Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Future Model for Higher Education ... The "Flipped Classroom"

There's been much written lately about the benefits associated with colleges adopting the new "flip method" of educational instruction. It makes sense.

But why not experiment with the flip approach in much high school classrooms, too? Costs would go down, and the quality of the educational experience would improve. At least it looks that way to me.

Flipping works as follows. In essence online self-instruction or long distance learning through lectures precedes face-to-face learning and on site discussions. It makes sense to me, and the new leader of MIT believes in it strongly, as can be seen below.

Now all we have to do is overcome the sure-to-come inevitable and strong objections of the well entrenched status quo advocates in the local colleges and high schools who have a vested interest in  maintaining the current way of doing things.

What Campuses Can Learn From Online Teaching says this:

"Higher education is at a crossroads not seen since the introduction of the printing press. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other campuses, the upheaval today is coming from the technological change posed by online education. But that's only the half of it. Just as edX, Coursera, Udacity and other online-learning platforms are beginning to offer the teaching of great universities at low or no cost, residential education's long-simmering financial problem is reaching a crisis point.

Universities have been sharing some of their course content—such as reading material and videotaped lectures—free online for more than a decade. (MIT launched OpenCourseWare in 2001.) In the past year, however, they've developed technology that lets them actually teach in an interactive format designed specifically for online learning.

Last December, when MIT launched MITx—MIT course content online—150,000 people from 160 countries signed up for the prototype course, Circuits and Electronics. The network of students that came together around it was so powerful that the course's instructor stopped his teaching assistants from answering questions in the online forum. The students had said they learned the material better when they helped each other out.

In the decade that online education has been developing—and we haven't seen anything yet—the trend toward rising tuition has made the residential college experience out of reach or ruinously expensive for many potential students. While the financial pain borne by students is in the headlines, however, the truth is that universities are straining to cover the cost of educating them. At MIT, which centers on education through intensive, hands-on science and engineering research, we have to invest more than three times as much to educate our undergraduates as we receive in net tuition (that is, tuition minus financial aid).

The positive development in online learning and the negative trend in residential-education costs came about independently, but it's now impossible to consider the future of higher education without thinking of both. Online education holds the key to making residential education better and less expensive even as it promises to offer education to many millions more people. And the quality of purely online education will depend on the residential education from which it stems.

How can online education improve the residential experience? At MIT, we got a hint when we allowed a test set of MIT students to take the MITx version of Circuits and Electronics, supplemented by weekly contact with faculty, for credit. They liked the experience and demonstrated deep comprehension of the material.

Some are calling this model the "flipped classroom." It puts students in front of faculty when the students are prepared by material they have learned online—on their own schedule and at their own pace. Instead of being one of 200 people sitting for a lecture, a student is in the same room with a professor in order to have meaningful back-and-forth exchanges.

In the flipped classroom, an online-learning platform's software can determine a student's learning style and tailor online instruction to it. For instance, for a variety of problems, some students benefit from seeing the graphical representation of mathematical answers. That same software can give a student quizzes embedded in online lectures, provide instant feedback on his mastery of material, and give him advice on how to get through the tough stuff.

Given its possible scale, online education may improve the financial model of residential education.

If a university's courses can be offered online for small fees to people around the world, we might arrive at a sweet spot where high numbers of online learners are getting extremely good value for their fees, and the university that creates the content is using those fees to serve the mission of the university as a whole—part of which is to make education, on and off campus, affordable. . . .

Mr. Reif was inaugurated in September as the president of MIT."

Summing Up 

The possibilities for greatly improving both our quality and cost of higher education are enormous.

The flipped classroom makes a great deal of common sense and is absolutely doable due to the technological revolution concerning the appropriateness of online learning from the world's leading professors.

Of course, the biggest enemy to all this potential progress will be, as it always is, the firmly entrnched and politically connected status quo.

But a crisis is at hand, so progress will be made. The only questions remaining are how much and how fast.

Thanks. Bob.

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