From Flipped Classroom to Blended Learning

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During the pandemic we shifted a traditional lecture to a flipped classroom setting. Apart from reorganizing the in-class phases, we managed to foster students’ curiosity and interactions by implementing a culture of care and mutual respect. Our setup may serve as a blueprint for future blended learning formats.

Guillaume Schlitz:
How did you respond to the teaching restrictions due to the pandemic?
Andreas Vaterlaus:
Before the pandemic, I used to give my Physics I and Physics II courses (both 3h lecture plus 1h exercise class) in a conventional way. The lecture, however, always was supplemented with a variety of interactive components, such as clicker questions (Peer Instruction) and lecture experiments (predict-observe-explain). It was always important to me that students were involved in active learning opportunities, which of course had to be adapted to the large number of students and to the lecture hall design. With the pandemic, I switched to a flipped classroom mode. In this setting students were introduced to new content with pre-recorded videos that they could work out individually at their own pace. More practice-oriented tasks then were offered in a weekly live session, including conceptual questions, lecture experiments and by commenting comprehension questions raised by the students. In fact, the total lecture time of 3h did not change. It resulted in 2h of video content and a 1h live session.
Guillaume Schlitz:
Why did you choose Flipped Classroom as convenient setting to respond to enforced online teaching?
Andreas Vaterlaus:
In March 2020, when it became clear that we had to switch to online teaching, we discussed several possibilities in the department and for me Flipped Classroom seemed to be very attractive. A few years ago, we also had a guest professor from the US, who implemented together with me a highly interactive flipped teaching setting (SCALE-UP), which also rose my interest in this method.

With the Flipped Classroom, I appreciated that I could produce and revise the videos at home without any disruption. As a side effect, I was able to augment the speech pace as compared to in-class lecturing. The resulting videos turned out to be more compact and resulted in a time gain of 30%. It also was amazing for me to experience how many basic phenomena of physics were already described in short video clips of good quality. I now was able to add many of those clips along with examples that I produced myself. I was also able to ask concept questions in my videos, simply by telling the students to press pause before answering so that they had some time to think about the problem.
The weekly live session (including additional experiments, concept questions and always a summary of the most important points) was always very exciting for me. I originally planned 45 minutes for these sessions, but I often had to extend this part because students asked so many interesting and challenging questions. I had the impression that the participating students had worked out the weekly recordings in detail. I really enjoyed those live sessions. By creating an atmosphere of mutual care and respect students felt comfortable to raise questions and I managed to foster their curiosity. But I also felt a bit worried by the fact that only about 20% of the students took part in the live session. However, the audience changed from week to week and students might have attended those sessions according to their needs. I also made available the recording of the live session and an additional 10% to 15% of students watched those recordings. In contrast, the pre-recorded lectures were viewed by almost all students (according to Zoom statistics).
Guillaume Schlitz:
How did the students react on the new format?
Andreas Vaterlaus:
I always tried to involve students in my plans. Results from anonymous surveys, where students could comment on their preferences and experiences, offered a good foundation where I myself and the students felt confident. For instance, I asked the students in May 2020 about their preferred format for the upcoming spring term and 72% favored the Flipped Classroom (vs. 15% who were against it).

In their comments, students very often mentioned that they appreciated the fact that the video recordings were already available in advance over the weekend. The flexibility to work with those videos at their own pace and without a fixed schedule was a major asset. Of course, a few students also missed the live online lecture.
Guillaume Schlitz:
Did you realize a change in the exam performance?
Andreas Vaterlaus:
No, the exam results were similar to previous years. This might be considered as a positive outcome under the very special conditions of almost continuous online teaching.
Guillaume Schlitz:
What would you consider as the main lessons learned during the pandemic?
Andreas Vaterlaus:
We all missed the personal contact. For me it was important to overcome this loss with personal attributes in my recordings - a picture of myself in my home office or a physics example with my bicycle or a background taken from my surroundings. Also staying in regular contact with my students via email was important. A short mail, announcing that the videos are now available for instance showed to the students that I honestly cared for them. In my videos I always started with a picture or an everyday situation illustrating the relevant topics. In this introduction I also raised a question that I answered only at the end of the recording and therewith I could easily loop back to the introductory picture or situation.
Guillaume Schlitz:
Based on your experience with Flipped Classroom, what are your plans for the future?
Andreas Vaterlaus:
In autumn 2021, when it was possible to get back to class, I switched back to my traditional teaching. Everyone, including myself, was eager to meet in person again. In the future, however, I am confident to transfer my flipped classroom experience to a blended learning setting, where parts of the content delivery will still be realized as pre-recorded videos. This has to be worked out in more detail and again, students should not have the impression that they have to invest more time in this new setting. Formally, I will have to compensate the additional self-learning time by a corresponding reduction of in-class lecture time – the same way I did for the Flipped Classroom.

Overall concept of the courses before - during - after the pandemic

Before the pandemic: Physics I and Physics II courses (both 3h lecture plus 1h exercise class) were taught in a conventional way.

During the pandemic: Flipped Classroom where students were introduced to content with pre-recorded videos that they could work out individually at their own pace (a weekly total of 90 minutes of video footage). More practice-oriented tasks then were offered in a weekly 1h live session, including conceptual questions, lecture experiments and by commenting comprehension questions raised by the students. It is worth mentioning that the exercise class was not altered, except that it had be run online during the pandemic.

After the pandemic: Possible shift to blended learning, where parts of the content delivery will be realized by pre-recorded videos.

Course Description

Physics I / Physics II
Introduction to the concepts and tools in physics with the help of demonstration experiments: mechanics of point-like and rigid bodies, elasticity theory, elements of hydrostatics and hydrodynamics, periodic motion and mechanical waves, electricity and magnetism. Whenever possible, examples relevant to the students' main field of study are given.
Introduction to the scientific methodology. The student should develop his/her capability to turn physical observations into mathematical models, and to solve related problems.
402-0062-00L / 402-0063-00L
Bachelor Course
350 / 250