Tuesday, September 4

From Flipped to Gamified Classroom Learning!

How do we engage and inspire students/educators/learners to really learn, and then empower them with the belief that they can learn on their own (without needing to be always spoon-fed)? 

Self-learning and learning how-to-learn are probably the two ultimate things we need master to survive and be successful in the 21st century, which will eventually be known as the...


Are you familiar with the 'Flipped Classroom' approach to learning?

Here is a video to introduce you to the biggest global learning trend and buzz word in education for the last few years (besides MOOCs, which is probably the learning buzzword for 2012):

In one sentence: You view the lecture (recording) at home, and then you come to class to do the homework (or learning activities), whereby the teacher(s) (and fellow students) are there to provide guidance and support (when necessary) during the learning process. WOW!

That sounds great for school-level learning, but what about higher education?

Jackie Gerstein's masterpiece graphic below (and articles/resources) provides some great ideas on how to make it really work for higher education.

If you ask me, I would argue that the flipping 'Flipped Classroom' challenge is not making your lectures available online (which many are already doing), but creating electrifying and inspiring learning experiences during the face-to-face (F2F) learning sessions itself that is the ultimate challenge (and differentiating factor to give you a competitive advantage).

Also, in higher education, especially at Master and PhD level should we be spoon-feeding students with lectures (recordings) telling or showing them A-Z, so that they can replicate (or vomit out) the same stuff during their exams or assignments?


I suppose it depends on what you are teaching, but we also need to rethink what the real purpose of the lecture should be, and how we can make best use of it to engage and inspire learning beyond the spoon-feeding paradigm.

Alright, after exploring for a few centuries, we finally get the lecture right (for what we are teaching)! What do we do with the students when they come for the F2F (or online) learning sessions? 

If the lecture recording is already online (hopefully not outdated!), I suppose repeating it during a F2F (or online) session would not be the most productive way to go about it, would it?

But, before we get into that, have your students actually gone through the lecture recording before the F2F session?  I suppose so, I told them to do so (Keep on dreaming!).

You can assume that, but the reality is often very different unless you have infused some mechanisms to ensure that they view (and also understand) the recorded lecture(s) before they come to class.

Changing the students' learning mindset (and habits) to explore lectures (or resources) online before class might take some time, especially if they are from the good old spoon-feeding paradigm.

To deal with this, you could for example keep track on who access the recorded lectures (especially if you are using a LMS) before class. However, clicking on a link doesn't mean that actual learning has taken place. However, having an online quiz after (or during) the recorded lecture could encourage more students to explore it, especially if it is a requirement to do it before the F2F session.

Adding a discussion forum, requiring for example all students to ask at least one question (or reflection) before class could help, too. Or you could construct a few online learning activities/challenges/assignments (e.g. WebQuest) to encourage students to think before the F2F session.

Finally, if you create sizzling online lectures, many students might even explore them without requiring any 'carrot or stick' measures.  The lecture becomes the carrot!

As you see there are many ways to get students on board in a 'flipped classroom' approach, and if you explore your creative mind, I am sure you will figure out even better ways to activate your students' brain to think before they come for class.

Cool! But, what should we do with them once they come...?


“If you wanted to create an education environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you probably would design something like a classroom. If you wanted to create a business environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you probably would design something like a cubicle. And if you wanted to change things, you might have to tear down both and start over.” 

Designing inspiring 'Learning Spaces' will increasingly be required as we want to move F2F (or online learning) learning sessions beyond the lecture format to empower more effective student learning experiences.

Changing the physical classroom is probably more complicated as that would also require extensive monetary investments and time to make it happen. Let's assume that you have your good old classroom or computer lab, which by nature might not be really conducive for interactive or collaborative learning (e.g. seating arrangement).

If you ask me, I would argue that we can still do learning miracles in a boring classroom setting if we stretch our imagination beyond our usual 'Blame everything else, except ourselves'. So, what can we do during a 'Flipped Classroom' session?
  • Q&A
    Encourage students to ask questions to clarify what they didn't understand from the recorded lecture (or required readings).
  • Case Study (or Problem-Based Learning)
    Yes, even Harvard uses Case Studies to empower deep learning and understanding of the subject matter. We could discuss a Case Study with the students, and even break up into groups to encourage more involvement and diverse opinions.
  • Learning Activities
    Build learning activities to apply what has been learned in the lecture. Here students don't have to be stuck in the classroom. They could always be asked to venture out individually or in groups to the library, labs, outdoors, etc. and then return to share their discoveries and findings.
  • Online Classroom
    If you can't afford the transformation of your physical classroom, you could always use a  web-conferencing tool to engage students to learn using a variety of features (e.g. poll, whiteboard, chat, screen/application sharing, etc.). It is an alternate and cheaper solution that has no borders.
  • Etc.
    I leave that to your imagination!

