Flipping the Training Classroom

Typically, when you hear the term “flipped classroom,” you may think of K-12 education. But flipping also works for the training classroom.

In this post, I’ll be covering what flipping a classroom basically means, some of the technology that can be used in creating flipped classes, and what this means to trainers looking to integrate these ideas into their classrooms.

First, let’s look at the basics of what goes into a Flipped Classroom
The official definition of a flipped classroom, as determined by FlippedLearning.org is

“Flipped Learning is a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter.”

This is a lengthy definition–but don’t let this scare you off of flipped learning!

The main thrust of the flipped classroom idea is to have learners spending more time actively doing rather than passively listening.

It’s using class time for more active learning activities.

In the typical flipped classroom, introductory material and rote activities meant to achieve lower level learning objectives are moved to “homework” and done outside the classroom prior to the class session.

This frees up class time for more interactive higher-level learning activities instead of lecturing and low-level quizzes. It also allows for immediate feedback through mentoring/coaching during activities that more closely simulate desired performance.

Obviously, there are times that it simply isn’t possible to have learners work outside of the classroom. This may be caused by a lack of technology available for all learners or, in many corporate and business cases, much of the materials may be proprietary. Also, training is often paid as hourly wages and needs to be in a controlled environment.
For these cases, we have what is known as “faux flipping”.

With “faux flipping,” the same use of technology happens. Learners are introduced to topics and provided with knowledge checks via video, audio recordings, online texts, online quizzes, etc., except that the computers being used are in the training classroom environment.

With the use of technology, this still frees up the instructor’s time and energy for more active and higher level learning activities, mentoring, and coaching. Continuing with the theme of technology being used, let’s focus on the specific types of technology that are generally turned to when flipping learning. As I mentioned earlier, technology’s main role in the flipped classroom is to take on the lower level learning activities, freeing up the instructor’s time and energy for higher-level ones.

You may be wondering what I mean by “lower-level” or “higher-level”. Let’s look at Bloom’s Taxonomy pyramid.

Bloom’s Taxonomy pyramid (from Wikipedia Commons)

On the pyramid, the lower level learning activities have to do with simply understanding and remembering with some application. These activities can be handled simply through online technologies that we already have.

Higher level learning has to do with analyzing, evaluating, and creating—the problem-solving abilities many of our learners will be called upon to demonstrate in their jobs. The aim of the flipped classroom is to focus our learners’ time with the instructor on the types of activities that support the upper levels of the pyramid.

Those in academic circles have spent quite a bit of time exploring the best technologies to promote each level of Bloom’s.

The Padagogy Wheel developed by Allan Carrington of the University of Adelaide

Some of you might have seen the above graphic which shows “padagogy”.

Don’t worry—I’m not suggesting you should integrate all of these technologies. I simply wanted to show that there are tons of options available for those who are looking for tools to help flip their classrooms.

From personal experience, observation, and reading, it appears that the main tools used for classroom flipping are:

  1. Video and screen capture—Camtasia, Captivate, Storyline, Jing, SnagIt, etc
  2. Online texts—pdfs are the main version but also epub, mobi, etc.
  3. Web-based interactive content—could be modules created with Captivate or Storyline but can be as advanced as mini virtual environments created with Unreal, Unity, OpenSim, etc.
  4. Learning Management Systems that have options for forums for peer learning and quizzing.
  5. Simulations—these can be simple screen capture-based simulations or more advanced virtual reality using the platforms previously mentioned, or augmented reality using something like Aurasma or tools such as Google cardboard (lower cost) or Microsoft Hololens (higher cost).


So, you’re thinking—this is great for academia but what does it mean to those of us outside of education?

If you think about it, you very well may already be using many of these strategies and tools in your training strategies.

As many of you may have experienced, the typical training classroom often follows the same pattern of the classical academic classroom—lots of lecture in front of a board or PowerPoint with learners passively listening or, if the instructor’s lucky, taking a few notes.

In training that already incorporates web-based modules, many are already doing something of a “faux flipping” without intending to.

In these cases, programs are already incorporating more video, web-based training and quizzing, and screencasts. When these are used, it ideally opens up more time for trainers to spend on simulations, role-play scenarios, and problem-based learning activities.

To continue moving towards more flipped learning, focus should be shifted towards the idea of trainers being mentors and coaches and design activities accordingly.

Use video and web-based training for introducing concepts and for rote learning.

Use web-based quizzing and gamelets for review, knowledge checks, and immediate feedback.

Move to better use instructor-led training time for higher level activities such as role-plays and simulations.

Encourage more learning communities amongst peer groups using technologies the business already possesses/has access to (this could be something like the proprietary Pebble groups, Office 365 group tools, private FaceBook groups, Skype for Business Online, and Adobe Connect.)

To wrap up, while we may not have set out to create flipped classrooms in our training environments, many are already moving to do just that. Continuing to work on using technology for low-level knowledge and comprehension building will allow trainers more time and focus to use their years of expertise mentoring new hires in higher level problem-based activities, more similar to what they’re expected to do every day in their new positions. While the development and organization may take more effort on the front end–the payoffs in better prepared new hires in a shorter amount of training time could more than make up for it.  Happy flipping!



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