Baker's "Classroom Flip" Spreads Globally

The “Classroom Flip,” now a global educational classroom model, had its start at Cedarville University with J. Wesley Baker, Ph.D., a professor in the department of media and applied communication. Photo credit: Scott L. Huck/Cedarville University

The “Classroom Flip,” now a global educational classroom model, had its start at Cedarville University with J. Wesley Baker, Ph.D., a professor in the department of media and applied communication. Photo credit: Scott L. Huck/Cedarville University

by Nathan Pilling, Public Relations Writer

October 8, 2013

The recent global “Flipped Day” promoted an approach to teaching and learning that had its start at Cedarville University more than a decade ago: the “Classroom Flip.” The nearly 400 teachers from 25 countries around the globe who committed to trying the educational model on “Flipped Day” show the spread of the approach, first used and given its name by J. Wesley Baker, Ph.D., a professor in the department of media and applied communication at Cedarville.

In the “Flip,” content normally covered in class lecture gets moved outside of class, and work normally done outside of class is brought into the classroom. This frees in-class time for students to practice and apply concepts they learned through the out-of-class materials. An added benefit is that the professor is freed to guide students one-on-one and to provide assistance with exercises in class.

The initial idea for this model first took hold in Baker’s mind in 1995 just after Cedarville College had undergone a massive technological upgrade. Up until this point, Baker was forced to transport his own equipment across campus to class to display information for his students. The newly launched Cedarnet, an on-campus computer network, and accompanying classroom computers and projectors allowed Baker to place his presentations on the campus network for easy access.

Baker remembers vividly one day in class when he was clicking through slides and students were copying down the information in their notes. In the middle of the lecture, a sudden realization came to him.

“‘This is really stupid!’” he said, stopping. “‘The information on the slides is going from the screen to your notes without passing through either of our brains. The presentation is on the network. Just access them online before class, and let’s not waste time in class just copying down slides.’”

On the way back to his office after class, it dawned on Baker that he had just given away all of his content for the course. “What am I going to do in class the rest of the term?” he wondered.

Baker had been toying with the idea of using traditional distance learning technologies to deliver class content on a residential campus. Now he had the technical ability and practical reasons to implement this concept in his class.

When he got back to his office, he sketched out a new model for class that changed the role of the class instructor from lecturer to guide. This was the foundation of the “Classroom Flip.” Baker developed the approach further and successfully implemented it in his classes.

The name came to him when he was conducting a workshop on the approach to some Cedarville faculty in 1999. He later published a conference paper on the “Classroom Flip” in 2000. At that same time Baker was Cedarville’s representative in a faculty training initiative for independent college faculty in Ohio, and the “Classroom Flip” became a central part of the workshops created through that program. A grant extended the workshops to other states, and Baker worked with faculty from New York to Oregon and Wisconsin to Texas, introducing them to the model as well. In 2004, after four years of conducting scores of workshops, Baker decided to pull back from traveling so he could concentrate more on his teaching in media.

“It wasn’t until about 2009 that I decided to check up on what was happening with the ‘Classroom Flip’,” he said. He had run across a reference to the model in some reading and decided to see what had happened to his idea since his last involvement.

What he discovered surprised him: the “Classroom Flip” had grown significantly in popularity, not just in the United States, but around the world. Through the work of others who independently developed similar concepts, the model had taken on a life of its own, though the name Baker attached to it continued to be used. Academic research and practical applications of the idea had created a buzz around the model that Baker had never expected. For instance, some faculty who were trained by Baker decided to conduct empirical research on the effectiveness of the approach for dissertations.

“I had no idea,” he said. “To me it was just, ‘What am I going to do in this class?’ I wasn’t trying to come up with some new model or new approach. I just had no idea at the time that it was going to be as big a thing as it is.”

And the use of the model is still growing. Educators around the world pledged to flip their own classrooms through the recent “Flipped Day,” championed by the Flipped Learning Network. Applications of the model have been made at a number of domestic and international academic institutions, including The Pennsylvania State University, the University of Toronto, Philadelphia University, The University of Kansas and many others. Baker continues to receive inquiries about the model from many of these educators, including college faculty in Germany and Singapore.

It has been more than 15 years since it first occurred to Baker that he had “given away” all his content, forcing him to reconsider his plans for the rest of the term. In that time he has developed the “Classroom Flip” model extensively and has seen it grow dramatically.

“I am indebted to many people who provided opportunities for the model to be developed and shared,” he said. “I’m glad so many others have found the metaphor a helpful way to think about changes in teaching and learning, and that it has sparked their own creative approaches and applications.”

Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University attracts 3,400 undergraduate, graduate and online students to more than 100 areas of study. Inspiring greatness for over 125 years, Cedarville is a Christ-centered learning community recognized nationally for rigorous academic programs, strong graduation and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings and leading student satisfaction ratings. Visit the University online at www.cedarville.edu.