Design Patterns for CS Education/Flipped Classroom

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A flipped, or inverted, classroom teaching method has two main components: deliver instructional content outside of the classroom (typically online) and move active learning into the classroom . These two components open up four instructional design challenges: how to structure the student’s preparatory work; how to deliver the instructional content out-of-class; how to design active learning activities to use in-class to scaffold learning, identify misconceptions and allow students to practice critical skills; and finally, how to structure student interaction to best leverage social learning and peer instruction. In adopting a flipped classroom approach, strategies for these four instructional design components are varied and flexible.

Delivering instructional content out-of-class

Developing instructional content for flipped classrooms is a challenging task and different instructors have used different approaches. Some institutions and instructors are already recording their lectures for the purpose of online courses, which makes it easy for these instructors to leverage those resources in their flipped classes [4, 5, 16]. However, this tends to produce very long videos. Recorded lectures are not liked by all students as many reported that sometimes the lectures were too long and not suited for difficult course materials [4]. Most students suggested that optimal length of video lectures should be 15-30 minutes [5, 16].

Three strategies for providing video instruction are creating videos, curating videos, and using existing MOOC videos.

Creating videos. The first strategy tried by most is to create your own videos, although this is the most time consuming. There are several ways to reduce the time in creating videos: record a video in a live lecture while in transition to flipped classroom teaching, record a video to respond to student forum questions, record short video content on smaller topics.

Curating videos. There are numerous instructional videos online that are free to the public. Collecting and curating online videos has many advantages. A course topic can be delivered via curated multiple online videos for each topic covered. This can provide optional videos for additional resources or for more advanced students. Curating videos became a part of the learning experience for the students. Students can be required to provide critiques of the videos they watched. The students’ critiques gave insight into what aspects of the video instruction they understood, liked and disliked. Through the critique, the students articulate their understanding of the role of the video instruction and how it contributes to their learning. When the critique is submitted by the students on a weekly basis rather than at the end of the semester, it becomes part of their learning experience.

Wrapping a MOOC. Selected an existing MOOC course is an alternative to creating new videos. With permission, the online lectures in an existing MOOC can be the basis for a campus classroom education. This is referred to a wrapping a MOOC because the campus activity is wrapped around the knowledge disseminated via the MOOC.

In addition to creating or collecting online videos, one of the other major challenges for flipped classroom instruction is creating class activities that teach course concepts and skills through active learning. For our programming courses, labs are a critical active learning component. But, the real challenge is to find active learning activities to replace the time that would traditionally be used for lecturing. We have developed two main types of in-class activities: group problem solving and flexible quiz activities.

Group Problem Solving Activities

For the non-programming courses, and on the non-lab day for the programming-based courses, the problem solving activity is a highly structured activity that is timed. Typically, students work in small groups to encourage conversation and peer instruction. In the HCI and Rapid Prototyping classes, these activities generally involved students practicing design and evaluation skills. For example, in the HCI class, when teaching needfinding, one or two students in a group were asked to develop a persona and role play a typical user, while the others in the group prepared interview questions and conducted an interview. In Rapid Prototyping, student groups utilized different techniques to create prototypes at different levels of fidelity. In Web Applications, activities included finding existing web pages to demonstrate weekly topics, drawing conceptual diagrams and writing pseudo-code. In Media Computation students often solved problems by writing pseudo-code or doing other paper problem solving activities. In all courses, we emphasize collaboration and critiquing. These activities are then built upon later when students complete their assignments, which test their application of the learned skills without teacher supervision. In the HCI and Rapid Prototyping courses, students can re-use and extend some of their in-class activities as part of their assignments.

Flexible Quiz Activities

In flipped classrooms, instructors often use quizzes to incentivize students to watch videos and come to class prepared. We also use quizzes as learning activities, especially in the programming courses. This idea is based on the finding that retrieving information from memory improves long term retention [13]. The quiz generally comprised multiple choice questions about textbook and video content, or about code fragments. In contrast to the problem solving activity, the quiz tests and reinforces conceptual knowledge where the problem solving provides scaffolding for programming skills or design methods. We developed several strategies for student interaction around quizzes:

1. Students complete the quiz labeled only with their id number. Quizzes are redistributed to others for peer grading. The instructor directs the peer grading by discussing why particular answers are right or wrong for each question.

2. Students complete the quiz on their own, and then are asked to compare and discuss their answers with the students sitting near them until all students sitting near each other have the same answers. Each student’s quiz is graded separately.

3. Students form groups and each group completes a quiz, again, ensuring that the answers are the consensus of the group. All students in a group get the same grade.

4. Students complete the quiz using clickers and can talk to each other before answering. The answers are aggregated on the screen in front of the room, and instructors re-poll as needed. Various game-like methods are used to create competition.

5. Student groups create a quiz based on their annotated videos. Each group takes another group’s quiz and the group that created the quiz grades the answers. In this way each group creates a quiz, takes a quiz, and grades a quiz.

In all variations on the way the quiz was administered, the quiz provided the focus for the peer learning and the discovery of misconceptions. When misconceptions were uncovered, the instructors conducted impromptu mini-lectures. Thus, the quiz activities could often take up a significant portion of a class.

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