Thursday, December 12, 2013

Flip the Classroom – What Every Professional Educator Needs to Know

Flipping the ClassroomSuppose your best client came to you for advice about the best way to teach what you know. They want you to design a program for their people, who work all around the world. Money is no object, but they want you to design the absolute best program possible, using whatever technology and other tools are available, and not being constrained at all by what you have done in the past. They want something that's world's best practice, and they need your help.

What sort of things would you design for the participants?

Would you ...

  • Fly in the world's leading experts in this area (apart from you, of course!) to present to them?
  • Deliver new material via Twitter, Facebook and Google+?
  • Create interactive multimedia presentations they can install on their phones?
  • Upload training material to YouTube and Slideshare, integrated with self-assessment quizzes?
  • Set up a private online community for them to share ideas and ask questions?
  • Host a monthly videoconference for them to share ideas and ask questions?
  • Integrate the training into their daily work, so they get constant reminders to reinforce new habits?

Of course, depending on the exact situation, you might do any of these things - and many more I haven't mentioned.

But one thing you probably would not recommend is to get the participants to stop what they are doing, gather in a classroom, and listen to you presenting material all day long.

And yet, that's how most training workshops still operate.

Yes, I know you do more than just lecture at your audience all day! You have lots of time for Q&A, handouts and workbooks, group activities, and lots of opportunities for interaction. But it's still a bunch of people in a room learning from a teacher. And that just doesn't even come close to world's best practice!

The fact is, most training is still stuck in this mode, which - to be fair - was the most practical option in the twentieth century. But there are so many other - and better - opportunities available now for sharing your thought leadership. We have social media, online collaboration, Google, gamification, smartphone apps, on-demand streaming video, educational podcasts, webinars, iPads and other tablets, and much, much more.

If you're not taking advantage of these opportunities, you're falling behind - and doing your clients and audiences a disservice.

How can you flip your classrooms?

I'm not suggesting there's no place for classroom learning. There are benefits to getting participants together physically in a room. But it's a waste of time if you use that time to teach them stuff that they could just as easily have learned before they arrived. Instead, use that classroom time to facilitate discussion, encourage group participation, and provide support, assistance and mentoring.

I didn't invent this concept. It's called "Flipping the Classroom", and it's becoming increasingly popular in educational circles. Some schools and universities are taking this on board - and you should, too, because it's the future of adult education.

Take one step at a time.

Flipping the classroom seems like a gigantic step, and in some ways it is. But the biggest step isn't in doing it; it's changing your mindset - and letting go of what has worked for you in the past.

If you're designing a new training program, don't automatically design most of it to be delivered in your training room. As much as possible, think of other ways of delivering the material, use the training sessions for what must be done there.

What if you already have a training program in place? In this case, don't throw it out! Instead, start by examining it for components that don't need the participants to be physically in the room. Then consider how you can deliver these components in other ways, and re-design those parts of the program. You don't have to do them all at once, either. Just do as much as you can handle at first.

Either way, I strongly urge you to start flipping your training programs around in this way.

This is no longer optional; it's a necessity. If you don't do it with your programs, somebody else will come along and put you out of business!

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