to flip a classroom must it first have flopped?

Last week I attended a couple of events outside Oxford at which the phrase ‘flipped classroom’ was used so often as to warrant its  happy inclusion in any ‘buzzword bingo’  icebreaker you might be preparing this season.  Along with  ‘MOOC’ of course.

Several participants in the sessions were concerned to know how Oxford was responding to the need to flip classrooms.   A flipped classroom model, it seems, involves  recording lectures for students to access out side class, which we do. And then spending time during your remaining contact hours talking to students in small groups, which we do too.

I am a regular reader of Times Higher Education. From there I learn that students will defend  ‘ to the death‘ their right to attend traditional lectures and that Oxford comes top of student surveys of the student experience.

“This year’s results show the University of Oxford remains a leader in student experience, up from fourth last year to second. In the measure of “tuition in small classes” Oxford and Cambridge, tied for first. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the two ancient institutions also share the top spot when ranked by measure of “high-quality staff/courses” and “helpful/interested staff” and also take the top two spots according to a measure of “well-structured courses”, with Cambridge just beating Oxford. Oxford is also voted the best for good personal relationships with teaching staff.”

Passionate advocates of flipped classrooms  require that the face to face activities in small groups also be technology enhanced. This year IT services worked closely with the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford to provide a technology enhanced environment and mobile WebLearn ipad interface. They seem happy enough.

What goes on in Oxford tutorials has long been a bit of a mystery. In an early fore-runner to the national student experience surveys of today, an observer wrote in 1922:

“the key to this mystery is found in the operations of the person called the tutor. It is from him, or rather with him, that the students learn all that they know: one and all are agreed on that. Yet it is a little odd to know just how he does it. “We go over to his rooms,” said one student, “and he just lights a pipe and talks to us.” “We sit round with him,” said another, “and he simply smokes and goes over our exercises with us.” From this and other evidence I gather that what an Oxford tutor does is to get a little group of students together and smoke at them. Men who have been systematically smoked at for four years turn into ripe scholars.”

If you want to know what an Oxford tutorial is like these days we just happen to have filmed a couple for you. No smoking in these.

If you want to know about students  expectations of use of technology at Oxford, you can read about it in our DIGE report.

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One Response to “to flip a classroom must it first have flopped?”

  1. Bingo says:

    Curious how often Cambridge mentions ‘flipped classroom’? Try special search operators like:
    site:.ox.ac.uk flipped classroom (just type that into Google’s search box).

    Then search for:
    site:.cam.ac.uk flipped classroom

    This will search Google for documents and sites from Cambridge and Oxford, respectively. Lots of other amusing search operators you can try, just search Google for them.