Saturday, April 1, 2017

Designing a flipped course in genetics

In 2016 and 2017 I designed and offered at UC Davis a flipped course in genetics. A partial version is available to the public.

Structure and design of the flipped course

Figure 1. Overall course structure and strategy. 
My flipped course is structured as illustrated in Figure 1. Students use Canvas, a Learning Management System (LMS), to study material provided in modules. The material includes content pages, videos and book assignments. Many students feel that the book is superfluous. Students test and expand their knowledge by taking online quizzes. They come to class prepared and engage in instructor's lead discussion and clicker quizzes. An midterm exam is administered every 2 weeks (5 total). Together with the final exam, these in-class exams amount to 75% of the course points. The remaining 25% of the points are earned with activities: clicker questions and online quizzes.

I use the Canvas LMS to provide 15 "modules", which are containers of web pages and quizzes. Each module features the following (Fig. 2):

    1. A topic, such as Mendelian Genetics
    2. Objectives detailing the knowledge to be achieved and expected mastery levels
    3. Content pages: short descriptions and explanations with embedded videos
    4. Graded practice quizzes (GPQ): following each content page students can test their mastery on online graded quizzes that can be taken as many times as desired. The highest score is retained. 
    5. Module end quiz (MEQ): at the end of the module students take a graded quiz that resembles an online midterm. 
    6. The Mendel Laws module and the Meiosis modules are available to the public

    Figure 2. Module organization.

    How effective is this structure?

    I have implemented this flipped course for two years, in which I have taught it twice (once to two different sections).  In my first year I taught a hybrid version (~65% flipped). The second year I flipped it completely.  Overall, I am moderately happy with it. There are several things to fix and many to improve. There is plenty of room for new ideas and further innovation.

    Students complain frequently that the course involves too much work, but at the same time agree that they learned a lot. I will discuss students response and early assessment in future posts. From the instructor's point of view,  it was definitely a lot of work. I will discuss the rationale for doing it in a future post. Additionally, I found that I could cover less material than I was able to cover when I taught this course conventionally.  On the other hand, I felt better about students' mastery of the material and I felt more effective and satisfied in this teaching framework than in the conventional one. 

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