Helping to implement Flipped Classroom at a Finnish University

In 2019, I was responsible to design a self-study course and its materials about Flipped Classroom targeted to the international staff of the University of Eastern Finland. That was one of the most important professional learning experiences I’ve had over here. I didn’t know much about this pedagogical approach. I have attended a course whose teacher used the Flipped Classroom methodology. The course was about Quantitative Methods in research and it was, indeed, a very productive learning experience. However, beyond that punctual experience, I did not know much.

When I got the task to design a course and its materials about Flipped Classroom to the international staff of the University, I got excited about how much I had to learn and apply it. And it was just an amazing experience of learning not only about a pedagogical method, but also about institutional curriculum reform, mindset transformation, and pedagogical change.

But what is Flipped Classroom? And why is it important?

To better understand what Flipped Classroom is, it is important to differentiate it from the traditional teaching method. 

In the traditional classroom, students come to class and passively listen to basic theoretical concepts shared by the teachers. When (if) there is some remaining time, students can get a chance to apply some of the theory with basic exercises indicated by the teacher. After class, students might receive some sort of homework in which they have to apply what they passively learnt (if they learnt) in class at their home, without the teacher and peers support. In other words, students do the basic learning with teachers and peers and the more demanding hands-on thinking without their teachers’ and peers’ support.

The Flipped Classroom approach inverts this situation in order to celebrate the pedagogical human encounter. It aims at optimizing both individual and collective time of students and teachers, in which students first get an introductory understanding of the theory at their own pace and time with the support of edtech solutions – before they actually meet their teachers. Only then, teachers and students come together in order for the students to apply and test what they have learnt previously with the support of education digital tools. 

In the Flipped Classroom methodology, teachers are not the gatekeepers of the knowledge and their role is not to transfer information anymore. How could it be nowadays, when students of all ages have access to the world at their hands through the Internet? In the flipped approach,  teachers act as expert mentors in the classroom, by indicating the best pathway that students can take to better understand and apply a theoretical concept. This type of teacher role enhances student learning by supporting the students on how to navigate in a world in which they will be responsible for their own professional development as well. By shifting teachers’ role from transferring knowledge to mentoring learning with the support of edtech solutions, teachers are more aligned with students’ future professional needs, and more capable to personalize teaching and scaffold student professional learning skills. 

Students’ roles change as well in Flipped Classroom. They do not come to the classroom to passively listen to theoretical concepts (many times detached from their own realities). In this approach, students are actively engaged in all the moments of their learning. First, they are responsible for directing their introductory learning with the support of edutech tools.  Such digital solutions scaffold student learning by providing them with more autonomy for choosing their own time and space for learning something new. And when students come to class, they can apply what they have learnt with their peers and the support of the teachers in collaborative work that is meaningful to their own context and future professions. 

Institutional change towards digital transformation and curriculum reform

Before my work on designing Flipped Classroom training for the international staff, the University already had a resourceful and highly experienced team of researchers and lecturers who were experts in Flipped Classroom. They were not only teaching how to implement Flipped Classroom to the university staff, but also developing research along its application in order to collect scientific evidence about its benefits, challenges, and impact on student learning. This is an example of study about Flipped Classroom impact on medical students learning developed by the lecturers/researchers team.

In addition, the team was also responsible to support various departments of the University on how to implement Flipped Classroom in its curricula and course designs. So the pedagogical approach is not only a theoretical professional development course to the institutional staff, but a concrete and pragmatic education change. For that, the team was creating and designing different materials on how to implement Flipped Classroom with the university resources.

This is a fundamental point when there is a need to change organizational culture and practices. You need to build at least three strategic pillars that will sustain the education transformation, comprehending

1) Staff training: lecturers, researchers, and administrative staff learn about the new way of teaching and apply it in piloting courses;

2) Resource update: the institution renovates its teaching/learning environment and edtech digital solutions to enable the application of the Flipped Classroom methodology;

3) Evidence-based curriculum reform: throughout the study of the impact of Flipped Classroom implementation, the institution explores how it works better, what are its challenges, and how it can be implemented in the curriculum.

Take away message

Teachers and students who have experienced Flipped Classroom report both increasing the learning success rate, as well as enjoying more their teaching/learning practices. Ultimately, the Flipped Classroom approach, with the support of edtech digital solutions and expertise in curriculum reform, is a powerful way to enhance human relationships and work productivity not only for education purposes, but in any area in which people have to learn, share knowledge and gather in meaningful encounters to apply and develop joint work. 

In 2020, with the hit of the Covid-19 pandemic, the self-study course and its materials were accessed by over 120 international staff of the University due to its relevance during such a critical time. Now that universities are implementing more edtech solutions for enhancing their teaching and learning experiences, Flipped Classroom is a powerful way to do such education digital transformation.

Eduix can support your institution in providing to its teaching staff, students and administrators this experience and these results by implementing Flipped Classroom methodology with the support of our edtech digital solutions and expertise in building an education software ecosystem that allows curriculum reform.