Flipping a large cohort of engineering students case study

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I was recently playing host for an Evaluation of Learners’ Experiences of e-learning Special Interest Group (ELESIG) Summer Symposium held in one of our very own flexible spaces A109. The highlight of the symposium was the keynote that looked at an example of transforming the students experiences of learning using the flipped classroom model.


ELESIG is an international community of researchers and practitioners from HE and FE who are involved in investigations of learners’ experiences and uses of technology in learning. ELESIG members work together to share knowledge and practice and develop a shared repertoire of resources which will be of benefit to the community and the sector. If you are interested in being part of the community then its free to join. Interested visit this site.

About Flipped Classrooms

There seems to be no set formula for flipped classrooms although the term flipped classrooms has become the latest buzz word in HE. The core idea seems to be about flipping the traditional didactic model so that the taught hours are used for bringing in more active/deeper learning models such as problem based learning, advanced concepts etc.In a recent post Anise from our LDC team posted an infographic in her vignette. For further information please visit the University of Queensland’s site. 

Redesigning an Undergraduate Engineering programme for a large group

The keynote was delivered using Adobe Connect since the speakers originated from the University of Queensland(UQ).  Professor Carl Reidsema and Dr. Lydia Kavanagh have used the flipped classroom model to ensure students are immersed in authentic problem based learning activities to prepare them for professional practice. And before you ask they have managed to flip the classroom for a group of 1200 students! None of this has come about without any hard work and an overall team approach.

Carl and Lydia are both introduced as engineers and educators who shared a passion for improving the stduents experience of learning. A number of challenges occurred in UQ’s engineering programmes that are not dissimilar to City such as:

  • dealing with cohorts of no less then 1000 students
  • supporting the transition from high school
  • a need to educate engineers as a change agent
  • and to maximize retention through engagement and ownership of learning

In this first year programme they focused specifically on four multidisciplinary projects that incorporate design, build, sustainability, project management, communication and teamwork. This programme has also built in active learning, peer-assisted and authentic assessments.

So how did they flip it?

To really get a handle you must watch the recording which can be viewed here. In a nutshell they provided students with podcast lecture (of 10 mins) each week followed by a series of class based group assignments. Some of these assignments included using the Belbin test to determine and allocate groups together. These teams then got fed back into their learning environment which enhanced the teamwork in action. Below is a screenshot that shows what the future students online learning pathway could look like. This is based on what they have found students need.

In the second semester, they designed the sessions to focus more on authentic & innovative learning. These sessions included module outcomes to include modelling and simulation, engineering design/build, engineering materials and ownership of learning. So again here, there were 6/7 keynote lectures with industry professionals invited to provide a narrative followed by a midterm exam. After that students are then divided into teams for these projects.

Its too early for them to see the results of their work for these students in their second year but some anecdotal feedback from the second year lecturers suggest that these students are much more open to things and also able to work and try out new things. Their study emphasises the need for detailed planning, long lead-times and considerable resources to undertake a major curriculum change toward a flipped classroom model especially with a cohort of over one thousand students. The slides from their presentation can be seen below.

Where can I find more information about this project

Carl and Lydia’s team have an open source philosophy and are looking to share best practices. Their website has provided much more detail and illustrate teaching staff’s experience. Teaching staff have been interviewed from all their six faculties across UQ to explore the pedagogical reasons for flipping, the educational technologies used and how their teaching has changed. Each case study is accompanied by a summary in PDF format.   For more information and a look at what the lecturers at UQ think of flipped classrooms, please do visit the UQ link here.


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