prerecorded
lecture before plopping down in one of the desks.
If you walk into a class like this unprepared, you arent going to
learn, said Schafer, a freshman from Fort Scott, Kan., studying to
become a physical therapist.
The goal, advocates say, is to use class time to help students
get past obstacles they have encountered. It is not exactly a new
idea. But it is one that is growing in popularity, along with the
more controversial massive online open course, more commonly
referred to as a MOOC.
Pushing everything is the notion that higher education needs to
transform itself, as lawmakers, parents and students are casting
critical eyes on both the price and value of college degrees.
In the case of flipped classes, it is becoming increasingly easy
for professors to package lectures, quizzes, videos and PowerPoint
presentations and deliver them to students before they come to
Professors at St. Louis University have been doing rudimentary
versions of the flipped classroom for a number of years, said Debra
Lohe, director of the schools Reinert Center for Transformative
Teaching and Learning.
But technology has caught up with peoples desire to design their
courses this way, she said.
The school signed on in 2011 with Tegrity, a lecture-capture
program owned by McGraw-Hill Education, which said the programs
nationwide use had essentially doubled since 2010.
One of the things that has quickly sold Lewis on the concept is
the way it is pulling more students into class discussions. In his
recent chemistry session, for example, nearly two dozen students
spoke up at one point or another.
In a normal class, if I were lecturing about chemistry, I wouldnt
get anything like that, Lewis said. There would have been four to
five brave students who spoke up.
At first glance, there may seem to be little difference between
these flipped classrooms and the good old days when an instructor
would assign reading material before a class.
But there are other components including online quizzes that
push students like never before to actually do the work ahead of
That was the component that had been missing before. The carrot
or stick or whatever you want to call it, said Bethany Stone, an
associate professor of biology at the University of Missouri-
Columbia, who has been using the flipped model since 2010.
As at St. Louis University, the idea is increasingly catching the
eyes of faculty members at Mizzou, said Danna Vessell, director of
the office that helps faculty members use technology when
redesigning their courses.
Its become a more popular word, I guess, Vessell said. People are
starting to recognize the verbiage a little more.
Few things are more trendy at the moment, however, than the
massive online courses offered through private companies such as
Coursera and Udacity and nonprofits such as edX. They are online
courses, generally offered for free, serving thousands of students
at a time.
Supporters hail the model as a way to educate large groups of
students cheaply. …