September 23, 2013

The modern educational model is to “flip the classroom.” Rather than being “talked at” for hours with little interaction between students and instructors, students learn the information on their own – whether it’s at home in their pajamas at 3 am – and come to class to discuss it and do other collaborative activities.

Today was the first in-person class meeting for students in The Finance of Retirement and Pensions course at Stanford Graduate School of Business, where I’m an instructional designer working on the MOOC version of this course set to launch next month. Over the summer, we filmed Professor Josh Rauh delivering the lectures and created moving graphics to visualize the concepts (I learned a lot about the types of tax-deferred accounts and their tax properties!).

Now, instead of listening to Professor Rauh lecture in class, Stanford students can watch the videos independently. Class time, therefore, is reserved for in-depth discussions and investment simulations. Fun, right? Today, students paired up and traded shares of foreign and domestic stock while being cognizant of changes in share prices. Afterwards, they saw how the net present values of their portfolios compared with other teams. The class session was interactive and collaborative, capitalizing on the opportunity to conduct activities that can only occur in a group setting.

This is the future of education. If they choose, any educator can flip their classroom and either make their own digital content or find it online. There are so many free resources, such as Udacity (where I created an online statistics class), Coursera, Udemy, EdX, NovoEd, Lynda (mostly technical training), and Khan Academy.

If you wish to create your own content but don’t have the resources for a film and editing crew, you can easily film yourself using a smartphone or camera, do computer screen and voice recordings using QuickTime, edit using free tools like iMovie, create quizzes using Google Forms, or do instant polling with EasyPolls. If you have some money to spend, Wacom tablets can be set up as an extended computer display, and you can use the free Paint (PC) or Paintbrush (Mac) to draw out the lessons. Sketchbook Pro is more costly, but much more advanced. Camtasia is an excellent editing software (comes with a free 30-day trial).

Have you thought about creating online content, whether privately shared or accessible to the world? If not, think about how it might benefit your students. What questions do you need answered before you would take the time to do this? If you have thought about it, I urge you to give it a shot — maybe for just one class session initially — and tell me how it goes! And if you’ve already been experimenting with a flipped classroom model, tell me about your experience! What kind of digital content did you make, and how? How did students respond? How has learning changed as a result? Let’s keep the discussions going as the roles of educators and students evolve.

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