Lecture-free classroom model facilitates communication

By placing less emphasis on lectures, professors can focus class time on student discussion.

Institutions of higher education have typically been at the forefront of academic innovation. The pursuit of an open and free-thinking campus has led many universities to cultivate an environment primed for developing new methods of teaching. Advancements in technology can greatly assist this goal by adding new teaching instruments and avenues to engage students. Universities across the country have been experimenting with different ways to enhance the academic experience for their pupils and better prepare them for life after college. One Arizona institution plans to use new education technology to facilitate an innovative twist on traditional classroom management strategies.

Changing the classroom focus
Officials from the Mesa, Arizona, branch of Benedictine University recently announced their new education enterprise would place its focus on lecture-free classroom environments. The campus will have its first official semester of classes in the Fall of 2013, when incoming students will be offered a very different experience from other universities. Instead of the attending traditional lecture-based classes, Benedictine University students will be taught through virtual and flipped classroom models with a strong focus on collaboration and communication.

While a virtual classroom would consist entirely of online content, the flipped model, which has seen a large gain in popularity in recent years, would balance online and in-class material. Instead of a professor spending precious class time lecturing to students and then assigning them coursework and readings to be completed outside of the classroom, lecture materials are provided online beforehand. Students can read the text or watch a recorded lecture before attending class, where that time is spent discussing the material between the professor and his pupils.

The importance of technology on classroom innovation
Technology will play a large role in the implementation of this new educational paradigm. Accessing a cloud-based network, professors can provide students with a variety of material through many formats, including online texts, videos and podcasts. The goal of a flipped classroom is twofold. First, the technique is designed to aid students who historically underachieve in a lecture setting by providing them with varying methods to absorb information. The increased focus on classroom discussion allows professors the time and opportunity to give struggling students their undivided attention and address any questions about the curriculum. Second, by moving away from the passive lecture model and placing more importance on communication and collaboration between students, flipped classrooms facilitate the development of social and problem-solving skills that will be critical to a successful post-collegiate career.

Successful implementations of the new classroom dynamic
Many studies have found that students are more likely to succeed in a flipped classroom environment in contrast with lecture-based methods. A study conducted by Montana State University researchers on the effects of different teaching models found that students educated in a flipped classroom were more likely to achieve higher grades and report lower stress levels. Similarly, a Duke biology professor reported that since requiring students to watch lectures and complete online quizzes before attending class, he has seen a noticeable rise in mid-term grades over previous semesters.

By having students come to class prepared with the requisite material, the flipped classroom model allows them to spend less time getting familiar with the coursework and more time discussing it in depth and working through any lingering questions they may have. Time spent in the classroom is a precious commodity, and students may benefit from a shift away from lecture-based material to interactive exercises that stress discussion and collaboration.

Do the benefits of flipped classrooms outweigh those of lecture-based ones? Should more universities be implementing new approaches to the academic experience? Tell us what you think in the comment section below!

Heman Mehta

Heman, aka: He-Man, is the "Master of Deep Freeze" and Director of Product Managment. He has been with Faronics for more than 10 years and is (of course) the biggest evangelist of Deep Freeze. When not living the "PM Lifestyle", you'll find him traveling the world—his last count was at about 35 countries visited.