The University of Wisconsin has experimented with new learning methods recently by “flipping” classrooms, changing the traditional structure of large lectures.

A flipped classroom, or a blended classroom, is a form of learning where students watch online video lectures before class and complete practice problems or engage in discussions during lecture time.

Jeff Russell, vice provost for Lifelong Learning and Dean of Continuing Studies, said flipped classrooms allows for more active learning in lectures since students can prepare outside of class time.

“This active learning helps students to master, understand and make meaning of the material on a deeper level,” Russell said. “It’s not just memorizing facts.”

Russell said he believes teachers should implement the flipped classroom model because not all students learn in the same approach, so videos and other supplementary materials can be a helpful aid to students. He added flipped classes allow more flexibility for students to learn material at their own convenience and prepare questions for their teachers.

Russell said teachers can provide better feedback to students’ questions during lecture time in a flipped class, since they allow for more teacher-student engagement.

However, Russell said flipped classrooms have a few limitations.

It is essential for students in a flipped class to have access to a computer, Russell said. He added not all students will be vigilant enough to review supplementary material before class time.

“A flipped model requires students to get some pre-knowledge and then come to class with questions, which might not work for everyone,” Russell said.

Linda Jorn, the Learning Technologies associate vice provost and Department of Information Technology academic technology director, said a core aspect of flipped classes is the social interactions among students and teachers.

Flipped models provide a more efficient learning experience because students are able to receive immediate feedback in class time on any questions they may have from the pre-lecture videos and materials, Jorn said.

“Students can prepare outside of class and then discuss and problem-solve in class,” Jorn said. “This model helps students learn to debate and argue ideas as well as retain information.”

Learning is a social-cultural process and in order to be successful, it is necessary for students to know how to interact with their peers, Jorn said. Students can learn how to co-create ideas and gain competency skills in a flipped-model class, she said.

There are some shortfalls of flipped learning for both teachers and students, Jorn said, because teachers must plan a lot of material upfront and redesign the classroom experience to be purposeful, while students must take a highly active role in their education.

“Passive students won’t be as successful,” Jorn said. “You really need to contribute and do your homework ahead of time.”