Khan Academy and Flipping the Classroom

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I'm part of a working group examining lecture capture from a pedagogical standpoint, primarily thinking about things like how lecture capture will impact face-to-face, blended and online learning at PSU, best practices, implementation and adoption issues and so on.  As our group passes around resources, someone posted a TED Talk by Salman Khan.




Khan is the creator of Khan Academy, something that started out as a tutoring service for his cousins and has now turned into a non-profit organization serving up 2,200 videos to over a million students each monthVisitors to the site view approximately 150,000 videos a day.

I highly recommend watching the 20-minute video, as it explains the design loop in great detail and how instructors across the world are now helping in the design of instructor dashboards, where you can track, in precise detail, what your students are doing with the video content, what they are watching the most ('focus points') and what they are struggling with in terms of the Khan-developed assessments.

A phrase that comes up a lot in our working group here at PSU is "Flipping the Classroom", an idea I really like but am skeptical because it is little more than a nuanced way to explain active learning.  The definition, from Connected Principals:

Flip your instruction so that students watch and listen to your lectures... for homework, and then use your precious class-time for what previously, often, was done in homework: tackling difficult problems, working in groups, researching, collaborating, crafting and creating. Classrooms become laboratories or studios, and yet content delivery is preserved.

The idea here, from a pedagogical perspective, is right on the money.  But doing this is not a trivial effort for faculty.  Aside from all the detailed work that needs to go in to watching the videos and building the classroom activities, this is simply a massive, 180-degree shift for many faculty.  Change is hard, especially when it's not incremental. One of the things we hope to do in the Schreyer Institute is work with a few faculty once PSU has a lecture capture system in place, and experiment with this concept of flipping the classroom on a smaller scale, for instance one week out of a semester. 

Is this something you would be interested in trying with one of your courses?

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The idea beneath the phrase 'flipping the classroom' has, of course, been around for decades. And yes, it is a big shift, but we've been helping faculty take baby steps along this continuum for ages.

I'm intrigued about using video capture as a lever for prompting the shift, I have often used faculty complaints about students not doing the reading as a lever. I never had such a catchy phrase to describe it--I wonder if it comes from those renovation reality shows where they talk about flipping a house.

I'd predict that we would have better success with the video/flipping idea if we identified a few faculty who'd be willing to experiment in baby steps. How about capturing just one or a few lectures, rather than completely changing the course? We could help them gather data documenting the impact on students' learning of using the extra class time for activities.

How could we help faculty select a portion of their course for the experiment? Faculty members have Pedagogical Content Knowledge about the topics or areas where students have the greatest difficulties (or the greatest difficulty learning from a lecture) and that might be the place to start experimenting.

I wonder if, when faculty come to us for things like a syllabus review or help to incorporate active learning, we can pitch the lecture capture idea as a possibility? We could identify, via the syllabus and with the faculty member's input, a specific portion of the course, even a single course period, to experiment with and 'flip'. I'll have to keep the IC FD group up-to-date on the lecture capture working group. We're still trying to find the right way to work with faculty around lecture capture. In some of our benchmarking, we find that some universities actually assign an instructional designer to a faculty member that wants to do this, to assist from the pedagogy standpoint when first attempting to use the lecture capture technology.

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