The New Role of Teachers in a Flipped Classroom

Technology is changing a lot of things these days—how we communicate, how we conduct business, and how we learn about the world around us. Students take notes on laptops and tablets, read textbooks on e-readers, and even take tests online.

But learning isn’t the only part of education that’s changing. Teachers now have access to more and better instructional resources from across the Internet, and technology continues to transform how we deliver information to students.

One new approach that is currently gaining popularity as more proof comes in that it is an effective way to increase student engagement and teacher productivity is the Flipped classroom. Flipped classrooms are becoming an alternative to the traditional learning environment for students and teachers alike.

So, what are flipped classrooms? And what do flipped classrooms mean for today’s teachers?

Flipped vs. Traditional Classrooms

A flipped classroom takes the learning structure of a traditional class and, well…. flips it.

Traditional classrooms generally look something like this: students arrive in the classroom, listen to lectures, take notes, and ask questions. Teachers are front-and-center playing a role that is often described as the “sage on the stage.” Homework is done after class, as are most other assignments and projects. Feedback comes after homework is turned in and graded, and then issues with applying the material can be addressed.

A flipped classroom looks completely different. In a flipped classroom, students often watch lecture videos outside of the classroom, actively taking notes, jotting down questions, and re-watching those sections of the content they want to be sure they understand. Afterwards, they complete assignments and activities in the classroom, facilitated and supervised by their teachers who model what to do and provide expert feedback. Many teachers also supplement at-home video lectures with in-class discussions to clear up any confusion around the topic. Flipped classrooms build on the concept of an active learning environment—students get hands-on experience with teachers’ guidance and build their baseline knowledge of the subject through media-based learning at home. The key is for students to take the initiative to learn the basics of the instructional material before they come into class, and then apply the material with teacher supervision. If students have trouble applying the material, teachers are there to address the issue immediately and guide them through the process.

From “Sage On the Stage” to “Guide On the Side” 

With this new learning structure comes a new role for teachers. Teachers must adapt to giving fewer lectures and becoming experts in using technology, finding great content, and structuring their lessons in ways that  encourage students to become more active in their own learning process.

However, the core role of teachers doesn’t change.

In traditional classrooms, teachers are considered experts. They command the stage. They are there to teach, and students are there to listen and learn.

In flipped classrooms, teachers are still the experts. It’s only the application of their expertise that has changed.

By conducting group activities and hands-on exercises instead of lectures in the classroom, teachers facilitate active and social learning through the use of media based content and problem-based, collaborative learning.  The result is that teachers talk with their students instead of at them. They give up their stage and join the audience. They become experts in applying knowledge and finding great supporting content and activities from across the web in addition to being experts on the material itself. When spending class time overseeing projects and assignments, teachers can provide instant feedback during activities and be sure students truly grasp the material from previous lectures before moving to new concepts.

In addition to a hands-on teaching role, teachers also have a new role in the lecture process. While it is passive in the sense that teachers will not physically be in front of students, the new approach to pulling together instructional resources and presenting them in the most effective and appropriate manner still results in a very active role for the teacher. Video lectures must be incredibly thorough, as teachers will not be in front of students to stop and explain concepts, which is why educators must find and develop media to support their lectures – this process is also known as “content curation”. Teachers must also provide supporting activities that allow students to interact with the media content such as online quizzes, games, and links to social learning forums.

Yes, some flipped classrooms include the opportunity for students to message peers or the teacher during lectures. Others give quizzes at the end of lectures to provide immediate feedback on how well students grasped the material. These new teaching mediums implement innovative technologies and have the flexibility to make lectures more than just the traditional hour-long speech.

It requires a good deal of advanced preparation from teachers, but also a large amount of flexibility and creativity in creating lectures.  The best thing for teachers is that once they are produced, these instructional materials can be used across multiple class sections and from year to year. Every teacher now has the opportunity to build re-usable and shareable instructional resources that save them time in the future and heighten their students’ engagement

The Outcome

Flipped classrooms aren’t just an adjustment for students, but for teachers, too. However, recent research is indicating promising results for this approach to teaching and learning. Students are showing increased learning gains, and heightened motivation, as they engage in active learning through the use of both in-class activities and exercises done in flipped learning environments.

In this environment, teachers have the ability to guide students through the entire learning process—from learning the material to applying it. Better yet, students are able to take an active role in their education.

