Flipped Learning: The Best Tool No One Uses

Flipped learning can be understood as a response to this question: what is the best use of face-to-face time with students, athletes or employees? Traditional instructional methods deliver new content in a group setting, often in lecture form. Learners later practice, extend, and apply lessons on their own, undertaking the most cognitively demanding work independently and typically with limited support options or feedback. The flipped learning paradigm inverts this sequence.   

Learners first encounter new content prior to the class, meeting or professional development session. They review the material individually by actively completing a guided, structured activity. This goes beyond passively watching a short video lecture or reviewing a PowerPoint deck. For instance, a 10-minute targeted video lecture might include the following: quiz questions spread throughout, an activity that uses a concept from the video, or a reflection question that asks users to self-assess their degree of understanding. After completing pre-assigned work, learners enter the face-to-face environment not to be lectured to but rather to engage in active and practical applications of the material. In-person exercises like simulations, debates or discussions, or problem solving work deepen basic understanding, clarify misconceptions and extend knowledge. 

Important: Key to flipped learning is pre- and in-class quizzing, which (in addition to its benefits to learners) can help instructors, coaches, or employers better tailor the focus of the face-to-face sessions. The result is more efficient time use and more personalized learning for every user.

Graphic describing traditional vs flipped learning

Benefits of Flipped Learning

Preparing content prior to face-to-face sessions gives learners a greater opportunity to practice more cognitively demanding exercises under instructor supervision. These conditions help create deeper and longer-lasting learning outcomes in understanding and performance. Flipped learning can also improve attention in face-to-face meetings. Students, athletes, and employees are primed to confirm, clarify and extend their learning when exposure to new material comes before face-to-face sessions. Rather than listening to a manager explain the features of a new product, sales staff can run role-play scenarios, compare the nuances of similar products, and most importantly receive feedback on their performance. This Engages learners to think, connect, and apply content leading to better retention and a wider transfer of learning through active learning practices.

Flipped learning can also offer instructors guidance in creating more personalized learning experiences. The analytics contained in the results of small quizzes—in advance of- or at the start of face-to-face meetings—could allow managers to divide the group to focus instruction on the topics that most require clarification or reinforcement. This would help instructors and employers make more efficient and effective use of face-to-face time. There would no longer be a need for managers to deliver general information that may or may not be relevant to all in attendance. Instructors wouldn’t have to guess what learners may or may not know about the target material. Flipped learning respects employee time and helps instructors make informed decisions about meeting agendas.

Examples of Flipped Learning at Work

GitLab, the $6-billion code management tool and largest all-remote company in the world at 1,300 employees, uses a “flipped approach” even for their board meetings. Ahead of their call-in board meetings, Gitlab board members receive an agenda, pre-reading, and an ‘assignment’ to synthesize the information and put their questions in writing. The executives receive and respond to these questions in writing before the meeting begins. By the time the executives begin their presentations, both the executives and the board members are already aware of gaps in understanding or alignment, which shifts the focus of the call to managing the company’s 250% YoY valuation growth.

Similarly successful approaches can be seen in meta-analyses that synthesize hundreds of studies spanning the many disciplines within the STEM fields, health professional education, and beyond; flipped learning has generated statistically significant growth in subjects ranging from primary school aged children to working professionals. One meta-analysis calculated the average effect produced gains of 6.9%, which represents marked growth in terms of pre-/post-learning assessment. 

Even high-stakes fields like nursing show gains with flipped learning approaches. One study showed that nursing students in flipped learning courses at the University of Jordan performed better on average (78%) than peers in lecture-based courses (72%) despite receiving 33% less face-to-face classroom time. With less direct cost to the university hospital, the flipped learners (1) understood the material better when previously preparing it at home; (2) had time to tackle more complex clinical case scenarios in face-to-face meetings; and (3) had more freedom to control and adjust the pace of their learning.

Two surgeons at work

Learn to Win Use Cases

University of Michigan football relies on the Learn To Win quizzing feature to refresh important concepts shortly before gametime. Upon reviewing the results, Assistant Coach Chris Partridge would make specific and strategic pre-game adjustments. One such intervention resulted in a meeting with a defensive back who was later able to correctly recognize a play formation, anticipate the play call, and record an important defensive stop.

The NFL’s Carolina Panthers initially adopted the Learn To Win platform to install their 2020 offensive scheme. They created over 2,000 interactive learning modules to introduce the coaching staff and players to every play, concept and technique they wanted to run. By installing formations and coverages on the platform and using Learn To Win’s quizzing feature ahead of a Zoom film session, the coaches were able to identify individual and group misunderstandings before beginning. With this targeted knowledge, they were able to streamline meetings. Because of the offseason success, the Panthers continued to use Learn To Win during the season to encourage a competitive atmosphere, identify and correct mistakes in practice, and efficiently update the game plan for the upcoming opponent.

One of Learn to Win’s Enterprise clients began leaning on the platform to improve their meeting format, ultimately making them more relevant for employees and more efficient. In true flipped learning fashion, the company shares meeting content through the app with employees before the meeting occurs. Once they have digested the new information, employees complete a short quiz that is bundled within the lesson materials. Thus, instead of making announcements during these meetings—a poor use of shared time—the facilitators focus sessions on responding to questions, clarifying misconceptions, and conducting generative discussions and problem solving activities. Their leadership finds that this approach not only better respects and utilizes employee time, but also creates more productive and efficient meetings.

Additional Research:

Flipped learning methodology can boost student learning and performance when compared with traditional instructional techniques:

  • In particular, flipped learning can offer the most significant benefits to low-performing students. One parallel study showed a 56% reduction in the incidence of Ds, Fs, and Withdrawal marks in a flipped classroom compared to traditional instructional methods. Withdrawal rates in the traditional classrooms were nearly 4-times higher (6.3%), compared to the rates in the flipped classrooms (1.6%).
  • A pilot study at Villanova University highlighted the benefits of flipped learning in a number of their engineering courses. The course redesign allocated significantly more time for problem solving exercises in class, which the professors accomplished by asking students to prepare the theoretical points in advance. The greater focus on higher-level applications in face-to-face meetings boosted the entire class averages 3% (the difference of a C+ to a B-) above sections who received traditional, lecture-based instruction. But students in the bottom third of the class benefited the most, their grades on average rising from a D+ to a C, an improvement of 7%
  • Scott Freeman, biology professor at the University of Washington, used flipped learning to reduce his class failure rate from 17% to 4%. He accomplished this while increasing the proportion of his students who earned A’s from 14% to 24%. Freeman assigned pre-class work to prepare students to actively engage in their meetings and also incorporated frequent quizzes before and during his lessons, which he noted are now harder, not easier.
  • One study of graduate physiology students observed an average improvement in course performance of over 12 percentage points when participants in the flipped courses were given quizzes at the start of class meetings.

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