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Blended Learning

Study Finds Flipped Classroom Model Does Not Improve Grades in Health Science Course

A study at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health found that in a health science course following the flipped classroom model, there was no statistically significant differences in test scores or students' assessments of their course, compared to a traditional lecture course.

Researchers used pre- and post-course surveys, open-ended questions, self-reports from instructors, classroom observations, student examination scores and end-of-course evaluations from 150 masters-level students in a Principles of Epidemiology introductory course to compare student performance in the flipped vs. traditional model. Seventy-two students attended the course in a traditional format, consisting of in-person lectures and discussion sections and at-home assignments. Seventy-eight students had their classes flipped — with at-home lectures and in-person discussion sections and assignments.

While the flipped model had no impact on grades, there were other benefits. Fifty-seven percent of students taking the flipped course said that watching video lectures at home had a positive impact on their time management, compared to attending scheduled in-person lectures. Students also said they appreciated the freedom to watch pre-recorded lectures at any time, as well as the ability of instructors to clarify concepts in class.

On the other hand, 27 percent of students reported a negative impact on their time management. Other negatives included the loss of real-time interaction with lecturers and the perception of the flipped model as a cost-cutting measure, the researchers said.

"The video lectures allowed for flexibility, as students could repeat sections they didn't understand for clarification and prepare questions to send to section leaders ahead of time, although the video lectures did make it difficult for students to engage directly with the lecturers," noted Stephanie Shiau, a post-doctoral student in epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health and co-first author of the study, in a statement. "In previous years, the in-person lecture took place right before the in-person discussion section, which didn't necessarily allow for time to process the new information."

The research team is exploring the use of VoiceThread to make the recorded lectures more interactive. The tool enables communication through text, voice recording and video: "Students will be able to annotate lecture slides with comments that are visible to section leaders, who can then respond within a short amount of time, and to other students, who may want to contribute to the discussion," a university statement explained. In addition, the team plans to create a searchable index of the lectures to help students review key terms and concepts.  

The study, which is published in the journal BioMed Central Medical Education, was supported by the Columbia's Hybrid Learning Course Redesign and Delivery grant program, sponsored by the Office of the Provost. Senior author is Silvia Martins, associate professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health. Co-first author is Linda Kahn, New York University School of Medicine. Other co-authors are Jonathan Platt, Chihua Li and Katherine Keyes, Mailman School of Public Health, and Jason Guzman and Zachary Kornhauser, Columbia University.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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