Aalto University Collaboration Design educational tool Social Software

Flipped classroom in an online class

I am writing a short article about a blended-learning experiment we did the last autumn semester. Before checking the actual research data we gathered from the experiment, I wanted to post here some first thoughts. Notes to myself. Here they are.

I explained the experiment already shortly in an earlier post I wrote some time ago. The main point of that post was the importance of slowness in academic work, but in the end I mention The Storytelling in Virtual Reality course. Here are some early thoughts about the course (as a whole the course was a disaster, but there was something good in it, too).

By Tarmo Toikkanen CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the idea behind the experiment was to try out if we could implement fishbowl conversation in an online classroom. It didn’t work out. Or it worked somehow. To really work well, we should do some major redesign of the current UX/UI paradigms of group video conference software. We will take a look of this later. Maybe we can build a prototype.

Anyhow. What did workout pretty well was the flipped classroom without a classroom (I have wrote earlier about the flipped classroom, too). So, we didn’t have a real classroom, but we were having  online classes — group video conference sessions of 1.5 hours with about 25 student in each. So how did it workout?

For each online class session with the group video conference we were having pre-tasks for the participants. In practice, we asked students to watch some short video lecture and to prepare at least two questions about them. This was a requirement for all.


In the video conference everyone was then ready to discuss about the video lectures with their questions. The questions were written to the chat of the video conference where the moderator (one of the teaching assistants) then opened four microphones, including the one of the participants who’s questions was discussed. Then people joined the discussion if they wanted to add something, and the moderator always muted one of the participants microphones so that there were always only 4 microphones open. Later in the sessions people started to open and mute their microphones without the moderators help. Having just 4 microphones on at time was a good decision (comes from the Fishbowl). This way  everyone got a chance to participate to the conversation.

Here are guidelines on how to implement flipped online class:

  1. Use a group video conference service/app where all the participants are shown on a single screen. At least the, the one we were using, is able to show 25 video participants per page.
  2. Select or prepare video lectures for your students and ask them to watch them before each online class session.
  3. Ask your students to prepare two questions from each video lecture and to write them down.
  4. In the video conference session ask everyone to post their questions to the chat window.
  5. Start the discussion by presenting the first question and the student who was asking it.
  6. Open four microphones of the participants to discuss about the topic.
  7. When people are showing signs (like raising their hand) open their microphone and close one, so that there is always only four microphones on.
  8. If you know colleagues who are experts on the topics discussed in the online video conference classroom invite them to follow and to participate in the discussion.

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