Why Flipped and Blended Learning are Taking Off

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Flipped learning is on the rise in higher education and poised for widespread adoption, according to the 2015 Horizon Report from New Media Horizons and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. The survey found that 29 percent of higher education instructors are already using flipped classrooms and learning techniques, and another 27 percent plan to do so within a year. The trend toward blended learning is one of the core drivers behind the adoption of flipped learning.

Flipped learning is an educational model that reverses, or flips, the traditional lecture and homework learning elements. In other words, students preview learning materials in advance, typically via on-demand video, audio or text, which are accessed online. Classroom time is spent asking questions, discussing the topic, applying knowledge and engaging in hands-on activities. Similarly, blended learning integrates classroom lectures and teaching methods with online learning and content delivery.

The primary benefit of flipped and blended learning is that they provide students a greater opportunity to engage with both educators and peers. Instead of simply watching, listening and taking notes, or becoming distracted by their personal mobile devices, students are actively engaged. Instead of failing to complete a homework assignment and waiting until the next day to ask a question, students get help when they need it. When lectures are delivered online, students can better control the pace, time and location of learning.

Flipped and blended learning also benefit educators, who are able to incorporate various forms of media and invite thought leaders from virtually any location into their lectures, creating a more dynamic, engaging learning environment. Educators can also break down longer lectures into smaller parts that can be more easily absorbed by students.

Of course, an educational method is only as good as the outcome. Numerous studies indicate that flipped learning enables deeper learning and improved student performance in colleges and universities. For example:

  • A pilot program for flipped engineering courses at Villanova University resulted in 10 percent better grades for students in the bottom third of their classes.
  • When Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology flipped its aviation flight program, the change resulted in higher pass rates, faster degree times and better-prepared students for real world applications.
  • A flipped learning pilot at The College of Westchester resulted in a significant drop in DFWs (Ds, Fs and withdrawals).

Flipped and blended learning require a robust technological infrastructure with reliable connectivity and high bandwidth. Video conferencing applications and equipment, learning management software, content distribution software, tracking tools, and other technology must be properly implemented to take advantage of these innovative learning methods.

Beyond technology, educators must embrace a new approach to learning, which requires a significant change in how course materials are developed and presented, and how desired outcomes are achieved. Simply recording a lecture can be an obstacle. Flipped and blended learning also represent a different world for students who are used to showing up for class and listening to lectures. Both faculty and students require training and education to make the model work.

Although flipped and blended learning have proven to deliver real benefits to higher education, implementing such a model requires significant planning and software integration. Colleges and universities would be well-served to start doing their homework and embrace this new approach as a way to improve student performance and deliver better outcomes.