Flipped classroom: Mastery model for computer programming


Summary

Dr Louis Rose from the Department of Computer Science created pre-recorded, online mini-lectures to provide the course content for students to progress through and draw upon as part of a laboratory-based group exercise. This flipped classroom approach did not use traditional lecture delivery, freeing up the face-to-face contact time for more lab work and individualised staff-student contact.

Key words: screencast; flipped classroom; YouTube; programming.

Aims and Objectives

DAMS third-year, undergraduate elective module.

This initiative aimed to:

  • Provide greater opportunities for staff-student contact, discussing problems within small groups or with individual students.
  • Find a way to provide small group teaching that could be scaled up with medium-sized cohorts.
  • Overcome challenges with limited timetable, enabling more time for learning through practice.
  • Enable students to balance final-year projects, internships, job interviews, social activities and in some cases running their own businesses.

Overview

DAMS Mastery Model. Use of video mini lectures. Module divided up into chunks. Lab time used to assist students, ask questions, check their understanding. Group work based assessment.

The mastery model comprises delivering online content as the basic understanding required to complete a laboratory-based task. In labs, students undertake exercises, working individually or problem solving in groups, until they can ‘master’ the concept (i.e. apply it and use it within the context of their group project). Using the flipped classroom videos frees up the lecturer to approach individual students and teach at a level that is appropriate to that student. This enables the lecturer to both support the understanding of basic concepts and stretch more capable students within the same teaching session.

Methodology

Louis recorded short mini-lectures, capturing the presentation slides on his computer and with a ‘talking-head’ style webcam. The use of a webcam provides a personal connection to students who are watching the lectures remotely, often in advance of meeting the lecturer face-to-face. The content is delivered verbally, with key points on the slides and examples to support the explanation. An example is shown here:

The videos provide a basic framework of key concepts, but also allows the lecturer to share their professional opinion to inform students’ choice of approach. The natural style of delivery emphasises that parts of the content will provide the basic knowledge for the tasks and other parts are up for interpretation and exploration through the laboratory-based activities.

The videos were uploaded to YouTube and linked within a website (websites were used within the Department of Computer Science for certain modules, rather than Yorkshare). The website was segmented into three blocks which aligned with the staged progression of the lab-based exercises. Each block was divided into topic-based chunks, with a one-liner key point and links to the videos.

Screenshot of the DAMS website, showing videos linked by topic within one of three teaching blocks

Screenshot of the DAMS module website

In-class, students worked in groups towards an end product. Students would need to individually master each topic in the module, drawing upon the online videos and applying to practice in the lab-based sessions. Students could work through the module content at their own pace, so whilst the computer labs were timetabled, students could be at any stage in the module in any week. The lecturer was on hand during lab sessions and also had allocated office hours to provide tailored support to individuals and small groups.

Whilst this module did not utilise centrally-supported tools, the principles can equally apply to structuring a Yorkshare module site and using Replay At-Desk Captures to create videos and upload securely to a module site.

Reflections

  • Most of the issues were due to group-working, accommodating both students who had opted to progress throughout the content early and those who were taking a more flexible approach.
  • Creating videos does take time, in particular when preparing the content and structuring into discrete and sequential learning chunks.
  • Be prepared for the face-to-face time, it can be more exhausting than delivering a lecture as you are responding to student queries for the whole period. Where you have a model that allows students to self-pace, you may be answering questions on the whole module content.

From the student feedback, the overall response is very positive, with many students agreeing that online lectures are working well:

  • “I like that I can watch the lectures at my own pace”
  • “I like being able to watch the DAMS lectures online”
  • “I like being able to watch the lectures without physically having to be in the classroom”
  • “It is good to be able to watch lectures in my spare time”
  • “Online lectures are better for teaching material than conventional lectures”
  • “The pre-recorded lectures are good: they are succinct and informative”

Most people also seemed to agree that working at their own pace was working well for them, by agreeing with the peer observations that “being able to work through the course material at my own pace is much better than working to a set schedule”, that “DAMS gives us the freedom to work how we want to work” and that they “like the self-guidance structure of DAMS.”

Most people agreed that “the DAMS videos should have proper subtitles for those watching with headphones or the hard of hearing”. This functionality is built into the YouTube and Replay editors.

Transferable lessons

  • Keep videos short and related to specific learning points.
  • Videos do not have to be amazing quality, as long as students can understand the content.
  • Plan the content delivery and how this relates to the practical tasks.

Next Steps