This is actually a strict requirement of this time, where the students are to learn so many technologies in limited amount of time, and the technology is also allowing to have access to teach in more better way, in countries like India and China the population is so huge that individual attention in the classrooms is not possible, also the class sizes are also very large, this kind of flipped classes will be allowing students to spend time based on their requirement and availability. The teacher will not be keeping themselves busy in repeated tasks instead they will get time to do something new in research.
International reach is certainly a benefit of this, and many educators hope that their students will take advantage of opportunities to collaborate online with students and instructors in other parts of the world.
While the "flipped" classroom idea has a lot of merit, I see a couple of problems:
1. Many engineering faculty have no experience in the Real World. Anecdotal evidence suggest many wouldn't know which end of a soldering iron to grab. The last time I looked, faculty at most USA universities were recruited and promoted on the basis of publishing papers and bringing in research grants. Teaching in general? A far third, if not a negative. Practical engineering experience? Merely a distraction.
[Aside: For that matter, the last time I looked very few engineering faculty had had any instruction in teaching methods. They were expected to follow the bad examples of their own teachers. But that's a separate issue.]
2. Many students have trouble grasping the fundamentals. You need a solid foundation in the fundamentals (how things are supposed to work) before dealing with the complexities of how things actually work and why they don't. For example, in a first course in circuits, students learn Ohm's Law and Kirchhoff's Laws and apply them to simple circuits with resistances, capacitances, inductances, voltage sources, and current sources. In real life, there's no such component as a resistance. There's a resistor, which is a complex circuit with resistance, capacitance, inductance, and mutual inductance, all of them non-linear and temperature-dependent. There's no such thing as an ideal voltage or current source. You can't hit students with these complexities before they've mastered the fundamentals -- they'll flip.
3. A top-quality teacher lecturing a reasonably-sized group of students is IMO still the best way to get material across. A top-quality teacher notices if the audience is engaged, and sets pace accordingly. A top-quality teacher has prepared excellent examples ahead of time, so that examples worked on the chalk board (yes, still the best teaching mechanism) always work except when deliberately wrong to drive home a point. A top-quality teacher sees his or her job as show business, and wants to make sure that the students get their money's worth. Needless to say, this takes a lot of time and such a teacher probably won't get tenure.
With a top-quality teacher, there's a big difference between live teaching and a droning head on a TV. It's the difference between the excitement of live theatre with an excellent cast, and a TV show. OTOH, a mediocre teacher isn't going to do better than high-quality recordings.
Thanks very much for jumping into the conversation, and you raise some important points.
1. An educational paradigm shift like this does require a redefinition of what an intructor is and what they're expected to do. If the flipped classroom does become more prevalent, perhaps practical, real-world engineering experience will be seen as more of a priority. Project-based learning is quickly becoming the focus of pre-college education, so it will be interesting to see if there's a trickle down effect.
2. It is indeed difficult for some (maybe many) to grasp fundamental concepts. I think it's hoped that even if the "factual" portion of the curriculum does go online, there will still be ways to address these challenges. Learning systems can certainly be built with the capability of connecting students with other students, students with tutors, and students with their instructors. The key is getting instructors to use a diverse range of media to present materials, and being available to clarify, question, etc.
3. I totally agree that there's nothing like an amazing, engaging lecturer. I had a number of them as a student, and really tried to do a decent job when I taught. If you've got a smaller group of students, it's completely doable (and really a lot of fun). In a group of 300-400, it's exhausting for the instructor, and a good number of the students will fall through the cracks because they just don't learn by listening and watching.
@Betajet..... a lot of good points there, but my 2c worth....I agree that the fundamentals are important, but take your example of Ohm's Law - once you have a basic idea of how it works, playing around with meters, power sources and resistors is going to drive it home much quicker than any amount of theory. And (speaking from personal experience) if you encounter something practical that you don't quite get, it's going to be a huge incentive to read up on the theory of how it works. And if letting the smoke out of a sacrifical resistor teaches you about power ratings, so much the better - I've met so many people who knew ohm's law but hadn't a clue about power ratings.
And as for soldering, though I appreciate that many engineers never need to get near a soldering iron, I can't see how you'd learn electronics without one. There's been a lot of discussion on this recently:
Hey David, I keep wondering about this soldering adeptness you mention. One of my latest work projects has to do with applying and modifying encryption and authentication techniques. Much as I've tried, my trusty soldering gun is of no use.
