About a decade ago, a hedge fund analyst named Sal Khan created a set of highly engaging videos to tutor his cousin Nadia in math. They were done with the most rudimentary production values—you basically just see his hand draw on a black screen while hearing his voice—yet he proved to be so gifted at explaining math concepts that teachers and parents began recommending them to students everywhere.
Those videos, which have now been viewed more than 800 million times, gave rise to the worldwide education phenomenon known as the Khan Academy, which coincided with the growing embrace of “flipped learning”—and for good reason.
Traditional learning has the instructor teaching concepts in class and the students applying those concepts on their own, often through homework exercises. In flipped classrooms, the students learn the concepts at home, usually through engaging videos, and use in-class time for applying those concepts through exercises, discussions and the like.
Don’t miss Givner’s ‘Flipped Classrooms, Micro-Learning, Digital Credentials & More: Innovations in Education & Their Impact on Meetings‘ at the MPI World Education Congress, June 11-14 in Atlantic City
Benefits to this approach
Students can learn key concepts at their own pace.
When the teacher has to explain them from scratch in class, he or she can only move at the pace of the average student, which is too slow for some, too fast for others. When learning at home, students can take as long, or short, a time as they need, without worrying about how it impacts the class.
Students can learn from the world’s best explainers.
Like Khan, every school has that gifted English teacher who makes Shakespeare come alive, plus a few others who put students to sleep. Doesn’t it make sense that EVERY student should benefit from the animated English teacher? Flipped learning leverages the very best explainers by having all students learn from them.
More in-class time is available for interactive experiences.
Class discussions, group exercises, team projects, mock debates and other interactive elements are all better deployed in a face-to-face environment than online. Now that teachers are freed up from concept explaining, it allows more time for these elements in class.
As a result of this last reason in particular, we recently began transitioning all of our in-person professional development courses at the Event Leadership Institute to the flipped learning model. Based on extensive student feedback, this enabled us to expand the amount of time allocated to guest speakers, behind-the-scenes field trips, group projects, simulations, case study discussions and other interactive elements, without sacrificing the depth of content delivered.
Applying flipped learning to meetings
With all of these benefits, it would seem only logical that flipped learning be utilized in many meetings and conferences. However, like any innovation, the heavy lifting is in knowing how and when to apply the concept.
Audience and situation impact participation levels.
For flipped learning to be effective, the leaner must have actually watched the instructional videos (or whatever format the content is in) before arriving on site. For internal events, such as a sales or training meeting, where participation is required by one’s employer, most people will do the advance work because it’s part of their job. For an association conference, on the other hand, where there are no repercussions for non-compliance, participation in any pre-event learning will likely be significantly less.
The more easily digestible the pre-event work, the greater the participation.
Particularly if you’re dealing with a voluntary audience, as an instructor utilizing a flipped classroom model, you’ll want to be smart with the type and amount of pre-work assigned. Attendees are more likely to read a short case study or article about a real-world example than an abstract discussion of a concept.
Provide questions or discussion points in advance.
This is important, as it focuses learners on the key points and takeaways to be gleaned in the pre-work, and prepares them to hit the ground running when you lead the in-class discussions. It may seem counterintuitive, giving additional assignments like this, but doing so actually improves completion rates.
Find the right balance between attendance numbers and engagement levels.
While the depth of learning will likely be greater if participants in a session have done some pre-event learning on the topic, attendance in that session, assuming it’s voluntary, will likely be lower. [Pre-session homework is unlikely to be an attendance driver!] So as a conference organizer you need to weigh that balance.
Having conference attendees engage in some pre-event learning activity enables both the instructor and the participants to have deeper and more impactful on-site experiences. As with most innovative concepts, the devil is in the details of how and when it’s applied.
To insure a productive session, instructors and meeting organizers should be mindful of the audience participating, and select learning materials that are engaging, and integral to the classroom experience. In other words, the flipped learning model should be utilized when audience participation is likely to be fairly high, and in a way that time invested in pre-event learning will pay strong dividends for the attendee on site.
Don’t miss Howard Givner at MPI’s World Education Congress, June 11-14 in Atlantic City, where he will be presenting sessions “Flipped Classrooms, Micro-Learning, Digital Credentials & More: Innovations in Education & Their Impact on Meetings” and “Negotiating with Venues.”