ISB Hyderabad experiments with ‘flipped classrooms’, moves lectures to videos to make classrooms exclusively interactive

Class in progress at ISB, Hyderabad

A typical business school classroom has professors delivering lectures for straight hours at times, or endless case study readings and ‘interactive’ sessions discussing those case studies. This ‘traditional’ teaching format, if you will, is often criticised to be a one-size-fits-all approach, where the students are imparted the same content and at the same time, even though they may be starting at different initial levels of knowledge. Professors at the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad have been experimenting with an newer and more innovative teaching style called the ‘flipped classroom’ which reverses the traditional roles of the teacher and student in classroom and aims to make learning more effective.

In a ‘flipped’ or ‘reversed’ classroom format, the lecture content is instead captured in online videos. Students are asked to watch the videos in their dorms and come to the classrooms after having reflected upon the content thoroughly. Having freed up the class time by moving lectures to recorded videos, professors can now use classroom sessions to engage students in various tasks that help them apply the content of the online lectures.

According to Arun Pereira, head, Centre for Teaching, Learning and Case Development and associate professor at ISB Hyderabad, although the ‘flipped classroom’ concept has existed for a while now, newer technology has made it more accessible and easier to apply at schools. Lectures can easily be recorded, converted into podcasts through software such as Camtasia and uploaded online on YouTube, Pereira told PaGaLGuY. Camtasia is a screen recording software that enables professors to record Powerpoint presentations and lectures with a voiceover for uploading on YouTube.

The learning method is designed to keep both students as well as teachers on their toes. A short online video has the power to engage students because it offers a personalised single-viewer experience as opposed to the one-to-many lectures. Students can refer to the material repeatedly if they are unable to understand a particular concept. However, it offers a greater challenge for the professors since they have to make sure that the lectures have enough variety in both the content and duration to capture the students’ attention.

As a result of the lectures being moved to video, classrooms now become interactive hubs. Since it is assumed that the students would have understood the subject to be discussed due to the online lectures, professors can engage students in active conversations. Or use what is called the ‘clicker method’, a polling system in which students will be asked to answer multiple choice questions with the help of a transmitter unit that send signals to the receiver attached to the lecturer’s laptop, displaying the results or accuracy of the answers for the whole class to see. While the method integrates a ‘game approach’ that may engage students more than the traditional class discussions, it would also help professors analyse whether their students have understood the course by examining the number of correct answers. Constant questioning and requests to participate in activities by the professors does not leave the students any time for checking e-mails, texting or online chatting while in class.

It is believed that if active learning were into classrooms under the guidance of faculty, it can become a powerful learning tool. For example, it is a common practice that during group assignments, students select tasks that require using their existing skills. However, if students were asked to work on their assignments inside the classroom, faculty members can ensure that they work on the unfamiliar sections of the assignments. “Since this process forces students to come out of their comfort zones, they dislike the model initially, Pereira said. He added that they eventually learn to appreciate the level of learning such a model imparts.

One of the top concerns while following this model is about how to ensure that students actually listen to the lecture podcasts. While difficult to ascertain, professors have designed methods that can try to ensure high viewership among the students. According to Pereira, Camtasia allows professors to include a quiz at the end of the podcast. As soon as a student takes the quiz, an email is sent across to the professor. So even before the students enter the class, professors will know how many of them actually listened to the lectures online. Engaging students in various class activities like asking them to explain podcast lectures to others also acts as a check. Finally, a grading system can be introduced that would penalise students who enter the classrooms without going through the podcasts.

Pereira introduced the Flip classroom technique at ISB in parts during the 2011-12 academic session. According to him, the experiment was a success and he plans to introduce the system for the 2013 batch as well. Pereira believes that the innovative methodology is slowly gaining momentum at high schools, graduate colleges and other b-schools as well. I have already delivered lectures on this learning technique at NMIMS University, Mumbai, and a few schools and engineering colleges as well, said Pereira.

The ‘Flip’ classroom model was first introduced by professors at the Harvard Business School during the 1990s. Since then many American high schools have also implemented the method successfully.

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