Flipping Update #3: Making Progress

I am well into the second month of flipping my microbiology class. The first exam did not go well and I had to make some adjustments to my approach (see this post) We had our second exam this week and I am much happier with the results. Here are the things that I think worked well:

1) Course schedule- I often make the rookie mistake of trying to cover too much material in too short of an amount of time. Bearing this in mind, I removed a chapter from this unit and focused instead on slowly working through the material making sure that my students have the opportunity to truly understand it rather than just memorizing it. Covering less material gives me the freedom to work in more active learning activities and spend more time reviewing concepts before the exam.

2) Learning outcomes- There is so much that I want to share with my students, but a single semester is simply not enough time to make my students experts in microbiology. I have to remind myself that expert is not my goal. They don’t need to know the intricate details of genetic recombination, they DO need to understand what recombination is and how it relates to the ability of a microorganism to develop virulence or antibiotic resistance. Using some recently acquired knowledge on course design (see this post), I spent a substantial amount of time reworking my “study guide”. Instead of a detailed list of questions that my students often find overwhelming, I made a list of clearly achievable learning outcomes, keeping in mind the overall goal of preparing my students for careers in healthcare. I used these learning outcomes to guide my lectures and assignments. I certainly need to continue working on this approach, but I think it is already making a difference in the way that I teach and the students seemed to receive it well.

3) Online quizzes- No matter how hard I try, some students just aren’t going to look at the material before they come to class. By requiring quizzes after each online lecture I am forcing them to pick up their textbooks or at least watch the videos carefully. It is simply a tool in my toolbox that helps keep my students from getting distracted by their other course/obligations until right before the test day. It also helps my students to be more prepared for in class activities making them go more smoothly.

All in all, I am feeling better about this flipping thing, but I do have to say that I am finding the work completely overwhelming. I am barely keep up with this class in addition to my other traditional course and my various faculty responsibilities. I just have to keep reminding myself to eat the elephant one bite at a time.

Flipping Out

This semester I got the crazy idea to try flipping my microbiology classroom. I have read several articles espousing the benefits of flipping (see this post) and it seems like the solution to my student engagement problems. Perhaps I should have waited until the Fall term so that I had more time to prepare, but I truly felt like I needed to make major changes now. I am structuring my class so that my students view two or three short (10-15min) video lectures before coming to each class period. We meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays for an hour and fifteen minutes. I spend that time having my students working in groups on a variety of activities or I facilitate large group discussions on a particular aspect of the subject covered in the online lectures. This is the second week of classes so we are really only getting started but I have learned a lot about the process already.

1)      It takes WAY more time to prepare for the video lectures than it did for live, in class lectures. I carefully write a script for each online lecture because I am trying to be as precise and succinct as possible in delivering the information. Recording the lectures also takes much longer than the 10-15 minute product. This is followed by more time spent editing and uploading the videos. I am not doing anything fancy, just using PowerPoint. I can’t imagine how much time it would take to incorporate more multimedia.

2)      Planning the in-class activities also takes a substantial amount of time. I select activities based on the topic of the week. I have to carefully plan out the resources needed, copies to be made, videos we might watch, etc. Yesterday, I found myself running to Walmart an hour before class to pick up the materials needed for our project of the day.

3)      It can be expensive. I have not asked for institutional support in this endeavor. I used my own money to purchase the software that I am using for the video production. I also use my own money to purchase supplies for some of our activities. I have the means to do it, but other teachers may not.

Yesterday was our first major group project. I had the students build models of cell structures using arts and crafts materials. We had so much fun. There was laughter. Students were moving around and making messes with glue and construction paper. The classroom was noisy, but the students stayed on task. They had a chance to take the material out of the textbook and really touch it. Overall, I think this is going to be a great experience. Only time will tell. Our first exam is next Thursday. I will report back then!