Active Learning and the Flipped Classroom

The Flipped Classroom (jump to resources)

Despite its documented value, there remain formidable barriers to incorporation of active learning in the classroom, and traditional lectures remain the norm for most introductory science classes (e.g. Wood and Gentile, 2003; Allen and Tanner, 2005). These barriers include academic cultures that undervalue teaching innovations (especially at research universities), professorial habits revolving around lecturer-centered education, the necessity of delivering copious amounts of content in a singe quarter or semester, the perceived efficiency of lecturing to students in notoriously large introductory classes, and student skepticism regarding the value of and participation in active learning (e.g., Hanford, 2012).

One way to overcome some of the obstacles to AL implementation is to employ a flipped approach to lecture reform. The idea of flipping classes, i.e. assigning material as homework that is usually covered in lecture and engaging students in AL during class, is not new (e.g., Baker, 2000; Lage and Platt, 2000) and there are multiple modesof flipping. Salman Khan has popularized a notion of the flipped classroom that can be termed CLIC, for Cinematic Lectures and Inverted Classes (see figure, below).

Khan’s provision of a vast number of online videos demonstrates the utility of user-friendly screen capture software in generating informative, online lectures of the type that can deliver course content to students ubiquitously ( These online lectures can then free class time for active learning. The CLIC model acknowledges the important role that faculty lecturers provide in contextualizing course concepts within a large base of knowledge, and professor-generated, engaging, cinematic lectures (cinelectures) that combine video, animations, screen writing (“boardwork”), simulations, and Powerpoint illustrations are now relatively easy to produce. This idea has captured the attention of the educational and popular press (e.g., Berrett, 2012; Ojalvo and Doyne, 2011) and has been sweeping K-12 educational communities. At the college level, Its use is increasing yearly. A recent paper describes the effects of CLICing an Introductory Biology lecture course at a regional comprehensive university (Marcey, 2014).

The theoretical advantages of CLIC for post-secondary education are pronounced. CLIC enables professors to deliver course content asynchronously to students who can engage the online lectures on their own terms, viewing them on computers or mobile devices at their own convenience and pace and, importantly, reviewing portions that they wish to understand more thoroughly at will. This, in turn, makes possible the transformation of lecture classes into arenas of inquiry where active learning can be implemented. These two critical elements together can provide a more effective learning environment than the traditional lecture model. This game changing approach is a canonical example of “disruptive innovation” (e.g., Christensen, et al., 2010) that is being actively promoted by online teaching networks (e.g.,;; CLIC has garnered some criticism. Most objections, however, concentrate on the inability of online video to engage students in inquiry-based activities (e.g., Noschese, 2012), thereby ignoring the raison d’être of the CLIC model.

Flipping Resources

  • Flipped Learning Network - The mission of the Flipped Learning Network™ is to provide educators with the knowledge, skills, and resources to successfully implement Flipped Learning. The goals of the FLN are to: 1) Provide professional learning opportunities on Flipped Learning; 2) Conduct, collaborate and disseminate relevant research on Flipped Learning; 3) Act as the clearinghouse for distributing best/promising practices for current and future “flipped” educators. Although created primarily by and for secondary school teachers, this site has some information useful to university level flippers.
  • The Flipped Classroom (TechSmith) - This commercial site provides downloadable software for creating cinematic lectures via screencasting and a also a wealth of information on classroom flipping. There are links to a higher education section.
  • Peer Instruction Blog - This blog contains links to a few examples of classroom flipping and to peer instruction sites.


Allen, D., and Tanner, K. (2005). Infusing active learning into the large-enrollment biology class: seven strategies, from the simple to complex. Cell Biol. Educ. 4, 262–268.

Baker, J.W. (2000). The “classroom flip”: using web course management tools to become the guide on the side. The 11th International Conference on College Teaching and Learning, Jacksonville, Florida.

Berrett, D. (2012). How ‘Flipping’ the Classroom Can Improve the Traditional Lecture. The Chronicle of Higher Education, February 19.

Christensen, C., Johnson, C.W., and Horn, M.B. (2010). Disrupting Class, Expanded Edition: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. McGraw Hill, NY.

Hanford, E. (2012). Don’t Lecture Me. American Radio Works. Accessed May 2, 2012 from

Lage, M.J., and Platt, G.J. (2000). The internet and the inverted classroom. Journal of Economic Education, 31: 31-43.

Marcey, D.J. (2014). The Lecture Hall as an Arena of Inquiry: Using Cinematic Lectures and Inverted Classes to Flip an Introductory Biology Course. In Blended Learning, Case Studies on Digital Collaboration and Blended/Hybrid Learning: 2014 Special Issue, The Academic Commons.

Ojalvo, H.E., and Doyne, S. (2011). Five Ways to Flip Your Classroom. The New York Times, December 8, 2011.

Wood, B.W., and Gentile, J.M. (2003). Teaching in a research context. Science, 302: 1510.


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