From Failure to Flipped Learning: How Unified Communications Can Improve Education

Some campuses and classrooms are flipping education on its head. Using a method called "flipped learning," which puts students in the driver's seat of their own education, these schools are harnessing the power of communications technology to make a profound impact on learning outcomes.

Student using flipped learning on smartphone and walking across campus with backpack on
Using the power of video conferencing technology, flipped learning is boosting efficiency and improving student outcomes.

At Ohio State University (OSU), the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE), for example, has started using flipped learning as a strategy to boost student engagement and holistically improve learning. The results have been overwhelmingly positive.

In one course, grades averaged seven to eight points higher than in all previous offerings of the same course, according to an article by OSU's College of Engineering. Student engagement also improved. One professor at OSU MAE reported that 70 percent of his students said they preferred the flipped classroom approach.

Because it allows students to participate actively in their own education, the flipped learning trend is not surprisingly becoming a popular and effective teaching strategy in higher education. Here's a closer look at how this method of teaching uses communications technology to provide numerous benefits to students and teachers.

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Supporting Flipped Learning Through Conferencing Technology

The meaning of flipped learning is largely in its name: Traditional ways of conducting education are flipped upside down. Instead of listening to lectures during class, students listen to prerecorded lectures as their "homework," and they spend class time on more personalized and engaging activities such as problem-solving, projects, and discussions.

Since students need access to lectures outside of the classroom and in-class activities become more interactive, technology, especially video and conferencing capabilities, is a necessary component to make a flipped classroom effective. Educators use video recording technology to record lessons that they then distribute to students to watch at home or on the go. They can also use video conferencing technology to meet with students one-on-one outside of class to provide extra work sessions and additional mentoring.

Having a unified communications solution that connects all of your channels of communication — messaging, video, and conferencing — in one central system makes supporting a flipped classroom even easier. It also enhances the ability of educators to create more personalized learning opportunities for their students. With unified communications, educators have more access to conferencing solutions for the classroom, and professors and students can access materials from anywhere and at any time. Professors can use laptops or mobile devices to record materials on campus, and students can use their smartphone or tablet to access them from their home or local library. The flipped classroom is enabled by the technologically enhanced classroom.

Students are already tapped into digital technologies — and flipped learning offers the opportunity to meet students where they are, including on their mobile devices.

Less Cost, Less Time, Better Student Outcomes

Boosting learning outcomes is the primary reason higher education institutions are investing in flipped learning. However, universities and faculty are discovering that a side benefit is that the model also saves time and money. Prerecorded videos of lectures for required courses, for example, can often be reused from semester to semester, saving the school and its students money on semester-by-semester materials.

Some universities are getting even more innovative with virtual classroom learning. Professors at OSU MAE, for instance, are looking into how prerecorded material could be leveraged to teach elective courses with small enrollment numbers that might otherwise be canceled. They are also considering how distance education courses could benefit from some of the materials created for the flipped classroom.

OSU MAE's Department Chair Vish Subramaniam has praised flipped learning. "We wanted to not only save faculty time but also increase student learning outcomes," he said. "The pilot has proven that both are possible, and we predict that technology-enhanced teaching and learning will give the department an edge in reaching today's students." With the right unified communications tools in place, schools like OSU gain a leg up in the rapidly evolving field of education, while students receive a better, more effective education.

A Digital Learning Tool for Digital Students

Another advantage of flipped learning is that students find the flipped classroom environment more engaging. One likely reason is that students are already tapped into digital technologies — and flipped learning offers the opportunity to meet students where they are, including on their mobile devices. According to EdTech, about one-third of students use a phone or tablet to access lectures. Another 51 percent also reported using their mobile devices to correspond with professors.

Flipped classrooms are simply more engaging to students, as they allow them to spend class time on problem-solving and group discussions rather than passively listening to lectures. Outside the classroom, completing homework by listening to lectures is easier since they can watch at any time from anywhere on any device. This type of engagement and interactive learning is possible only when schools use unified communications and conferencing solutions for connected, efficient communication.

The Future of Flipped Learning

From engineering to medicine to statistics courses, many higher education professors and departments are flipping classrooms — and that's a good thing. Not only are student outcomes improving, but a flipped classroom, equipped with video conferencing technology, allows faculty to have more meaningful contact with every student during class time. This fosters deeper relationships between faculty and students, increases engagement, and helps further personalize the learning experience for students.

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