EE 443

Why I flipped

This was  my first experience with flipping a class. I flipped  an individual lecture on April 24. This particular course is one of those that is packed full of details in a combination of theory and practicality of designing microprocessors. Courses such as this one are challenging for me to teach because there is a great deal of general information that needs to be understood before the students can grasp the practical aspects required for a design.  I find lecturing alone unable to accomplish the deeper learning because I usually have time for only general information, and very little time to then work out problems or have activities to aid student’s understanding. I imagine students at home floundering like a fish out of water on some of the more difficult homework problems.

Technology Tools

The students were asked to look at a shortened screencast lecture before coming to class. I used Adobe Captivate to create the primary out of class “lecture” material which was shorter in length than the regular lecture. Included was the lecture slides with voice overs as well as occasional checkpoints which were simple quizzes they could take during the slideshow.

This was supplemented with Pencasting. I created two short Pencasts to give examples of how to apply the material on multiprocessing. By allowing the students to watch me work out a problem on paper and hear me describe it, I expected this to  provide more confidence for them prior to class. I also used Pencasting for examples in one class while I was out of town, and the students found it quite helpful.

The new format was well received by some students who voiced their thoughts, but others I did not hear from one way or the other.

As a new user to these tools I did run into some problems:

  • The quizzes in the slides were not working on many students’ computers, probably due to some compatibility or security setting that I was not aware of. So, for the most part, they were not able to use that feature. It is important to test the output on multiple web browsers to ensure it works.
  • The pencasts could be linked into the slideshow as well for a more seamless experience, however this was also causing some issues as well, but the students were able to download it.

In Class

In order to use the 90 minutes of class time effectively, I broke it down into multiple parts to keep it dynamic and useful. I started with a 15-minute quiz so I could gauge how well the students understood the material online (or if they looked at it).

Afterwards, I broke the class into groups of 3 students. I gave half the groups one problem, and the other half another problem. After 20 minutes of them working on the problems and me walking around giving assistance, I swapped the problems. They then worked another 20 minutes.

Then, I decided to let the students gauge their own confidence in their answers. I put each group’s answers to the two problems on the board and asked for a “confidence level”. Then we would discuss the answers, determine which one (or ones) were correct. It turned out to be much like a game, because I assigned points based on confidence and correct answers. Groups started with a set number of points, and would lose points if they indicated a high confidence level with a wrong answer. It made for a good discussion.


What I’ve Learned

I think I have learned a few things by this experiment.

  1. It may have been better to have taught the class once or twice previously so I would know ahead of time which concepts were most difficult to the students to enable me to choose which lessons to flip more effectively.
  2. It did take additional time to create the online material, but some of the time was just due to the technology being new. I expect the time to be less as more lessons would be created with less overhead learning the technology.
  3. The interactive group learning seemed quite useful. This eliminated those who normally getting sleepy during class from doing so since they must give input to the group.

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