But one thing remains the same, whether your classroom is flipped or not – expert teachers are an absolutely critical part of the process, as is ensuring these teachers have the training and support they need to help students excel.

Are you interested in flipping your classroom? Take a look at our products & services, and see how N2N can help.

MOOCs – here today, what’s gone tomorrow?

Driven by technology

Higher education is in the midst of a transformation that’s arguably unlike anything since the the University of Bologna defined the “universitas magistrorum et scholarium” (a community of teachers and scholars) in 1088. The definition of this “community” is being stretched as never before as technology enables anytime, any place learning at the convenience of and pace for the student. We don’t have a clear picture of the end game, but clearly, change is afoot. Universities are experiencing rapidly escalating costs at the same time that their revenue streams are being challenged. While the multi-billion dollar endowments of the fortunate few can stave off change for a long time, for many institutions, the tipping point has arrived. The university model of today is personnel-intensive, and there is a finite limit of the productivity of faculty as defined in terms of the number of students who can be taught through conventional means. At the same time, changing demographics means that there are fewer 18-22 year old prospects for the standard university product, the 4-year residential degree. Fewer students means less revenue, and the competition for those remaining students drives institutions to build campus amenities at an ever escalating pace.

Mail to MOOCs

Over the last 300 years,distance_learning_infographic_large innovators, entrepreneurs, and institutions have experimented with ways to provide education at a distance. From postal service in the early 1700’s to radio in the 1920’s, to TV in the 1940’s, to nascent computer-based training in the 1980’s, distance education has lurched forward in fits and starts. The progression of technology, and in particular the growing ubiquity of high-bandwidth connectivity (coupled with high fidelity display devices and the compute power to leverage those displays), has created an environment where the ability to connect, see and share is asymptotically approaching our abilities in the real world. The Massively Open Online Course (MOOC), a concept coined in 2008, is the beneficiary of this progression of events. For our purposes, though, the MOOC came of age in 2012 with the founding of Coursera, edX and Udacity.

What is a MOOC?

What is a MOOC? Many meanings have been ascribed to this acronym. Is it open? Is it free? Do you get credit? In some ways, the term is almost like a Rorschach blot…what do you see? This poster from 2013 sums up this polymorphism:

plourde mooc poster

(image by Mathieu Plourde, under the Creative Commons license)

There are some things that we can likely agree on. Distance learning is certainly not new, and neither is the use of computers and networks for distance learning novel. What is new, however, is the scale (thousands, or even tens of thousands of students per course), and the business model – you might not be paid for offering this course, or not paid much. If you are considering offering a course as a MOOC, what content do you have that’s interesting enough to drive the demand?

MOOCs exist as credit and non-credit courses. The first course considered to be a MOOC offering, Connectivism and Connective Knowledge, offered in 2008, had 25 paying students from the University of Manitoba and over 2000 online students from the general public. There has been a simmering tension between the business model and the original vision since the inception of the MOOC concept, but the wheels of progress have kept moving forward, and both the supply of courses and the demand for courses have grown. While non-credit courses are the norm, Georgia Tech, Udacity and AT&T are now offering an online Master’s degree in Computer Science for a tuition of under $7,000 for the full program. It’s possible to take the same courses free, without degree credit, but the accredited certification is what differentiates this program, and provides a way for the partners to monetize the undertaking. Some free or inexpensive specialty courses (such as Astronomy with Skynet ) offer novel benefits as a part of a course materials fee (time on a telescope on an Andes mountaintop). However, there is generally a divide between paying and non-paying students. You pay, you get credit or certification, otherwise, your takeaway is knowledge.

There is a taxonomy that differentiates types of MOOCs. So-called “connectivist” courses work through peer review and group collaboration, whereas “extended” courses work with objectives, assignments and tests which follows the traditional classroom model, but at scale. A further interesting twist is a course that works like an extended MOOC, but is only open to selected or screened (or paying) participants. This is the “Small Network Online Course” (SNOC).

So we return to our previous question, “What is a MOOC?” and we see that it’s not easy to precisely define, but at the same time, the current and impending impact on higher education is easy to see. MOOCs are thus not about technology per se, but driven by technology and the “anytime any place” culture that’s in evidence in the social and commercial web. Just as business transactions have become “disintermediated” by corporations such as Amazon, leading to the disappearance of some retail markets, the educational marketplace is seeing its stronghold of “mediated learning” under siege. What is its ultimate fate?

