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Five Ways to Flip the Online Classroom on Its Head

By Amy Winger / February 2019

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More than 5.5 million students across the United States participate in higher0education online learning [1]. As attendance in distance education over the last 10 years continues to increase, retention rates for distance education students remains a concern as retention rates are significantly lower than in traditional postsecondary institutions [2]. In a three-year study on student satisfaction with online courses, the absence of interaction was the most often shared reason for course dissatisfaction [3]. Ultimately, it becomes the online instructor’s responsibility to provide opportunities for active participation in order to ensure greater progression between courses. Flipped classroom design is presently one learning practice growing in popularity in higher education as it supports the active participation and success of students. In flipped classrooms, instructional content is delivered oftentimes in online lecture format and then uses activities to extend and activate learning principles. To guide the creation of such activity-based learning in the online environment, Bloom’s taxonomy of cognitive processes is recommended. The processes include six domain levels: (1) knowledge, (2) comprehension, (3) application, (4) analysis, (5) evaluation, and (6) creation [4]. There are various flipping practices that use innovative technology to tap these domain levels; blending flipping practices with Bloom’s taxonomy lends itself to robust online learning.

Flipping Practice No. 1: The guide on the side (Knowledge and Comprehension)

Whether one is the star of one’s videos or shares already-prepared videos, videos are standard to flipped classrooms and play a vital role in the success of such classrooms [5]. Specifically, such videos or screencasts ensure Bloom’s cognitive domains regarding knowledge and comprehension are engaged. In the online classroom, instructional videos showcased on platforms such as YouTube can replace some textbook readings or provide instruction in lecture, presentation, or tutorial format. Videos in flipped classrooms traditionally play an important role in imparting knowledge to students as students passively view lectures, animations, or screencasts. To emphasize, one research study on flipped classrooms compared introductory psychology courses in online and face-to-face formats. The results of the study indicated students in both class formats were highly satisfied with class proceedings, and the high levels of satisfaction derived from the fact that the online course instructors utilized multimedia to better replicate face-to-face learning, especially with lectures [6]. With student dissatisfaction associated with the de-personalization of online learning [7], moreover, students appreciate the personalization of instructor-created videos as this, too, contributes to learner satisfaction with the learner’s online experience [8]. Online videos also correlate with improved retention rates [9]. Additionally, videos are more effective at improving comprehension than text-based resources [10]. Finally, students who have special needs or who are at-risk also are served well by the visual and audio instructions inherent in online lectures and screencasts, aiding in understanding [11]. Clearly, in flipped online classrooms, embracing the use of screencast lectures and presentations plays a significant role in improving the learner’s experience.

To record lectures or tutorials, an online instructor can easily create YouTube tutorials using a screencasting tool called Screencast-O-Matic . This is a free program that will record screen content and the presenter at the same time. The screencasts can be uploaded to Screencast-O-Matic’s private site or to YouTube, where closed captioning (CC) can be added in order to be compliant with accessibility standards and expectations. 

Another low-cost program to use to develop animated tutorials to appeal to digital learners is Powtoon. This is available for a low cost. Once created, these animations, too, can be uploaded to YouTube where CC can be added to aid in accessibility compliance. Preferences for screencast length for online students range from 3-7 minutes, and preferences for face-to-face learners range from 90 seconds to 3 minutes [12]. To give more credence to the value of flipped classrooms, research indicates, “The flipped classroom instructional model has emerged as a promising alternative to conventional lecture-based teaching as it offers a framework for integrating emerging online learning technologies with active and collaborative learning” [4]. Harnessing the power of screencasts carries great promise for a new age of learners.

Flipping Practice No. 2: Quizzes (Application)

To add interactive components that hold students accountable for Bloom’s next cognitive domain of application, one can utilize various online quiz programs to accompany lecture-based or text-based material. Coupling online screencasts or readings with online quizzes improves student learning and helps students self-regulate their learning while also improving comprehension of the subject matter [13]. Importantly, higher-education students are less likely to engage with or complete activities that lack interactivity or do not provide feedback [14]. Therefore one can see the importance of coupling passive screencasts or videos with interactive quizzes that require students to apply knowledge gained, while also providing feedback on their acquisition of knowledge. There are multiple free programs for developing such quizzes.

Launched in 2012, TED-Ed is a free educational initiative aimed at making instruction more interactive and better supported. With this platform, an instructor can upload his or her YouTube video or upload an already-prepared TED Talk, and then develop quizzes and discussions around the video. Furthermore, differentiated curriculum can be added to the “Dig Deeper” part of the program. Online instructors, however, will find the ability to create quizzes around instructional videos to be particularly useful as this serves as a type of formative assessment to help students monitor their own learning in an informal and low-stakes way [13]. Also, an additional free resource available for the widespread distribution of automated online quizzes is ProProfs. This online tool allows the free creation of online quizzes, polls, surveys, and a plethora of additional sources. Overall, formative assessments are a highly recommended guideline for flipped learning in order to ensure student accountability for learning; additionally such assessments add an element of interactivity to the classroom while allowing students the opportunity to validate learning and self-assess their strengths and weaknesses regarding learning objectives [15]. With such tools to clarify and guide learning, students leave an assignment feeling more confident about their learning experience because they had the chance to apply what they learned.