All these approaches above can be useful to empower more effective learning experiences. But, personally I want the students learning experiences to be more challenging, competitive, inspiring and fun, so I would...


 "Gamification is using game-based mechanics, aesthetics and game thinking to
engage people, motivate action, promote learning, and solve problems." 

- Karl Kapp
Gamifying learning fully online in mind boggling 3D worlds with collaborative challenges beyond the borders of Earth is really cool. However, how many academics are ready to take the online 'Gamification' pill to make that happen?

For starters, let's try gamifying learning in the classroom! I did actually try this during my two 2-day OER workshops at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) in June and August (2012).

My main mission for the 2nd day's hands-on learning activity was to inspire USM Academic staff to use social media and web 2.0 technologies to develop Open Educational Resources (OER).

I could have given a boring show-and-do workshop (interactive lecture format) on using a variety of learning tools (and put them to sleep!), but instead Prof. Karim and I showed them briefly a variety of learning tools (Edmodo, Blogs, Google Sites, Udemy, etc.), and how they can be applied to learning and teaching. We didn't spend much time teaching them how to click, because that was left to the...


    A mission learning activity/task/check list was created for the OER challenge. Basically any course that has learning outcomes can be broken down to learning related tasks, meaning this can be applied to most courses (if not all). So, in this context this is what we wanted participants to achieve by the end of this learning activity:

    Participants were assigned to groups based on random numbering (group size: 5 to 7), but were allowed to change group (Not the army!). However, we tried to ensure that the participants with some technology or blogging experience to be divided into different groups (where possible), so that they could play a critical role in helping, or guiding the other participants to achieve the tasks. We also emphasized the learning formula: If you know how to do it, check whether the person next to you knows, too. If not, show him/her how to do it. Teaching is awesome learning!

    As they had 14 tasks to achieve, most groups divided their work among the members (divide and conquer) and then got back together during the end to integrate their items into a learning masterpiece. During the process they helped one another, and interestingly the facilitators were hardly needed for help. The groups seemed to work out their issues by themselves probably 95% of the time. 

    After they had completed their mission, each group was required to present their work to the rest of the participants (10 - 15 minutes each), so that everyone could learn from one another. Participants were encouraged to ask questions after the presentations, and the 2 facilitators (Prof. Karim and me) shared their feedback and recommendations.
    To make it more exciting and competitive, participants were requested to vote for the group winner (based on the learning tasks given) using Poll Everywhere, which enables you to use any mobile/computer device to vote (great tool to empower student engagement...Clickers on steroids!). As Poll Everywhere provides live updates as participants vote, it becomes really exciting, especially if it is a close call. Other voting/polling tools you could use, include Facebook (Ask Questions), Socrative, Polldaddy, and Twtpoll.   
    It is not really about winning, but using the gaming approach to engage and inspire the participants to really explore the learning with a bit of oomph (effort). The winning part is just an icing on a splendidly delicious learning cake.

    And you know what, I have never seen so many engaged academics embracing a learning activity than during these two workshops. I have been training academics for more than a decade, and this formula has proven to work best for me getting full commitment from participants to do a learning activity. We even had difficulty getting some of the participants to eat lunch. They were so engrossed. Here are some pictures from both workshops to prove it: 
 The best thing, it is quite easy to gamify classroom learning, especially the way I have done it in this approach shared above. Of course, your classroom session should be perhaps 2 hours or more to empower all these learning activities without needing to rush through. But developing a learning (activity) tasks list (easy), and learning how to use Poll Everywhere (5 minutes max!) is seriously less difficult than you probably realize.

More importantly, instead of spoon-feeding them how to use social media (and web 2.0) tools, we have probably made them realize that they can learn on their own, too. Based on the feedback I got from USM was that the participants learned a lot, were engaged, had fun, and wanted the OER workshop to be conducted again, which I did exactly two months later.    

"The LESS you teach, the MORE they learn!" 

Finally, great learning and teaching goes beyond the 'Flipped' or 'Gamified' Learning approached, and here is what I mean about that:

So, are you going to gamify your classroom learning? Hopefully, you are already doing it :)


Jik Kam Yong said...

Flipped classrooms are intriguing. I would love to see that implemented in universities or even schools. Then we would be able to tackle shortages of teaching staff & everybody would get the same input.

Zaid Ali Alsagoff said...

Thanks for the input! Though, not sure whether everyone should be learning from the Khan Academy (example) :)

Same input Is good to a certain extent, but the challenge is that not everyone likes Nasi Lemak, and if the food stinks, it will be amplified beyond our imagination online :(

Flipped Classroom is great when contextualizes and tailored to the community or group, but not necessarily great for one teacher to the world approach... But we should embrace it to spice up F2F learning :)

Debi Prasad Chakraborty said...

Thanks for the all contents and its great help for us.