'Flipped' or 'blended' classes engage students

As communication technologies have become increasingly advanced, educators have been adapting their teaching methods to reach a new generation of students in non-traditional ways. Traditionally, professors lecture for an hour, and then students go home and complete assignments to assess their understanding of the lecture. However, many professors have begun experimenting with active learning strategies to more fully engage students and achieve better learning outcomes.

At the COP, some professors are using “flipped” and “blended” classroom models. A flipped classroom is a form of active learning in which students must come to class prepared. Often this means that instructors record their lectures, students view them online, and class meetings are used to complete interactive activities and assignments.

Terri Warholak, an associate professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science, has flipped the classroom in PhPr 863A, a course on quality improvement. In this course, students watch video lectures, then come to class to complete quizzes on the lectures, participate in group activities and discuss the material. Warholak aims to move beyond imparting basic knowledge in class meetings and develop application skills, so that newly minted pharmacists will be comfortable and confident giving input in a clinical setting. She comments, “I’m trying to figure out ways to get them to learn to speak up … in a safer environment such as a class.”

“Because the time spent in the class is devoted to solidifying concepts reviewed prior to the session through engaging discussions and group exercises, I feel I have been learning more effectively,” says Farah Raheem, a second-year PharmD student in Warholak’s class. “I also feel more confident to integrate independent thinking with teamwork.”

“The structure of the class promotes conversation and cultivates ideas,” adds Seth Anderson, another second-year PharmD student in the same class. “Having to have covered the information beforehand allows the class time to focus on these subjects in a more thought-provoking way. It allows for the information to be applied and thus makes the concepts and ideas more accessible in the future.”

Peter Rottier, the college’s coordinator of instructional learning and technologies, says that a blended classroom model combines a traditional model with some of the best aspects of a flipped classroom. In a blended model, much of the coursework is done online, students are allowed some class periods off to prepare for in-person sessions and class meetings apply the knowledge acquired outside class periods.

“Blended learning is very effective in producing good learning outcomes,” Rottier says. “A U.S. Department of Education meta-analysis found that students in blended courses achieved the highest learning outcomes. This is a good model for the COP moving forward, as it will allow us to use learning spaces more efficiently.”

Ivo Abraham, a professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science, uses a blended classroom model in PhPr 845A, a second-year course on medication policy. In this class, students watch online video lectures and complete assignments at their own pace, working independently as well as in small and large groups. A student in Abraham's class says, “I found that the variety of assignments made this class stand out from others in a very positive way. This course structure helped my learning immensely.”

Abraham comments, “What I hope they’re doing is thinking more and not memorizing … For the type of course I teach, this is a very valid model. It’s not the only model, but it is a useful model.”

Rottier, whose work supports many of the practical aspects of active learning strategies in the classroom, says that the best part of his job is “sitting down with faculty and coming up with solutions that will result in higher student outcomes.”

Rottier will present a series of workshops for faculty beginning in January (dates to be determined). The workshops will cover topics in active learning strategies and learning technology, including:

  • Making your large classroom more interactive – real-time polling and other techniques
  • Using blended learning to facilitate student-centered learning
  • Effective assessments – “Are my students learning what they need to know?”
  • Using Adobe Connect for online office hours – hands-on training

For more information on these workshops, contact Pete Rottier


First photo caption: Terri Warholak works with students in class.
Second photo caption: A group of students discusses a concept with a pharmacy resident guest (standing).

Story and photos by Elizabeth Harris, communications assistant

Share This