David, yes, of course, we had lab courses. And I build my stuff at home occasionally. But I can safely say that in my career, I never had to weild a soldering iron "in anger," as it were.
Not addressing David's post below, but rather the gist of the article.
I also wanted to support what Betajet said. It really distresses me when I see implied that all that theory we had to learn is not completely essential. Or for that matter, that EE is only about designing and soldering circuits. The guy who designed the communications system for the real-world Voyager spacecraft may never have touched a soldering iron.
In order to invent anything new, you have to know the theory. Any practice you might learn in college will be painfully obsolete in very few years. The theory won't be, and new discoveries have a way of building on top of what was there before. So a kid starting college today had better be exposed to a lot of good theory first and foremost. I agree that new teaching tools and techniques can perhaps be leveraged as well.
For instance, a student starting school today may very well work in quantum communication system design. If he doen't learn quantum mechanics, he'll be lost. Someone else will have to do the job.
Hi again Bert. No soldering huh? I don't envy you....to paraphrase a well know quote, "I love the smell of rosin cored solder in the morning...."
On the more general stuff. I have always been a stickler for theory - I always like to know HOW something works rather than just know how to make it work, as many of my colleagues do. The few languages I've learned, I like to know the grammar as well as the words. Only when you know the theory can you fully know the practical side as well. But I think this way of learning would work for me - I'm happy to learn the theory myself but it is nice to have someone more experienced mentoring you when you start putting it into practice.
But it's horses for courses - this would not work well for everyone and that is where a good teacher will always adapt the training for different students.
This model, like any other, really does rely on dedication and preparation on the part of the instructor. You're absolutely right that it isn't going to be a perfect fit for everyone (I'm not sure if there is such a thing in education).
Instructors that I've spoken to really like that this sort of set up is quite challenging to students. If a student doesn't know their theory, it becomes apparent pretty quickly when they're asked to apply it. A wonderful side effect is that instructors are often presented with challenges and new questions themselves. It keeps everyone involved honest and on their toes.
@Amy: "Instructors that I've spoken to really like that this sort of set up is quite challenging to students. If a student doesn't know their theory, it becomes apparent pretty quickly when they're asked to apply it".
A course I was recently on comes to mind. it was on PLCs and most of the students were electrical apprentices - I was the oldest in the class by far. Quite a few of the guys had the idea that just attending was all that they needed to do. With your model of pre-class study of the theory being needed, they would have been hopeless. How you motivate guys like that with ANY teaching model, I'm not sure. They were pretty disruptive, and of course any kind of discipline or chucking them out of the class is a no-no these days.....
The other difference I have noticed from when I did my first training is that these days training is "competency based" - as long as you demonstrate you're competent, you pass, no grading. I think this is a bad thing - what are your views?
As you've noted, dealing with those who "just show up" takes up valuable teaching time, and is annoying to other students. I'm not sure what to say about policies against asking disruptive students to leave, but I can say that many (not all) institutions have done away with attendance marks for this reason, so that no one gets marks for filling a chair. The old adage "You can lead a horse to water..." comes to mind. The best instructors out there will still have a handful of pupils who just aren't keen to participate.
The pass/fail system you mention is definitely related to motivating students. Although I'm not keen on making learning exclusively about numbers and grades, I do think it's necessary to have some sort of range in assessment. If an instructor makes criteria for grading clear before an assignment or project is given, and is consistent in their use of the criteria, then a student gets a better idea of how they can improve. There's never any guarantee that using a grading system will make all students want to do better, but at least those who put in the effort are recognized, and those who don't know where they've fallen short. As someone who's hired interns and recent grads, I don't insist on straight A's (if we get to see grades at all), but a consistenly good academic record does seem to speak to a person's work ethic. At the very least, it gives me a little more information than just pass/fail.
@Dave "these days training is "competency based" - as long as you demonstrate you're competent, you pass"
WPI had a required "Competency exam" that you had to pass to graduate. It was instituted around 1973 when the cirriculum changes to more of a project -based path.The requirements varied by department. In EE (no ECE at that time) you were given a design problem and sent home. The next day, you had a meeting with the chair of your review committee (3 professors). You handed in your design two days later. then a day or two after that, you met with the full board and had to defend your design. They were really looking to see how well you understood the basics and how well you could apply them.
