4 Improving Student Engagement with a Flipped Blended Classroom

Laura Lambert

Below is a revised version of the proposal submitted:


ISAT113: Issues in Biotechnology is a lower level course that serves a diverse student population. It is not only a required course for all ISAT majors, but is also a Cluster 3 General Education course. As a result, students come in to this course with variety of science backgrounds. The amount of information students can be assumed to come in knowing is the equivalent of high school biology, though many students come in knowing much more. This can create a disconnect between some of the students, where some feel they are in over their heads while others feel the material is a review. The laboratory experiences are equally varied among the student population. For some students, this will be their only lab course in college. Other students will take additional lab courses, and perhaps go on to graduate level research. As such, it is important to provide a strong foundation for all students,
regardless of their academic path. Additionally, the amount of material needing to be covered in a semester can seem daunting to students and instructors alike, leaving some instructors hesitant to do anything but lecture, and others feeling like they should skip a number of what they deem “introductory” chapters.

Plan for design and implementation:
I am proposing the creation of a flipped, blended course, where classroom lectures, pre-lab lectures, supplementary information, and lab demonstrations can be provided online, allowing for more in-class time to focus on the hands-on aspect of the lab and on group activities and deeper investigations into the content in the classroom. By shifting content traditionally delivered in lectures to quality video format, with supporting online activities and discussions, it is anticipated that the amount of course content will be expanded, as seen in Baum, 2013. Students would have advance knowledge of the “online class days”, along with the expectations associated with them. My specific aim is not necessarily to increase the breadth of course content, but rather the depth at which students interact with the content. I want students to increase the time spent in class on group learning, applying their
knowledge to case studies, problem sets, and real-world applications. Additionally, I want students to have a lab experience where they spend their time actively doing the lab, rather than listening about how to do the lab.

During lab, pre-recording the lectures and demonstrations that would typically be given at the start of lab will not only allow for a focus on the hand-on part of lab, but also provide quality control across sections. When teaching multiple sections, there is naturally some variability in what is delivered to each section on each day. By the second or third section, I can find myself questioning whether I had already talked about a particular topic or not. A series of videos accessible on Canvas will eliminate this inter-section variability. It will also eliminate the problem of demonstration visibility to all students in the lab. Each student will have a front row seat to the material being presented in the video. They will also have the ability to re-watch the videos as much as they feel is necessary, allowing for some degree of differentiation. Also, by providing supplementary materials online (for example, how to use Excel to
create graphs), valuable lab time will not be spent on the finer points of Excel, but rather on data collection and experimental design.

My plan of action is two-fold. First, my goal is to have the laboratory videos this coming semester, as I can think of no better semester than the one where I am teaching four sections of the same lab to pilot this design. The lecture materials I plan to develop second, and record next semester, to be implemented this coming fall. After piloting the lab materials, they will be extended to other faculty teaching this lab for use as-is, or as a base on which they can create their own videos. The
hardware requested in this grant would be shared among other faculty in the department wishing to make use of it. While I would anticipate other faculty members would wish to make their own lecture materials, the videos I create for lecture will also be offered up for use by anybody teaching the class, or any other class in which they may find use of them. Expanding on what results we see in 113, there are other lab and non-lab classes that can make use of this technology and approach to teaching. In upper level courses in ISAT, by shifting some of the ‘core’ information to a video lecture, a greater focus can be put on the integration of their knowledge and application to current issues in the world today. To further extend this approach to labs, I believe all science labs could benefit from pre-recorded lectures and demonstrations, regardless of discipline. All too often, a lab lecture is given in a noisy lab, with half the class facing the wrong way and unable to accurately see what is being demonstrated. From explaining how to measure air resistance in physics, to how to set up a ring stand in chemistry, having important information that is traditionally delivered at the beginning of the lab shifted to an online format can only enhance student learning.

The cornerstone on which this plan hinges is access to quality hardware for video and sound recording and editing. The content of the videos will be created by myself and other 113 instructors, using techniques and pedagogies learned during the course of the Institute of Online and Blended Learning, and editing will be done with Audacity (a free program) and Camtasia.

The hardware requested includes a high-quality microphone, headphones, and a tablet for portability.

Outcome of the innovative and creative teaching:
This project will enhance student learning and engagement by allowing more time to be spent in class on higher-order learning, and more time in lab to be spent on the actual “doing” of science.

Shifting the lectures traditionally given in lab and class to an online format will also help ensure that each student is getting the same experience and information from these lectures, rather than the variability that can be experienced between different sections. Students will come to lab having not only read the protocols, but having heard the pre-lab lecture and watched any demonstrations for the day. Every student will have had a front-row seat for the demonstration, and the ability to watch it as many times as they feel necessary. Once in lab, they can concentrate on performing the lab for that day. When it comes time for them to interpret their results, they will still have access to these videos, which will help alleviate misconceptions and misinterpretations that tend to inevitably happen when
discussing results.

This continued access to recorded lectures and demonstrations, both before and after lab and lecture, will help support GenEd students that might not have as strong a science background as others in the class, since they will be able to return to the information. For the ISAT majors who might be more confident in their science knowledge, they can watch the videos, and may not need to return to them.

This ability to allow for differentiation among students will allow for an improvement in overall learning in the class. It will also aid in a more accurate understanding of what their lab results actually mean, and the ability to transfer learning done in lab to activities done in lecture, and vice versa. These outcomes
can be measured by observing how students interpret results in their lab manuals, how they perform on classroom activities, and ultimately, student performance on end-of-course summative assessments.

Though a pilot project, this is a sustainable and transferrable project across a multitude of science disciplines. The complaint is often heard in a traditional science lecture that “there is so much content, we don’t have time to do a case study/group activity/anything non-lecture in class”. As a result, students miss out on these important learning opportunities, or are being asked to perform analysis, evaluation, and synthesis tasks at home, without instructor support. If an instructor instead
created a flipped and blended class, they would find themselves with more time in class to allow students to interact with the material on a deeper level, and learn to apply it to situations outside of a multiple choice test. In a lab setting, the same holds true. Many times, a lab becomes rushed due to the amount of information that needs to be delivered before the students can actually perform the lab. Or,
conversely, that material is given as a reading assignment or just provided in the lab manual, and the students are expected to know it. Moving pre-lab lectures and demonstrations online not only increases the amount of time students spend in engaged, active learning, but it also ensures continuity among sections and visibility for all students.

Plan for result dissemination:
This project will be shared with my colleagues in ISAT, particularly those faculty who also teach courses that serve these two populations of students. Sharing can occur electronically via Canvas Commons or in person during team meetings. There is also the possibility to speak at a departmental faculty meeting to share my design and results. I will encourage lab instructors in particular to consider this approach for their labs, if for no other reason than allowing accessibility to all students. I will better be able to advise other instructors as to best practices of video recording, appropriate length of videos, and techniques for demonstration videos after having gone through the process myself.

References: Baum, E.J. (2013) Augmenting Guided-Inquiry Learning With a Blended Classroom Approach. Journal of College Science Teaching, 42(6), 27-33.