Flipped Professional Development

The flipped classroom has been a hot topic in education for the past five years. More recently, the idea of flipping professional development has been experimented with at schools and in corporate training. The idea is to rethink what we want to spend our time with in face to face (F2F) sessions and how we can change the training that occurs before and after those sessions to be more  self-directed.

Face-to-face training time, especially with technology integration, is used most efficiently when the lower level portions are done online and offline outside those encounters.

It was only this year that the Flipped Learning Network adopted and released a formal definition for flipped learning, and their Four Pillars of F-L-I-P™ and a checklist of eleven indicators that educators must incorporate into their practice. (see the definition, pillars and indicators) They also draw a distinction between flipped learning and a flipped classroom.

“Flipped Learning is a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter.”

Prior to this, there was no consensus definition for flipped learning, flipped classrooms, flipped anything. This definition still allows for a great deal of instructor-specific style, design and delivery.

I will be doing a presentation on flipped professional development at the at the NJEDge.Net Annual Conference on November 20, 2014. This approach to professional development is a way to maximize instructor and learner's time for professional learning.

It is certainly a result of our increased use of technology and the growth in education and business of online learning and the hybrid or blended learning model. That model combines personalized and on-demand digital resources with face-to-face teaching, coaching, practice and support. This is especially true for technology integration.

I would say that the growth of the Professional Learning Network or Environment (PLN or PLE - both terms are still being used) is also a factor in the flipped approach. I see more articles about flipped professional development for teachers, especially in K-12.

Some of the points that are stressed in this type of learning are:

Documentation - maintaining consistency and accountability through record keeping

Ongoing – creating time for teachers on a regular schedule

Coached – providing teachers access to an instructional technology coach

Personalized Content - providing relevant digital resources to support learning

Collaborative – personalizing learning by creating small collaborative groups

Yes, I still see examples of the recorded "lecture" that students watch based the slide or screen capture with voiceover. That is something we have been trying to decrease the use of in regular online classes with limited success.

I do see success with having any lecture much shorter than in-class sessions (10-25 minutes) and focusing on a single concept, or a small number of concepts.

In flipped settings, some of the content delivery occurs before the F2F session and some of the followup may occur on/offline too.

Many of the issues of online learning still exist in flipped learning. Besides issues like knowing the true identity of the online student and monitoring progress online, the biggest question people always have about this approach is "What if they don't do the work they are supposed to do before the F2F sessions?" 

That problem goes back a few hundred years in education. We have always called it "homework" and teachers and trainers still need to deal with monitoring and assessing prior learning and making judgments about the competency, readiness and mastery of a learner.

I'll be looking at some ways that corporations and schools are dealing with those issues in my presentation and I will follow up here with additional information.


The Low-Cost Degree


Some thoughts after reading "What Georgia Tech’s Online Degree in Computer Science Means for Low-Cost Programs" on the Chronicle website (subscription required to read)

You may remember reading here or elsewhere back in January 2013 that Georgia State University started to review MOOCs for credit in the same way that it reviewed courses or exams students have taken at other institutions for credit. It was the heyday of MOOC madness.

Georgia Tech announced an online master’s program in computer science that grew from the MOOC movement and would be offered at a much lower price than students pay for a traditional degree. They started at the end of 2013 by pairing MOOC-like course videos and assessments with a support system of course assistants who work directly with students.

On the university website, they describe the program like this:

The Georgia Institute of Technology, Udacity and AT&T have teamed up to offer the first accredited Master of Science in Computer Science that students can earn exclusively through the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) delivery format and for a fraction of the cost of traditional, on-campus programs.

This collaboration—informally dubbed "OMS CS" to account for the new delivery method—brings together leaders in education, MOOCs and industry to apply the disruptive power of massively open online teaching to widen the pipeline of high-quality, educated talent needed in computer science fields.

The key here is not just to actually offer an online degree that is as rigorous as the on-campus version equivalent. That is something that a number of universities have accomplished in the past decades. The innovation is to offer that degree at a bargain price. The Georgia State degree costs less than $7,000 for the three-year program.

As the article points out, they don't have a graduating class yet, but researchers (at Georgia Tech and Harvard University) have been studying the students. What interested me the most was a demographic comparison.

  • online program got as many applications as traditional program

  • online acceptance rate of 50%; traditional 15%

  • average age of people enrolled is 35 years old; traditional 24

  • as with many online programs, they are more likely to report that they are working rather than being full time students

  • 80% from the USA; in the traditional program, 75% percent are foreign, mostly from India and China

  • 40% have studied computer science as an undergrad; 62% of traditional grad students majored in computer science.

