Building Flipped Classrooms

Any organization can benefit from using the principles of the flipped classroom. Your employees will greatly benefit, which ultimately creates a positive impact on your mission. So here we go! This is the beginning of adapting and integrating flipped classrooms to your existing system of education and training. Probably the most important part of embracing and using a flipped classroom is appreciating how it could fit into your existing organizational culture.

Jumping into the Flipped Classroom

A. Organizational Analysis. For those choosing to include flipped classroom models in their educational plan, it is easy, very easy, to focus on exciting technologies and the like. When do I get to wear my virtual reality glasses!? Though before even considering such, thoughtful leaders and administrators, first, need to analyze the nature of their educational requirements and map them with the different approaches to the flipped classroom. Second, assess deficits about existing training and determine how flipped classrooms can address those deficits and aid in resolving other problems in general. Third, after determining the requirements and existing deficits, project organizational needs vis-à-vis technology, support contracts, and administration.

 

  • Requirements. There are different types of educational requirements for different employees. First there are basic trainings in which everyone participates; think organizational orientations. Second, educational requirements might exist due to contractual obligations; think, stipulations requiring all program employees must receive “safety” trainings for onsite work, or, understanding proprietary concepts and information. Third, some organizations may require by contract requirement or their own internal standards that certain employees obtain certain types of certification; think employee competency in emergency first aid, or professional licensure for, for example, nursing and social work. Fourth, similarto the third, many licensed professions are required to take CEU (continuing education units) in order to maintain their legal standing.
  • Existing Deficits. While looking at the application of flipped classrooms, organizations already have an existing structure of education and training. What is working? What is not working? Do employees consider training to be a waste and/or burden? Flipped classrooms can help with each question. It is fairly easy to identify trainings that “work.” (Though they can become even better when employing a flipped classroom model.) These trainings operate smoothly without any type of employee “push back.” Staff ask pertinent questions, receive proper answers, and are able to operationalize the training, for some, immediately. Here, think about a training about using the new entrance security system or using the new voicemail system on the phone. Spotting trainings that don’t “work” can be difficult. Frequently staff employ work-around strategies, including drawing upon the staff “expert” to help her or him with the problem; such is not only inefficient but also a constant drain on time. Probably the worst deficit associated with training is the impact on organizational moral. Poor trainings create beliefs about poor management, reinforce divisions amongst different parts of the organization, and create a sense of cynicism about one’s job.  Such deficits are highly corrosive! To deal, briefly, with this latter deficit, flipped classrooms are effective in increasing faith in management (mentor role model), bringing staff—literally—together in the context of an educational community, and generating a sense of meaning and value about organizational work.
  • Needs. With an understanding of the requirements and deficits, organizations then can successfully determine their needs to move forward. Do we need to purchase technology? Do we need a training specialist? All very good questions that require an answer inorder to obtain the most efficient and cost-effective results. While needs may be governed by fiscal restraints, needs also are governed by the type of training. What is the training goal? Not withstanding matters of content, two training goals are easily identified: mastering and applying training content in some analytical fashion and mastering performance and/or procedural operations. Think understanding new government regulations and applying them to organizational operations versus understanding how to deliver CPR to those in need. So the first type noted above might employ a blended learning, flipped classroom that includes micro-learning and gamification, while the second type might employ animation and gamification. Generally speaking, this part is best handled by a learning professional who understands your requirements and deficits and who can assist you in determining the right blend. Unless you have this talent in-house, most likely a consultant can easily assist you in this process.

B. Moving Ahead. This section contains a quick jumpstart and two different and extremely useful tools for a Flipped Classroom.

  • Jump Starting a Flipped Classroom: In the flipped classroom, students learn the bulk of the material outside of the classroom setting. O.K., let’s assume that employees take turn going through a guided, node-based presentation; along the presentation, an employee is peppered with related questions before continuing. Inaccurate answers will prompt her or him back to that issue area for review. By the end of the presentation, managers can derive information regarding the parts of the presentation with which the employee had difficulty. This can serve as part of the basis for in-class mentoring. Mentors can either engage employees individually, or, perhaps group together those students who had similar challenges and work with them as a team. There are a variety of approaches one can take. 
  • Micro-learning: There are numerous ways to employ the concept of micro-learning. All of them, however, deal with breaking the subject matter into smaller pieces. This provides learners with the critical information they need, just in smaller chunks. If we try to intake large amounts of information all at once, the vast majority of people confront “cognitive overload.” In short, our memory and ability for synthesis progressively declines based on attention span, fatigue, a lack of specific interest, et cetera. With micro-learning, the scope of learning is narrowly defined, permitting students to grain mastery over individual pieces, often through repetition, which is facilitated by different types of technology. Problems associated with cognitive overload decline. Let us recall the metaphor “One cannot see the forest for the trees.” Advocates of micro-learning understand that focusing on everything at once creates cognitive overload, which in turn, not only makes it difficult to appreciate particularity but also creates a blur when trying to comprehend the larger meaning.  The big picture, the forest, as it were, often gets lost when people get bogged down trying to remember all of the details, most of which they cannot remember anyway because of cognitive overload. Using micro-learning in the flipped classroom creates a patterned, sequential approach enabling learners to reinforce information mastery while gaining a better comprehension of larger ideas, which, in turn, greatly improves the learner’s ability to remember and use that information in the context of real-world work situations. Again, all of this is facilitated with different types of technology with the overall goal of effective learning. There are numerous techniques you can employ in this regard in the context of integrating learning with traditional work:
    • Short, informational e-mails or videos: these bits of “micro” information are reinforced at daily/weekly staff meetings and later assessed, perhaps, through an automated diagnostic query answered by employees at their desk. With this information in hand, managers can bring staff together to culminate the training through the process of mentorship that helps individual employees with challenges identified through their diagnostics while fostering team comprehension and cohesion.
    • Flashcards: instead of an informational e-mail/video, employees can learn through applications that simulate flashcards. Similar to language acquisition, the flashcard application is programmed to continue to the next stage or repeat based on employee comprehension.
    • Mobile Technology: Here, the delivery of information is accented throughout the workday. Instead of a “fixed” training time, employees are periodically prompted with information through texts and the like. This approach is better suited for those who do not have “desk-based” jobs.

Next week’s discussion will help you develop metrics for determining how well your flipped classroom is working. Again, please comment or email any suggestions or thoughts about this issue!

Craig Lee Keller, Ph.D., JAG Learning Strategist

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