Learning Material Preference in the Flipped Classroom

October 27, 2014


I currently teach BioEngineering 1010: Biology for BioEngineers. This is a one credit course taken by second semester general engineering majors. It is intended to provide a basic understanding of biology for incoming freshman and prepare them for the biological portions of upcoming higher level courses. In previous semesters I taught the course in a traditional format where each 50 minute class consisted entirely of lecturing. There was a lot of information to cover without much time to cover it. I wanted to have more interactions with students to assess how they were learning the material and to determine which topics I needed to spend more time teaching. I found a solution to this problem in the flipped classroom. A flipped classroom takes the traditional style of lecturing in class and assigning homework to be completed outside of class and flips it on its head. In-class time can be spent on active learning activities like group problem solving, while out of class time is spent watching online lecture videos.

This style of class was new to both me and the majority of my students. A survey was created to evaluate the effectiveness of the flipped classroom and to ensure that I was not running a class that was detrimental to student learning.


The students showed a clear preference for the PowerPoint slides and online videos. The textbook was rarely or never used by nearly 70% of students. The students were very comfortable with learning from digital sources like PowerPoint slides and videos. The textbook is very useful to me, as it is the source of much of the information in the course. However, with the drastic increase in textbook prices and the availability of instructor-created resources, many students have stopped using physical text books.

Online lecture videos were ranked slightly higher than in-class lectures. The difference between the two lecture types is small and not enough to claim that the online videos are more helpful than in-class lectures. However, it is encouraging to see that replacing in-class lecture time with other activities is not perceived as detrimental to student learning.

Students also viewed in-class assignments as more beneficial than homework assignments. There was some push back on the in-class assignments with several students responding that they did not like working in groups and they were not comfortable with the in-class assignment’s effect on their grade.

Finally, as well as being rarely used, the textbook was perceived as a poor contributor to learning. This could be due to students not purchasing the book.


Flipping this class has been successful in many ways. First, the online videos have been well received and ranked highly for their contribution to student learning. These videos have freed up time in class for active learning assignments. Second, the in-class assignments allowed me to connect with and assess student learning at a deeper level than before. The flipped classroom is enjoyed by students and beneficial to instructors. I am excited to continue using and improving the flipped classroom style next semester.

For further reading, the full article can be viewed here.

| Written by Mike Jaeggli, Department of Bioengineering


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