I went through "The Comp" and passed on the first try (some needed 2-3 tries). Six years later, the exam was dropped and I agreed with that decision. The reason cited was that if you proved to could do the classroom work and your projects, you were good enough to graduate. In reality, all it did was give you a false sence of security when you screamed "I'm competent" upon passing. When you reached the real world, you realized that were not so competent after all.
I agree with Betajet on all points... and then some. The part of the article that got my attention was the statement "...facts and theories are still important, but they take up far less of the time students spend with their instructors". The facts and theories are the reason why students attend engineering institutions/universities and those facts should be delivered by highly trained instructors and professors. I remember long days of theory and lecture backed up by labs (the practical experience) as well as final projects that were required in order to graduate – and that was 30 years ago. The classic approach has worked since that time and has produced graduates that brought us the engineering marvels we see today. This just sounds too much like the social media paradigm and the presumed impossibility of getting along in the world without all the 'networking'.
@betajet, take a look at wpi.edu. About 40+ years ago, the faculty recognized the need for project-based undergraduate education and threw the whole cirriculum out the door. Many faculty focus on undergraduate education with many project done in conjuction with industry. But they went a step further. To graduate, you had to complete a project that shows technology's impact on society. My prjoect (1978) was to develop methods for elementary school teachers to teach the metric system. I can still do many metric conversions in my head because of that. Unfortunately, all the US has to show for the push to metric is the 2-liter bottle of soda.
The last time I looked, faculty at most USA universities were recruited and promoted on the basis of publishing papers and bringing in research grants. Teaching in general? A far third, if not a negative.
Yes, there has been a trend in the last several years where learning material and even hands-on training is available online. With the number of people interested in education, this trend will likely continue. Soon you will be able to learn absolutely everything using outside-the-classroom resources. What is left for the classroom is to help the students achieve this self-learning mastery, as well as to verify that the learning actually happened.
One specific example is learning how to code online. You can learn practically any programming language without stepping away from your web browser. Students wishing to learn how to write and verify HDL code for ASIC and FPGA designs can now code online. See Max's post from a few days ago: Want to Join Me in the EDA Playground
They should have done this 30 years ago with video tape. I did my best in school when they handed out a sylabus at the beginning of the course with all the chapters and homework. I could work at my own pace and fit it in my schedule with my other classes. I ended up a week ahead and the class was a review of what I had learned on my own. I did my worst with the classes where I copied most of the course material off the black board and the teacher would post the reading and homework assignments at the end of each class. Students and engineers should be able to study on their own and just get help with what they are having trouble with. It's time to ditch the overpriced live lecture model of education.
New teaching alternatives that have become available, such as online tutorials, of course should be exploited. But the truth is, none of these new ideas were lost on educators even before.
When the engineering classrooms are large, typically Freshman year, you also had smaller recitation sessions and smaller labs. That's when you got the one on one. Think about it. How can that prof, in front of a class of 100 students (Freshmen, I never had any class that size after Freshman year) ever expect to dedicate "quality time" to individual students, in a supposedly upside down classroom?
Can't be done. So in fact, perhaps we're saying that the large classes will be replaced by online tutorials, and the emphasis will instead go to smaller recitation sessions, typically taught by graduate students, and labs, also taught by graduate students.
There's only so much time the actual prof can e expected to dedicate to each student, no matter how you twist the model around.
Please, not another article about flipping the classroom. This idea is not a new one. Educators have been flipping the classroom for years; and educators have been mentors and facilitators for years. Oh, I forgot; now that we have digital videos over the Internet, we must come up with another term, but the substance of the package is the same. Well, I am so glad engineers did not flipped the classroom years ago. If they did, we would not have accomplished nor achieve all of the milestones that we have in the area of engineering and computer science. Good engineers, and the best one that I have met to date, are those that have received real-world, problem-based instruction. There's nothing wrong with the implementation of technology into the curriculum, but we need to make sure that future engineers develop those primary skills like problem solving, critical thinking and collaboration skills. Flipping the classroom is good for middle and high school students; but it falls short when it reaches the college level. I don't hear any MIT Professor talk about flipping the classroom or writing a textbook on this topic. Flipping the classroom is a model that doesn't work for every environment. But it is an option just to change the teaching environment once in a while. But please...
