Grants will help 'flip' 80 courses

Twenty-two teams have begun the task of converting more than 80 courses – delivered now in a traditional face-to-face format – to a variety of flipped classroom approaches. About two-thirds of the reworked courses will be rolled out this fall; the rest will be ready to go spring semester 2016.

ISU's Presidential Flipped and Hybrid Course Initiative is providing nearly $262,000 in one-time grants to get the job done, with departments providing nearly $55,000 in matching funds. Grants vary in size from $2,500 to integrate guest lectures, instruction and videos for a hybrid version of a 400-level supply chain management course, to nearly $28,000 to develop online content for four engineering courses that will include alumni and industry videos. All seven colleges and 25 academic departments are represented among the 22 projects.

Flipped class
A teaching model that flips the traditional instructional format. Students view lectures and other academic content (could be online) prior to class. Class time is used for active learning activities such as discussions, problem solving, projects and further explanation of materials.

Hybrid course
A specific fraction of a course's meeting time is replaced by online instruction. For example, in a three-credit course, one of the three weekly class sessions is replaced with an online session.

"We want this to be a widespread effort, an institutional effort," said Ralph Napolitano, professor of materials science and engineering and associate director for online education in the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT). "We'd like to use this not only to do great things in these courses, but to learn more about high-impact teaching and learning practices and about how to best implement the flipped classroom approach in all disciplines."

Napolitano said the primary motivation behind the initiative is to improve students' learning experiences. It also will assist a broader effort to use university classrooms more effectively and efficiently, aligning with a recommendation from the Student Experience Enhancement Council in its June 2013 report to President Steven Leath.

"There are so many ways of engaging students in the course content that just are not available through the traditional lecture system," Napolitano said. "This is not about replacing contact time with faculty. It's about augmenting traditional instruction with engaging online learning and maximizing the value of in-class time."

How it works

Napolitano said proposals for flipped or hybrid courses were evaluated using these criteria:

  • Potential to have a positive impact on students' learning experience
  • Enrollment in the course
  • How frequently the course is offered
  • Importance of the course to an academic program

In most cases, the conversion process is time and effort intensive as teaching faculty develop modules for online use – anything from pre-lab directions to instructional videos, quizzes, lectures and other learning activities. Last month, each team was paired with an instructional design specialist in CELT's online learning innovation hub who provides the lead support on its project. Napolitano said the CELT team discusses all the projects to coordinate the necessary support, whether that assistance comes from the hub or another campus expert.

The grants also are helping pay for things such as faculty release time, work time for graduate or undergraduate students, software licenses and hardware purchases.

"Our aim is that this group of 60-plus faculty and staff will provide examples of innovative approaches to learning that greatly enhance the student experience," Napolitano said. "By planting these seeds, we hope to inspire faculty across the university and help them see the possibilities -- that there's not necessarily any one particular way of doing something, and that it's OK to take a step back and consider other methods. In some cases, even small changes can provide big impacts on learning outcomes."