The hiccups, humility, and benefits of deciding to flip a course

Margo SeltzerMargo Seltzer, Herchel Smith Professor of Computer Science, flipped part of her course, CS161, "Operating Systems."

What is a flipped classroom? Reversing the typical lecture and homework components of a course – students engage with video lectures/online materials in advance to free up class time for more experiential or hands-on activities.

The benefits

She's sold on the benefits of flipping – significantly more student engagement, a better synthesis of the different parts that comprise a course, and more engagement with the students who can benefit most from instructor feedback.

The challenges

Preparing materials for a flipped class requires significantly more time and making the most of in-class time requires excellent teaching staff who can think on their feet and engage authentically with students.

Takeaways and best practices 

  • Learning takes place by doing, not by listening to me. 
  • Pre-class Google Forms (like this one) are AWESOME. They let me engage with students in an entirely different way and gather lots of interesting data.
  • Flipping is time intensive, but you don’t have to do for every single class – you can do it for one class, a few classes, one class a week or the whole semester. In any case, try it!
  • There will inevitably be hiccups. I’ve found that full transparency, honesty, and a lot of humility will help to mitigate the disasters that can happen.

Bottom line 

After flipping, she is never going back. “Preparing the coordinated materials makes me think much more deeply about what I'm teaching, how I'm teaching, and why I'm teaching. The end product is therefore better thought out.”