The future’s so bright, but…

The future is bright for some institutions, particularly those which focus on research and graduate degrees. Here, there is still a premium on close faculty-student collaboration, and on serendipitous interaction with colleagues that is, and will for the immediate future, remain challenging to simulate. It’s also bright for those with the capital (financial and intellectual) necessary to create compelling content and to achieve the production values and innovation necessary to be a player on this new field. However, the converse is that these changes are likely to negatively impact those “Brick and Ivy” institutions whose main product is the 4-year residential baccalaureate, and where resources don’t enable a competitive online offering.

There are still changes that must transpire before the full impact is felt. Degrees earned online do not always have the same respect as those earned in situ at an institution. Often coupled with increased pervasiveness of online learning is a “competency-based” approach, where learning is paced at the student’s independent accretion of skills, with facilitation by the instructor. But, this is not just an issue with MOOCs, rather with alternative forms of pedagogy and with online learning in particular. The MOOC wave captured the idea of reinventing higher education and moved it to the mainstream. While the MOOC may be still be on the hype cycle, it has made an impact on higher education.As we said at the outset, we don’t know where things will end up, but the institutions of higher education will be changed by these developments.


Gartner Hype Cycle CC BY-SA 3.0 view terms
Jeremy Kemp. – Own work. The underlying concept was conceived by Gartner, Inc.

Not every institution will be successful in negotiating this impending disruption. It takes content and resources to effectively deliver that content. What do you offer that’s better than anyone else in the world? The business model is still unproven, as are other impacts on the institution. Faculty roles will change, and the professoriate can be notoriously resistant to this. Some will embrace and be rewarded for the change, and others will not. Remember, though, that the MOOC is not the cause of this, but instead is the current manifestation of a process that’s been underway for 300 years, working to disrupt a 1000-year old paradigm. Understanding this context can help you prepare your institution for the impacts on education enabled by the continued march of technology.


Game Based Learning for Student Success

ISTE 2014

During my meetings at ISTE 2014 – I had the pleasure of meeting several industry leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators focused on transforming American education system from ground up.

The common theme of discussions between these leaders were on the blazing topics that are being discussed by Gates Foundation, edutopia ( and other visionaries in this area. The topics included

  1. Blended classrooms
  2. Flipped Classrooms
  3. Personalized Learning
  4. Media Driven Learning
  5. Interactive classroom
  6. Project Based Learning

While some of these concepts are truly radical for a conventional brick-and-mortar institution, I was especially intrigued by the role of Game Based Learning and how it relates to the future of learning. I had some discussions with Lucien Vattel, Founder and CEO of ( regarding this.


Named one of Fast Company’s “Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Education”, GameDesk is a transformative education nonprofit consisting of a research institute, commercial development studio, online community platform, and physical school.

What is Game Based learning?

Game based learning (GBL) is a type of game play that has defined learning outcomes. Generally, game based learning is designed to balance subject matter with gameplay and the ability of the player to retain and apply said subject matter to the real world.

Game based learning describes an approach to teaching, where students explore relevant aspect of games in a learning context designed by teachers. Teachers and students collaborate in order to add depth and perspective to the experience of playing the game.

Source -

Game Based Learning Applications

During my meetings with teachers, administrators and other leaders in education at the conference, the following questions came up

  1. How does GBL help kinesthetic learners?
  2. How can GBL help learners with Learning Disabilities?
  3. How can GBL support social and emotional learning
  4. How can I integrate GBL into a traditional classroom as part of the school curriculum

Results – Playmaker School

Instead of writing an essay on the questions above, I thought it will be good to see PBS News Hours’ segment on Game Based Learning at the Play Maker School (

 N2N’s Commitment to Game Based Learning

As part of N2N’s ongoing commitment to support the future of learning and creating a roadmap for student success, N2N is actively engaged in discussions with visionaries like Lucien. Our goal is to support a teacher to create a lesson from different assets she has at her disposal.  With N2N’s Learning Media Platform (, an instructor can create a lesson/lesson plan using the following assets

  1. Files (Media, documents, etc.)
  2. Youtube Search
  3. Google Search
  4. Game Based Learning content (ex: educade)
  5. Books that the school purchased through publishers (Kno, Pearson, etc.)
  6. Curated content available on Common Sense Media
  7. Curricular Content from certified partners (Ex: GameDesk)

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