Monday, April 3, 2017

Student response to flipping

Students' opinion before taking a flipped course

In 2016 I polled my students anonymously before the flipped course started. A total of 179 students addressed this question "How do you feel about this BIS101 employing the flipped classroom teaching model?". Here is the breakdown of their choice of answer:
  • I feel excited and look forward to this class: 11%
  • I am willing to try it but I am somewhat wary: 40%
  • OK, but I rather have the old style where the prof lectures: 26%
  • I think it is a bad idea and wish I could enroll in a BIS101 with a regular teaching style: 23%
The 50:50 response probably represents well most students' general feelings toward flipped classes. Although, I did not poll in 2017, I would expect the same response.

Students' opinion after taking a flipped course 

Figure 1Figure 2

After the course was completed, I polled my 2017 class using Canvas anonymous survey. Here is some of the feedback. Students' response to "Please indicate the overall educational value of the course" was positive, with 168/196 students ranking the course as excellent or very good (Fig. 1). Faced with the statement: "The course activities required me to develop critical thinking skills and apply my knowledge in creative ways" 174/196 students "strongly" or "somewhat" agreed (Fig. 2).  
Students also felt positive about how much they learned. 177/196 students "strongly" or "somewhat" agreed that they learned genetics. Students' opinion on how much they learned was also made clear in response to this statement: "I have learned more in this course than in the average, equivalent UCD course" with which 144/196 students "strongly" or "somewhat" agreed.  

Interest in taking another flipped course

Figure 4
Figure 3
I asked if there were interested in taking another flipped course, if I taught it, or if someone else taught. The answer can be summarized as "yes" in the first case (Fig. 3) and "maybe" in the second (Fig. 4). The dichotomy between a known instructor and an unknown one suggests that some students are wary of this form of active learning and may accept it once they know what they are getting into.

Comments by students

Student comments in the survey were much more likely to be positive than negative. Below are three of each type that capture the attitude of the corresponding group of students.

Students who like it
"I really enjoyed the flipped course formatting. I felt that although my grades were not the best, I was able to retain the information a lot better as compared to other classes..... I never knew I would like something so much. I finally feel I found my interest subject in science. I've always felt so insignificant as a science major, like I do not belong. But since taking this class, I feel I have found what I am truly interested in." [Grade expected: C]

"I did like the flipped course for the sole reason that it allowed me to stay on top of my studying. Many times, in normal lecture style classes, I tend to procrastinate and leave everything until the end. So, in this class, even if I am swamped with work from my other classes, at least I will know something for the exam." [Grade expected: B]

"Hard to say, I enjoyed my experience in this course. It was a lot of work especially with midterms every 2 weeks and meqs [=online midterm-like quizzes], but it was an enjoyable experience." [Grade expected: B]

Students who hate it
"It's very unfair to make students attend all the lectures AND then watch ~20,30,40 minute lectures outside of class just to understand the material. ....." [Grade expected: A]

"The flipped course simply does not work... There is nothing like old school teacher student interaction that relies very little on technology and online modules. I do not want to learn by myself without being properly taught about the subject and not specificly on clicker questions. It just doesn't work.. I arrived to class eager to learn but I spent most of the class period uncomfortably discussing my wrong option on the clicker with another student beside me that, most of the time, also had no idea what was going on in class lecturewise. Not only is it frustrating, but very discouraging. ..." [Grade expected: D]

"The entire flipped course concept did not work for me. This course could have been better if it were taught in a traditional manner. The online workload is unnecessary and a waste of time. Activity points should only be awarded with clicker questions. " [Grade expected: F]

Amount of work

Figure 5
Students perceived the amount of work in this course to be more than in comparable courses (Fig. 5). This was of some concern to many and probably a point of contention with a minority. It is also of concern to me and I am evaluating how to make the load consistent with the credit hours. I will dedicate a future post to this issue.


I had been warned that teaching a flipped course would cause my student evaluations to plummet. This has not been the case. Rather, the course garnered substantial acceptance with a majority of students satisfied with the learning advantages of flipping.

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