A Professor’s Perspective

To gain a more personal perspective on the flipped classroom format, I interviewed my Bio 202 professor Mohamed Noor. As a professor of one of the first five online courses recommended for college credit by the American Council on Education’s College Credit Recommendation Service, Professor Noor stands at the forefront of the conversation and innovation in the flipped classroom teaching model. Professor Noor provided invaluable insight into the implementation of the flipped classroom format.

Class Format

In the interview, professor Noor explained that students watch two or three pre-lecture videos each ten to twenty minutes long before each class meeting. Students then complete a pre-lecture quiz for reinforcement and self-assessment. Professor Noor also dedicates the beginning of each class to giving feedback on confusing or interesting concepts on the pre-lecture quizzes.

Professor Noor also highlighted the important differences between the traditional and flipped classrooms. In the traditional Bio 202 course, the pre-lecture quizzes are based on assigned readings from a textbook. Professor Noor emphasized that in the flipped class format he expects students to understand and master all of the online video content. Online lecture videos differ from assigned readings because not all of the assigned reading material content may be important in the eyes of the professor. In addition, traditional classes have almost no teacher-student and student-student interactions while flipped classes emphasize increased interactions and content reinforcement.

What Professor Noor Likes about the Flipped Classroom

Professor Noor loves the ability to actively engage with his students and believes that this increased engagement with students epitomizes the efficacy of the flipped classroom format. Noor also observed that during in-class problem solving time students ask higher level questions, indicating greater mastery of the course content.

Noor described the dynamic of classroom as opportunity but no mandate.” In other words, students have the opportunity to take full advantage of the benefits of the flipped classroom by staying actively engaged during class. However, students are not mandated to interact with their peers and professors.

Noor also stressed the ability to pause, fast-forward, and rewind the professor as vital to effective student learning. Different students learn at different paces, and the education community is beginning to embrace innovations in technology like online education to optimize student learning.

Failures and Successes of the Flipped Class for Bio 202

The spring semester of Bio 202 has experienced lower attendance than previous sections. In Noor’s opinion, students have more of a reason to attend class because the benefits of the flipped classroom format derive from the differences of in-class instruction. Noor believes that this contradictory situation has psychological foundations. Students cannot observe immediate benefits from the flipped classroom format. If students get in a habit of not attending lecture, they will never experience the concrete benefits that in-class active learning techniques provide.

Possible solutions

According to Noor, the standard flipped class has graded in-class work. Having some sort of attendance component to the course grade allows students to experience the benefit of attending class and potentially continue attending class. However, Noor avoided required attendance due to the large class size of Bio 202 and a potential logistical nightmare.

The spring semester of Bio 202 also posted improved student performance with the highest first  midterm average Noor has ever seen in his teaching career. The second midterm however was only slightly higher than previous midterm grades but not statistically significant. This decrease in performance can most likely be attributed to decrease in attendance because of overconfidence. Noor continues to strive to make sure class material is beneficial and leads to better understanding of material and overall better performance.

Advice

Noor advised that professors prepare their own lectures instead of using pre-existing lectures from other professors or online educational sites like Khan Academy.

“What you give to the students is exactly what you want them to know.”

Noor warned that preparing for and implementing a flipped class format requires a big time commitment. Noor recounted that he spent around 20 to 25 hours a week for 1 to 1.5 months making the course videos. The flipped class format is a continuous investment similar to traditional modes of teaching because it requires frequent updates of lecture/video content to reflect the effectiveness of lecture material and the needs of the students.

“I need to make activities that make it so it’s worth coming to class, make it so that there actually is some benefit to being a Duke student as opposed to being one of the online students. And that’s really hard to do.”

Professor Noor actively seeks feedback and criticism because he understands that the flipped classroom model is an experiment, and he wants the format to be most conducive to student learning.

To view the full interview, watch the video below:

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