The Benefits of Flipped Classes on Student Workloads

Keith Hamon
Keith Hamon teaches college writing and literature in West Palm Beach, Florida. Keith is keenly interested in connectivism and rhizomatic education, and exploring the rhizome through MOOCs.

I have to confess that when I started collecting data about my students’ attitudes about my flipped classes I was hoping that most of them would say that it helped them become better writers and learners. I teach introductory writing and literature classes, and so I want to show my peers and my administrators that my innovative classroom techniques pay off in better learning. That isn’t how my data has turned out. While learning is mentioned in my students’ comments, the benefit most mentioned (by more than 22% of my students) is how the flipped class makes their workloads and work processes easier, more manageable, and more controllable. Many students claim that the flipped class is easier, once they get used to it. I have to tease out what my students mean by easier, as they often write comments such as “It helps us understand better, it’s easier” without explaining what they mean by easier. But as the data mounts, I’m beginning to form some ideas about what easier means.

First and foremost, students seem to like the flexibility and control of doing the lectures at home when their schedules allow. I teach non-traditional students at a commercial college. Most of my students are older than the traditional college age, and most have family, social, and job obligations aside from college. In other words, college is just one of several competing and equally important demands on their time and attention. Regular attendance and time to study are real issues for these students; thus, one of the big issues for them seems to be the sense of empowerment they develop as they assume more control over their work schedules that they believe the flipped classroom affords them. To my mind, student empowerment is one of the strongest benefits to come out of the flipped classroom, and it is not something that I anticipated. However, I will seek ways to cultivate student empowerment through the flipped class, now that I know it is possible, even likely.

Student empowerment is one of the strongest benefits to come out of the flipped classroom.


My students have been empowered despite the absence of any intention on my part. I like that, and it builds my faith in the flipped model. As the following comments suggest, owning your own time is very important to my students, and the flipped classroom seems to provide students with a welcome sense of control over their work schedules:

The fact that I was able to do my work on my own time and on my own pace, it made it much easier for me. It was really something interesting… Much worth the experience. Keep it .. everybody else that’s going to take this class in the near future deserves to experience this.

I appreciated being able to manage my own time. When I completed assignments, I was able to excuse myself from the classroom. As I shared with you in the past, I have a hard time concentrating in a noisy environment. The flipped classroom afforded me the freedom to choose my own space for assignments, and I grew to appreciate that.

Time management is huge when attending school and any extra time to do work is needed. The flipped class technique gives students a chance to ask questions and receive direct assistance when doing their assignment. Often students find themselves lost at home trying to figure out the topic and staying focused. With the flipped class technique, homework can be done at the best time possible.

Flipped Classroom was absolutely convenient for me. It’s is a great way to participate in the class when technically you’re not in the classroom. It allows you to go online and do the work from your home while the teacher is helping you at the same time. This is great for when a person’s ill or for any reason couldn’t make it to class.

Then, my students seem to like learning in their own spaces almost as much as they like learning in their own time. The flipped classroom space as I implement it is much more open than the traditional classroom, allowing students to work in-class or out of class as the wished. My students like being able to do their work where they want as the following comments suggest:

I felt strong about this because it’s easier to learn at home and then when I come back to class we go over it and it helps me learn even more. So I have a strong feeling that you should keep the “flipped class”.

At first I didn’t like it but now I like it better because it gave me time to do and understand at home.

I loved the lectures and [assignments] being at home.  When you come to class and have questions while you are writing the subject matter expert was right there.  Keep the flipped class.

Those students who value ownership of their time and space also seem to value showing up to class prepared and ready to do the class work. I’ve read many complaints in the professional literature about how lazy students are and how often they come to class ill-prepared. Perhaps this is the case in traditional classrooms, but the flipped class seems to have some beneficial impact on student preparation. Again, this is something that I will have to study more closely in the future to see if I can tease out just why the flipped class has this effect, but for the moment, I’m satisfied that it does.

I would keep the flipped classroom the same. I didn’t find anything strong or weak it just made life a little easier because you knew what to expect once you arrived to class.

It let us understand the material before class. Take our time with it, e-mail teacher with questions and then come to class to go over any remainder questions. It allowed for more in class teacher time.

Some students appreciate the ease and benefit of doing much of their work in the classroom, especially where they can get help from colleagues and instructor. They like doing the homework in the classroom, and in my writing classes, homework consists mostly of writing blog posts, annotated bibliographies, and formal papers, and evaluating writing.

We accomplished more work in class without a lecture.

This was the first time I’ve ever had a teacher use this structure. I found it great. The videos were short which made them easier to remember. Additionally I was able to do much of my work in class, which gave me more time to study for other more difficult classes. This was great.

Being able to work on the writing assignment in class was very helpful.  Having the professor there to ask question or if we needed guidance was a great help.

Although Professor Hamon was present, available to be of assistance and willing to assist at all times, relating to another student was very beneficial. The video lectures gave us the main points of the lessons and working by way of computer was a great learning tool. The only way that this type of class setting could or would be difficult to the students in the beginning is, if they are not computer literate. However by the end of the course they will be.

For some students, the flipped class eased the workload outside of class:

It kept me not worrying about having to do too much work outside of the classroom and concentrated on what really mattered.

I liked the flipped class, because it allowed to have more time doing my homework or work.  I like doing things in class.

I think that the flipped class is one of the best classes that I have ever taken. All the work is done in the class and there is very little work that has to be done out of class. Just some reading and maybe the assessments.

Finally, some students attribute the ease of the flipped classroom to our extensive use of technology. They seem to find enhanced productivity in using computers and networks, which I find encouraging. It’s about time that computers start easing our workloads instead of increasing them.

I can’t really say anything didn’t work for me in regards to the flipped class. It actually made everything easier for me whether it was correcting essays or just learning the material. It’s more organized, enjoyable, and modern than other classes. We actually benefited from the technology that is all around us and I’m grateful we used tech to its full potential.

I think it took a bit to get used to it but I liked doing everything online, make for easy access, and I like keeping up/staying in-tune with technology and this made me feel like I was.

As I consider my students’ comments, I’m impressed that they picked up most on the benefits to their own workloads and processes. I did not anticipate this effect from the flipped classroom, but I’m gratified to find so much evidence for it. Of course, it suggests more research for me. I need to figure out why the flipped class has this benefit for students, and then I need to figure out how to enhance it. If I can get this much benefit for students without even trying, then perhaps I can get more with just a bit of effort. Maybe?

 

Feature image courtesy of Flickr, Horia Varlan.