Pedagogy, or the art and science of education, has come a long way since the days of the gurukulas. Teachers today have transformed from ‘sage on the stage’ to ‘guide on the side’. Throughout, technology has helped this transformation immensely. The traditional classroom of a teacher imparting knowledge to a group of students in a class and students doing the assignments at home has now flipped upside down, to students getting lectures at home and doing their homework in the classroom. Technology, digital learning and the advent of smart devices such as computers, mobile phones and tablets have helped the students get more out of the instructor and, most importantly, get better opportunities to use the imparted knowledge to its practical use.
A flipped classroom is the complete opposite of the way a traditional teaching class takes place. In the flipped model, students get their lectures at home at their convenience and do the assignments in their classroom. How is it different and how does it help? Well, it helps immensely. In a flipped model, students get desired lectures in the form of pre-recorded videos or access those that they understand better, over the internet. It eliminates redundancy and improves efficiency in learning. The lectures are not time-bound; students can access and review the same lecture numerous times. Flipped classrooms have brought dynamism to the whole concept of imparting knowledge to students. Classrooms are becoming more active, the teacher is turning into a coach, and he converts the classroom into a studio where students collate, collaborate and put into practice what they learn online. Flipped classrooms have transformed the one-to-many model of passive teaching into a one-to-one active coaching.
What’s driving it
One of the most compelling reasons for the adoption of flipped classrooms has been poor results, especially due to disproportionate teacher-to-student ratio and the one-size-fits-all method of education. Flipped classroom rectifies this challenge to make learning balanced—in theory as well as in practice.
While instances of the benefits of flipped class are abundant, one that stands out is that of Clintondale High School in Detroit. In an experiment, the school principal ran two identical classes on the same topic but on different methodologies—one conventional and one flipped. The results were astounding. After a 20-week run, the students of flipped classroom outperformed the traditional ones. The English failure rate dropped from more than 50% to 19%; in mathematics it dropped from 44% to 13%; in science it came down from 41% to 19%. The overall failure rate of the school also came down from 30% to 10%. What the principal of the school had simply done was imparting the knowledge through YouTube videos.
Where is it heading
The concept of flipped classroom is growing fast. Easy availability of internet access devices and the ubiquitousness of internet are helping it. For studying, tablets come in handy. Besides, educational institutions and academicians are putting in study materials in interactive videos on the internet. Simply put, students today are not constrained to follow a prescribed methodology of understanding of a concept, they have the option of choosing their virtual gurus. The advent of cloud services is also adding value to digital learning. Academic institutions and educational agencies have started offering tablets to state-run schools with pre-installed educational material and teachers are being trained to assume the role of a coach.
A boon for India?
To me it appears that the flipped classroom concept is designed for India where the teacher-student ratio is alarmingly disproportionate. This situation worsens in rural areas where pupil strength is too high to the number of teachers available. Flipped classes, if amply supported by the government and educational institutions, can transform the way students are educated in rural schools. It may sound a little futuristic, but it is doable.
What India lacks at the moment is reliable internet connectivity in rural areas and the availability of relevant course content in digital format. The government’s ambitious plan of connecting 2.5 lakh villages with high-speed broadband under its NOFN project can help this cause immensely. The flipped classroom concept, flanked by easy availability of digital content and access devices, can bring immense opportunities to the education system—transforming the way knowledge is shared between teachers and students.
Suneet Singh Tuli
The author is CEO, DataWind