  • last year's first group of students had a 3.58 GPA—about the same as the traditional students

  • in the 2014 spring and summer semesters, the pass rates of about 88 percent

  • mostly male - 14% female online and 25% female in traditional

Is the low-cost version hurting the traditional program? According to the article, "For Georgia Tech, the early data are encouraging enough. They suggest that it can offer an online computer-science master’s program without cannibalizing its more-expensive campus version."

Faculty Attitudes on Technology Webinar

On November 18 at 2 p.m. Eastern, join Inside Higher Ed editor Scott Jaschik and technology reporter Carl Straumsheim for a discussion of the survey findings in a free webinar on their findings from the 2014 Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology, conducted with Gallup.


You can also read up before you join the conversation and download the complete survey report, at www.insidehighered.com/news/survey.

Some of the questions addressed in the study are:

  • Can online courses achieve learning outcomes that are equivalent to in-person courses?

  • What are the most important quality indicators of an online education?

  • How does the quality of online courses compare with the quality of in-person courses?

  • To what extent have faculty members and technology administrators experienced online learning themselves, as students?

  • To what extent have faculty taught online, hybrid, and face-to-face courses? For those who have not taught online, why is that?

  • How supportive are institutions of online learning?

  • Which should cost the student more -- online degree programs or those delivered face to face?

  • Who should be responsible for creating and marketing online degree programs?

  • Are institutions expanding online learning? Should they do so? To what extent do faculty feel that they are appropriately consulted in this decision-making process?

  • How do faculty use learning management systems (LMS) and early warning systems?

Gimme a C. Gimme an X.

In that classic sports cheer tradition of "Gimme a [letter]" ending in "What's that spell?"  I want to spend a bit of time on the letters C and X which actually spell the two types of MOOCs we see being used today.

Tony Bates, for his open textbook Teaching in a Digital Age, is including a section on MOOCs and the differences in philosophy and practice between xMOOCs and cMOOCs.

In his textbook, Bates discusses how technology has changed knowledge. He mentions how Socrates criticised writing because it did not lead to "true" knowledge which came only from verbal dialogue and oratory. A clear case of someone stuck in their pedagogy and not open to new technology.

Clearly, writing is an important record of knowledge and way to transmit knowledge. The idea of "writing to learn" is also an established practice in academia.

Bates says that, "Now we have other ways to record and transmit knowledge that can be studied and reflected upon, such as video, audio, animations, and graphics, and the Internet does expand enormously the speed and range by which these representations of knowledge can be transmitted... Maybe this will eventually lead to a ‘knowledge revolution’ equivalent to the age of enlightenment. But I do not believe we are there yet..."

I have written about the differences between the C and X MOOC types too and my own belief (the basis for my own MOOC chapter in a forthcoming book) is that MOOCs are still evolving in their design.

The earliest MOOCs are now referred to a cMOOCs, but the xMOOC design is the dominant design format right now.

xMOOCs use LMS or CMS software that allows for large registrations, storage and and streaming of content and ways to assess and grade student performance. They use the video lectures common to many smaller online courses. They often are designed in lengths similar to traditional semesters. Due to the large enrollments, assessments may be automated, machine-scored or use peer reviews. Like traditional learning online and in a classroom, the courses have assignments. Students may be placed in groups.  

Obviously, this xMOOC model of learning is focused on the transmission of information rather than direct interaction between an individual participant and the instructor that we are used to in F2F learning and also in the better online courses..

cMOOCs turn much of the content creation to contributions from the participants with an emphasis on networking. Stephen Downes has taught in the MOOC setting since the very beginning.

Bates notes Downe's four key design principles for cMOOCs as:
autonomy of the learner(choosing what content or skills they wish to learn) , learning is personal, and thus there being no formal curriculum
diversity in both the tools used and in the participants and their knowledge levels
interactivity co-operative learning, networking between participants
openness in access to the course, but also in using open content, activities and assessment

Think about the transmission of information, the xMOOC is rooted in the expert gives information they have selected to novices, but the cMOOC takes the center away from the instructor and gives it to the learners.

Historically, the "c" stands for Connectivist and the learning theory of connectivism was developed largely by one of the original MOOC instructors, George Siemens. His theory posits that learning happens within a network. Using the digital platforms of the time (2008) -blogs, wikis, social media -  Siemens and Downes used these platforms to teach a course on Connectivism that allowed learners to connect and construct knowledge.

Is one of these two formats superior? they serve different purposes. the xMOOC is more popular probably because it is closer to the traditional online learning that has more history and it feels close to what classroom teachers have been doing for centuries.

Connectivism is fairly new as an approach to teaching, less familiar and perhaps harder to "justify" in academia. The latter is especially true if you want the MOOC to operate in a way that fits typical grading for credit situations. 

Either way, MOOCs spell an evolution in digital learning and it is likely that other branches will form with other approaches to online learning.