Flipping Practice No. 3: Polls (Analysis)

In addition to creating opportunities for students to apply knowledge in the online classroom, providing students with the opportunity to analyze and reflect upon information supports learning in the online environment. Analysis is the next level of cognitive domains according to Bloom’s taxonomy. In flipped classrooms, students need to be able to reflect upon the course content to enable stronger and more personalized connections [16]. To engage students in reflection and analysis, students respond to the content by polling their own choices. Next, students analyze the results and compare their selections to the class results. By analyzing the results of the poll, students are required to engage more readily with the topic and draw conclusions. In a flipped classroom model, providing students with the opportunity to reflect on learning content and make connections to the course enhances a student’s higher order thinking skills and creativity [17]. ProProfs can also be used to create polls.

Flipping Practice No. 4: Infographics (Evaluation)

The next process in Bloom’s taxonomy to engage students when using flipped classroom techniques is evaluation. Infographics are a natural resource for evaluation and synthesis of knowledge. Research indicates that when used accurately, infographics require “students to synthesize different kinds of textual information, engaging them in higher-order thinking” [18]. Infographics concisely chunk material into smaller and more easily digested bits of information. A strong infographic is aesthetically appealing and entertaining, and for this reason such learning devices increase learner engagement and the likelihood of the student remembering the information or sharing it with others [19]. Additionally, because a well-designed infographic embodies learning concepts in a filtered and uncomplicated design, learners are able to process information in a straight-forward and memorable manner [19]. Using infographics to teach students concepts provides clarity in learning and is clearly valued by students, but to more fully tap the benefits of infographics, an instructor might require students to create an infographic, actively synthesizing and evaluating information learned. In fact, in one study, which assigned students to create their own infographic, research indicated that doing so empowered students. As demonstrated, “Students involved in this project have a voice and a purpose, and the outcomes of this project are powerful because of their active role in learning” [20]. By requiring students to evaluate and demonstrate content knowledge in the form of an infographic and by holding students accountable for learning objectives through process-oriented activities, instructors motivate their students to learn more, tap creativity, and engage in higher order thinking skills [15].

One excellent and free resource for creating infographics is Piktochart, which allows users to generate their own infographics and then post them to a live link. The images also can be downloaded as graphic images to be shared. 

Overall, by using such infographics to appeal to digital learners used to learning visually, instructors can condense learning into purified experiences that leave an imprint in the learner’s mind and contribute concretely to the learner’s needs.   

Flipping Practice No. 5: Word Clouds (Creation)

Creation is the last cognitive process in Bloom’s taxonomy. In the online classroom, many opportunities for creation present themselves. First, however, consider online courses are typically often composed of reading assignments and discussions; flooding courses with text heavy reading assignments primarily engages only the lower-cognitive levels associated with retaining and understanding knowledge, thereby limiting students’ abilities to develop higher order cognitive and creative thinking skills [21]. To engage higher order critical thinking skills, such as creation, ask students to evaluate information using a technological tool. The inclusion of such a multimedia tool works to further motivate students, improve skills, and increase instructor efficiency [13]. A tool to encourage creation by students is WordCloud, which is a free online word cloud generator. To use the generator, students are tasked with evaluating the content and lessons observed from viewing an assigned video or reading. The students write content summaries in the WordCloud generator. Once written and submitted to the generator, word clouds are automatically created. Words and phrases used more often in the summary will print in larger fonts and various colors. Students then need to submit the word cloud and an evaluation of the words and phrases populating in larger fonts in the word cloud. Requiring students to create their own word cloud and evaluate the content of their creation encourages higher order thinking skills. In connection, when students focus on key concepts illustrated in, for example, word clouds, students’ abilities to self-teach concepts increases [22]. Additionally, requiring such an activity through the use of multimedia can improve the speed of learning and the way such information is stored, leading to better recall while also improving the technological skills of students [10]. Overall, providing such opportunities for students to engage more thoroughly with content through application enhances and enriches the learner experience.


Across the nation, collegiate instructors are examining the potential flipped classrooms can bring to course design and learner outcomes as it is recognized as being a sound instructional pedagogy for higher-education classrooms [14]. Flipped learning is additionally associated with improved student learning outcomes in higher education [4]. Most importantly, flipped classroom design is associated with higher retention rates for college students [23] and for student learning [24]. With regard to flipped course design and the importance of completing both passive and active learning activities, research indicates instructors should monitor student progression throughout the learning stages [25]. By attaching learning activities in the form of low- or no-stakes formative assessments or activities, such monitoring is more readily accomplished, better informing each student of his or her progress. While the need for technology continues to grow in online classrooms, additional insight on effective programming is needed while college budgets continue to shrink [11]. Flipped classroom learning practices provide a variety of ways to improve course design for online learners. Using active learning practices supported through Bloom’s taxonomy coupled with innovative technology guides students to learn in deeper and more meaningful ways.  


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About the Author

Amy Winger, a graduate of the University of Iowa and University of Minnesota, is an online instructor for the University of Phoenix and Argosy University. For more than 10 years, she has taught English and General Education courses and enjoys pioneering the use of tech tools. Prior to that, she taught English at the secondary level. Her academic research primarily focuses on multimedia, hypermedia, and social media implementation in the online classroom. She also is a freelance fiction writer. She can be reached by email at [email protected].

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