The end of lectures?

Flipped learning, also known as flipped classroom, is one of the current buzz phrases in education. At its simplest the term refers to replacing lectures with a series of short videos, which students watch prior to coming to class, then using class time to practise applying the new knowledge in a way that they would in the real world. There are many arguments in favour of the idea, including:

– the ability of students to proceed at their own pace, watching a particular section as many times as they need to and being able to review them at a later date

– the encouragement of deeper learning through the application of the knowledge in an engaging, interactive environment

-allowing the instructor to be present when students are grappling with a problem, the time they are most likely to need some guidance

Large scale examples of this method include the Khan Academy and TED ed, an extension of the TED talks.

The concept also has its critics. Harvard Professor Chris Dede, in his 2011 Global Education keynote address, points out that the model is still based on presentational learning with some hands-on activities added at the end, but adds that he feels it is a step forward. Steve Wheeler, an educationalist whose ideas I regard highly, argues in this blog post that it is not possible to replace teaching with videos and raises important issues about equity of access. As it is a relatively new methodology there have yet to be any large-scale long term studies published about its effectiveness.

Having followed over several months the various opinions on this model, excellently curated recently in this Scoop It, I was very interested to read in the New England Journal of Medicine last week that Stanford University Medical School has trialled flipped learning in its core biochemistry course this year, with very positive results, and hope to extend the concept to other areas of the medical education curriculum.

The value of lectures in veterinary education has long been questioned, as was evidenced by a study of staff and students from the University of Queensland published in 20001. Certainly some of the many hours I spent in the lecture theatre as a student could have been used in a much more productive manner. Although I acknowledge the potential problems with flipped learning, overall I feel that it is an approach worth trialling.

Is anyone using or contemplating using this model in medical or veterinary education? I would be very interested to hear experiences and opinions, from either a teacher or learner perspective.

1 McLennan, MW and Heath, TJ (2000) The role of lectures in veterinary education. AusVetJ,  78:10 p. 702


About rebekahmcbrown

I am a veterinarian with a special interest in instructional design and developing eLearning in the veterinary and medical areas. I write teaching materials for both face-to-face and online learning as well as writing and editing articles.
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