When you are in grade school, you have field trips, in which you learn about the real world and perhaps get some hands-on experience about what you have been reading in your textbook. Field trips were always flippin' awesome, except the part about getting back to the classroom and having to write a report on what you learned. Darn that.
It seems like having something analogous for higher level schooling is a good thing. Solder some components. Learn how to blow up a capacitor by exceeding its voltage rating. Go to a compliance testing lab and see how EMI or ESD tests are conducted. Help assemble a product. Learn about injection molding. Visit a power substation. All of these things contribute to a well rounded engineer. It could be a 1 credit class. It wouldn't overshadow the theory, but rather complement it. It would be separate from a senior project. Once you get a job, a good company might introduce the new employee to the different aspects of their operation. But some companies do not do this, and trying to learn more than the little bailywick you have landed in can be a difficult process as each segment of a company can sometimes be it's own castle with moat and drawbridge included.
I don't see this as a "flip" as such - it's too strong a term. It's maybe just altering the balance between theory and practical, although for students it's taking some of the theory part and doing it in their own time (I can see students groaning about that) so that there is more time for practical and one-on-one questions. It's probably a better use of the instructor's time - no standing at the front of a class and droning on when half the students aren't taking it in and the rest probably have "got it" already.
I've done a bit of correspondence learning recently and that's in much the same vein - I have to study the learning materials in my own time and submit assignments - but I have an 1-on-1 instructor available via phone or email if I have any queries. I get a supervised exam and maybe a practical session at the end which carries a fair bit of weight, so if I have not learned the stuff I will come short.
As above, I'd be happy with this model, and I think for good instructors and keen students it will work well. Lazy and disinterested students will find it a lot more work.
I love and strongly believe in aura and halo of university campus. Classroom is a small part of it. But interacting with friends and living together for four to five year is like knowledge exploration. You make life long pal and may be life partner. You discuss problem not only from your branch but from almost all other branches too. You mutually help each other and learn. You paly music and play games. Make fun and remember for life.
Online study is good sometime. But too much is hazardeous to once development.
Four years of engineering classroom in university are the most wonderful years of life.
One of the basic flaws of teaching theory in classrooms is that , instead of concentrating on the the theories in vogue, many times the focus is put on the how a theory evolved - that long history makes learning theory a boring and fruitless exercise for the students.
For example when I was learning computers , the teacher would start from the time when ENIAC was designed . That kind of history of computers is worthless for an engineering student.
If the classroom theory is limited only to the currently in-practice theories, and if the history part ( the theories that were postulated and got rejected over time) is kept for the students to explore from the web content then a lot of useful theoretical learning can be achieved even in the classrooms and these theories can be immediately applied to solve the current real world problems by the students.
But I don't buy this notion that the theory can be applied immediately. Sometimes it simply isn't so, but the theory must be learned anyway. Honestly, this topic seems to devolve into simplistic notions too often.
Here's today's example for me. I was watching this interesting piece on Russia Today, about how a research institute in Moscow is developing a cool holographic approach for heads-up displays. The holographic image is focused at infinity. They explained that this requires a film on part of the windshield, then a split laser beam that is used to project the image, and separately the reference beam, to the film. The driver would see the 3D image way further ahead, so the road doesn't go out of focus when the driver is reading the HUD.
This should be familiar territory for EEs, right? It's much like demodulating single sideband signals. But if you haven't learned complex calculus, the system appears to be black magic.
Now, how exactly would someone learn complex calculus at home one day, then go to the classroom the next day and expect solder together this holographic imager? (I know, a little overstated.) Some theory just takes a long time to master, and the soldering iron isn't part of the process.
That's why it's called "hard work." Sometimes, you just can't pretend that a daily dose of a fun lab is all it takes. The time spent on the theory has to outweigh the practical lab time many times over, if one expects to graduate in 4-5 years with that BS.
This is a really interesting example. In a case like this, an instructor might not ask students to put together something concrete like an imager right away. Instead, he or she could choose a complex calculus problem related to it, and have students work on it together during class time. This could, in turn, lead to discussions of how it might be applied, long before students would be expected to assemble something physical. Problem and inquiry-based learning can still be firmly embedded in theory. In the case of a flipped classroom, the difference would be that students would be expected to reason through it themselves (with the guidance of an instructor), and would be evaluated based on their ability to problem solve on their own.
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