Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
The flipped classroom and personal enrichment

The flipped classroom and personal enrichment

the-flipped-classroom-and-personal-enrichment- image0Some of you may remember the novel made into a movie "The Paper Chase," which was ultimately made into a television series. For those not familiar with it, the story’s setting is Harvard Law School. The main character was the erudite and engaging Professor Charles Kingsfield, played by actor John Houseman. The venerable professor lectured Harvard law students in a large auditorium on the always exciting topic of contract law. Of course, his lectures were brilliant and the better students hung on breathlessly to every word. Kingsfield was a grand lecturer of the first order. Higher education in the future will likely not include as many grand lecturers or the “sage on the stage” as one person called them. The learned one who imparts pearls of wisdom to a mesmerized group of learners appears to be fading. (Now, I realize there are notable exceptions and there will also be the outstanding lecturers — and aren’t we glad to have them.) No, I am talking “in general.”

Let’s face it — we live in a world of access to information we have never experienced before. All of this information influences how people learn. Today’s learner is often motivated by activity other than passively listening to lectures. They want to participate in interactive discussions and work in teams. They appreciate visuals. Today’s student can watch great lectures on YouTube at his or her leisure. By the way, I am basing this not only on what I read, but also from my personal observations from currently teaching a for-credit MBA class.

All of this change has led to a concept called “flipped” classrooms — where students watch lectures at home and then come to class prepared to work on projects and interact with faculty. Lectures are prerecorded and can be viewed and reviewed as necessary until information exchange takes place. Does the concept work? One study conducted by San Jose University and TEDx found incorporating content from the online offerings into the classroom experience increased pass rates to 91 percent from 55 percent. My personal experience with online courses I have taken has been positive. Have you tried an online class? You might want to check out some of the massive open online courses (MOOC) offered by major universities free to anyone who wants to access them. Schools like Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University are all offering MOOC. They are worth checking out. There is also compiled content known as Open Education Resources (OER), which refers to teaching, learning and research resources in the public domain. I was talking this week with one of our clinical administrators taking a course offered by Harvard just for personal enrichment. Pretty cool.

Students today, and even more so in the future, will receive much of their education online and in new innovative ways. People are going to new places to learn. That is good. I am not sure what Kingsfield would say about it, but my guess is he would go for it.