Newswise — The California State University (CSU) is removing bottlenecks and roadblocks to student success by “flipping the classroom.”  Redesigning courses by “flipping” them is a faculty-led CSU initiative to help students successfully pass gateway courses in their major area of study.

Some components of “flipped classrooms,” include videotaped faculty lectures for students to watch outside of class and then traditional class time is used for in-depth discussion, including applying key concepts with feedback and for more active learning and collaborative group learning projects. After class students check their understanding and extend their learning outside of the classroom by participating in online quizzes, exercises or modules.

Engaging—Not Memorizing

 Ji Son, psychology professor at California State University, Los Angeles “flipped” her Inferential Statistics for Psychology class and has seen a reduction in the number of students failing, withdrawing or performing below average. “Students come into this statistics course with little experience in quantitative reasoning about data. Also, they come in with emotional baggage regarding their past experiences with mathematics. Thus, with much trepidation and anxiety, students attempt to conquer statistics by memorizing equations rather than engaging in the concepts of statistics. This ends up being a poor socioemotional experience as well as a less than productive learning experience.” Son said. Prior to course redesign, the course was traditionally taught as a lecture and lab course with only 25 students in the class. In the re-design, enrollment increased to 50 students in a lecture with two separate lab sections—25 students each. The redesigned course is now 90% activities with 10% lecture style explanations. Out of class time now contains 100% lecture content. Son shared that one of the qualities that emerged from the opportunity to redesign the courses was the focus on building coherence between the concepts of statistics. The results have been impressive. Between spring 2011 and spring 2015 there has been a 40 percent reduction in student drops, fails and withdrawals. “Course redesign is a process of continuous improvement. As educators, we need to stay nimble and if we don’t view teaching in this continuous improvement framework, we, and our students, will be left behind,” said Son.

Learning is About Engagement

Vector Statics is a critical gateway course for all engineers. The enrollment for this course at California Polytechnic University, Pomona is high but students were not successful in passing the class successfully. Before redesign, a failure rate of 50 percent was not uncommon. Mariappan Jawaharlal, professor of engineering at Cal Poly Pomona wanted to change that. One strategy he used was by tapping into technology via short instruction videos. The videos helped student learn by enabling them to be better prepared for class, allowed them to review the material on their own schedule and students can watch and re-watch as many times as they wanted. “Our job as educators is to create an environment and opportunities where students can learn. What I have realized in the last few years is that the more and more I look at very closely you can do an outstanding lecturing job but unless the students are truly engaged the material never trickles down to them. In other words, if you want real learning to occur, not just teaching or lecturing, then you have to figure out a way for the students to be engaged in the material not passive listeners sitting and listening to you for an hour and forty-five minutes,” Jawaharlal said. In addition to videos he developed online tutorials, online quizzes and other internet resources. He gave students a big picture of what they would learn on the first day of class. He also provided real world implications of what could go wrong if the subject matter was not mastered by exposing students to videos of major engineering disasters and taught them to dream big by showing major engineering successes. Did the redesign work? “The data indicate that students in the redesigned course performed better than students in the traditional course,” Jawaharlal said. “We think that the educational tools implemented is more effective. However, this evaluation with small sample size data would not be sufficient to analyze the effectiveness of the instructional technology tools. Therefore, the long-term impact of the education tools in Vector Dynamics should be evaluated in a multiple year analysis of accumulated student performance data.”

It’s Not Just about Videos

Kelly Young, professor of biological sciences at California State University, Long Beach has redesigned several courses, but the biggest changes took place in the redesign of BIOL 208 Human Anatomy course.  Before redesigning the course, Human Anatomy was a traditional course consisting of lecture and laboratory with low interaction between students and the professor and more importantly between students and the material. The course had a high withdrawal rate, and many students needed to repeat the course each semester. Dr. Young and her faculty team redesigned the course to be an interactive learning experience. Gone are the hour-long lectures that accompanied the lab portion of the class. She replaced those with a three part learning system: multiple short videos describing the parts students need to know, a weekly readiness review quiz of both review and new material covered in the videos, and in-class interactive lab stations where students use critical thinking and inquiry skills to investigate anatomical materials and to make key learning connections. Those changes decreased the number of students who were unsuccessful in completing the course from 40 percent to 20 percent and increased student understanding beyond the rote memorization associated with learning human anatomy. “My students inspire me every day,” Young said. “It is not easy to balance everything that they have on their plates and still succeed in the classroom and in the research laboratory—but they do it. It is an incredible experience to be there and offer a guiding hand and an encouraging voice as students move from being an uncertain novice trying to make it through their lower division courses to a confident and accomplished senior graduating and moving on to the next step in their career path!”

“Proven Course Redesign is a high impact practice being used at a number of CSU campuses to increase graduation rates,” said Gerry Hanley, assistant vice chancellor of academic technology services. “These proven courses have documented improved student retention, engagement, and success and have included such strategies as flipped classrooms, online homework, virtual labs, flipped-blended course designs, Supplemental Instruction, adaptive learning, and other technology-enhanced delivery methods.”

Course redesign is just one of the ways CSU is increasing student success and supporting the CSU’s Graduation Initiative 2025 to improve student success, retention and persistence.

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