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I am teaching an obligatory course to undergraduates. There are about 160 registered students, divided into four classes of forty. Each class is three academic hours.

Last year, my lectures have been videotaped and put on Youtube (with my consent). The students probably liked it a lot since over 80% of them stopped coming to the class and just watched the lectures from the convenience of their homes.

This year, I have to teach the same course again, and it seems to me a waste of time to say the same things again when they are already videotaped. So I thought of making it obligatory for all the students to watch the videos of last year before class (or just learn the material from the textbook, if they prefer). Then, I could use the class-time more efficiently, e.g.:

  • Answer specific questions of students about the material;
  • Give personal feedback to students regarding their homework submissions;
  • etc.

The problem is that the 20% students who do prefer to learn in class than at home might object to this, since this puts a lot of extra-load on them – they have to watch a video rather than just sitting in class.

So my question is: how can I efficiently use the class-time, while still being fair to all kinds of students?

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    I find one question from one student about the material can take the class in a different, but relevant, direction. That cannot happen with a video. – Solar Mike Feb 6 at 12:48
  • @SolarMike I do not claim that repeating the lecture is completely useless - it potentially helps about 20% of the students. I just think it can be used more efficiently. – Erel Segal-Halevi Feb 6 at 12:58
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    @ErelSegal-Halevi sorry, I don't see where I put or implied that the "lecture is completely useless" or that the video is completely useless. I pointed out a functionality that I note with my students. – Solar Mike Feb 6 at 13:00
  • I find that whenever I re-teach a course, I usually do it in a different way. This is not completely intentional, but not completely un-intentional either. Maybe I am not old enough to have had the chance to repeat eveything in my repertoire, if at all my repertoire is not big enough. I honestly feel, I always have a thing or two (actually dozens of them) to improve in my lectures. A shot video of my lecture will not satisfy me. I cannot honestly peddle them to students. – magguu Apr 10 at 14:05
  • You use the drop in physical attendance as a measurement of how many students learn better online, which is dubious. A student could go online even if they learn worse (for instance if your lecture if Friday 8am and Thursday is party night). Conversely a student might feel honor-bound to attend the physical lecture even if they would learn just as well or better online (that part is probably culture-dependent). – UJM Aug 26 at 18:42
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In the US, a class that counts for 3 credit hours normally meets for about 3 clock hours per week. It is often one hour at a time over the course of the week, though it might be otherwise. The typical student in such a course is expected to spend an additional six hours per week on the course, for nine hours total. I'll assume similar expectations for Israel, though I don't know.

You have an opportunity here to "flip" the classroom, though with a few caveats. To flip it, the students would spend their time as follows. About 3 hours per week watching the videos and taking notes. About 3 hours working independently in studying separately from the professor, and about 3 hours in a face to face situations.

A good use of the last segment, in a field like CS, is to have the students work together in pairs and small teams on exercises related to the lectures in the most recent video(s). If you use too much of that face to face time with questions then there will be little time for active work, so a better plan is to have a way, such as a mailing list by which students can ask their questions as they arise while watching the videos or afterwards. To make this as efficient as possible, the students are encouraged to answer each other's questions online and the professor need only enter the conversation when there are misconceptions expressed.

But, much of what would be "homework" is done with the professor (and TAs) present to offer advice to the teams. Teamwork (and pairing) is most effective here since the small groups can often answer their own questions as they arise so that the prof need not answer every such question or deal with every difficulty. The goal is that very few groups are truly "stuck" at any moment, which is normally not the case for students working singly.

So, an hour of watching videos, an hour in "class" working problems and the remaining hour is for other exercises or readings. This balance can give the required reinforcement and feedback that most students need in order to learn. The mailing list ties it all together and lets the students make progress at nearly any time of the day or night without overly burdening the professor.

Also note that with a mailing list, any question asked and answered is seen by every student. This alone is an advantage, especially when students "don't know what to ask" or are too shy to bring up what they see as their own failings. Other social media might work, but I found a simple mail server to be a good tool.

The main caveat is that a 50 minute video is a bit long for concentrated study. Better if they can be broken up into 10 minute segments. Even a recommended pause after 10 minutes or so for reflection is a better solution than a long video. Then, the student watches for a few minutes, perhaps formulates questions for the list or for later study, and then repeats. All of this prior to the face-time that will provide reinforcement of the ideas.

If the students work in groups in the face-time periods, you may need to define the groups or at least guarantee that they mix it up. This helps avoid slackers. If you need to "mark" or "grade" participation, then you also want to consider peer evaluation within the groups. But the "extra" hour (not watching videos and not face-time) can also be used for graded work if you need that.

Another caveat is that you need some assurance that none of your students will be much disadvantaged with the system. People with sight or hearing difficulties might have a different response than those with more normal facilities, depending on what accommodations can be made.

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    Excellent idea, but there are two words of it to which one must pay special attention: the parenthetical '(and TAs)'. In the studies in which Mazur established the (very impressive) pedagogic effectiveness of the flipped classroom, there were multiple TAs in the room along with the lecturer, for the face-to-face sessions of guided active learning in pairs or small teams. Unfortunately, too often, when university managers exhort their academic staff to flip the classroom, what they mean is one lecturer on his/her own trying to provide the guidance to all of the pairs or small teams. – Daniel Hatton Aug 26 at 21:21
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Since some students will not want to watch the videos, and they are not obligated to, you should teach the class as though the videos didn't exist.

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    Yes - I'd be pretty annoyed if I signed up for a class and the professor told me to watch a video (unless of course that was clear before registration). I retain so little from videos. – Azor Ahai -- he him Aug 26 at 21:14

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