Activate the Active Learning-Flip with Confidence and Elegance

Concurrent Session 3

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

To motivate students to do the work outside the classroom has been a constant challenge when flipping a course.  In this session, the presenter will showcase how to flip a laboratory science course effectively by weaving active learning with the combined use of several web tools and technologies.


Dr. Zhang taught her first class at the age of eleven. Since then, her passion for teaching has continued to grow. After eight years of medical school in China (Shandong University School of Medicine), she came to the United States and got her Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. Dr. Zhang has taught a wide range of basic medical science and clinical laboratory courses including anatomy, physiology, cell and molecular biology, molecular diagnostics, microbiology, genetics, biochemistry, pathophysiology, pathology, pharmacology and reproductive medicine at both the undergraduate and graduate level before joining the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont. Dr. Zhang has been the recipient of many awards in speech competitions, presentations, and teaching during her school years, both in China and the United States. Since she began teaching online in 2004, Dr. Zhang has been interested in new technologies that bring teaching and learning to a new and higher level. She has been invited to host several national and international workshops in online teaching since 2009. Dr. Zhang enjoys reading, writing, painting, cooking, and nature in her free time.

Extended Abstract

There is no doubt extensive design work needs to be done beforehand to flip a classroom elegantly and successfully.  Motivating students to prepare for the class has been a constant challenge when flipping a class.  In a flipped classroom of team-based learning, meticulous planned, well designed and orchestrated in classroom discussions look very student-centered, yet it does require a lot of effort from the instructor.   A successful instructor who is now acting as a facilitator has to fulfill multiple roles as the course designer, mentor, role model, communicator, and even technical support.   Here, a traditional face to face class has been renovated by taking the advantages of several web tools and technologies: Softchalk, PlayPosit, Panoptiq, Camtasia, Educreations, and Kahoot.  The creative combinational use of a variety of tools creates self-paced interactive lessons or lectures that prepare students well before they come to the face to face classroom, where they resolve the sophisticated case problems through both individual and team effort.  The course is therefore completely flipped and runs as a "fluid collaboration" in a format of team-based learning.  From the session, the participants will have an opportunity to learn how to

  • convert a traditional classroom to a more stimulating, inspiring and student-centered learning environment by adopting a variety of online teaching tools
  • promote and engage teacher-student, student-student and student-content interactions in and outside the classroom via a variety of interactive activities to help students focus and learn efficiently
  • unite social, teaching and cognitive presence of teaching and learning simultaneously as a coherent whole by creative and effective use of a combination of web tools and technologies: Softchalk, PlayPosit, Panoptiq, Educreations, Camtasia, and Kahoot.


              In this session, the presenter will showcase how to flip a laboratory science course effectively by weaving active learning with the combined use of several web tools and technologies. 

              A series of Softchalk lessons are designed to help students grasp the basic concepts before coming to the flipped class for team-based learning.  The lessons are created using a combination of tools including Camtasia, Educreations, Panoptiq, and Softchalk.  From the lessons, students learn to interpret the test results step by step by following the instructor repeatedly while exploring the basic and clinical concepts in medicine.  The lab components of the course are delivered by use of digital microscopy captured by Camtasia. The traditional microscopic slides are digitized by scanning with Panoptiq.  Instead of showing a static image at a time, the whole didactic process of exploring, discovery and identification of specific structures, cells or tissues on digital slides are recorded by Camtasia, embedded into the Softchalk lesson and showcased to the students.  Such didactic process is crucial at training students to master the microscopic skills.  The more comprehensive and advanced knowledge of the course is introduced to students by interactive recorded lectures designed with PlayPosit, a tool for creating and sharing interactive video lessons with a variety of assessment activities embedded.  The interactive Softchalk and Playposit lessons have prepared students well before they step into the face to face classroom for team-based learning (TBL).  Compared to the students of the previous class, the students of current class perform significantly better on the same exam after class being flipped using a variety of web tools and technologies.  The course has won the Faculty and Staff Award Competition in Instructional Technology at the university.

              Here, students’ active learning outside the classroom is stimulated and assessed by well-designed interactive lessons using a variety of web tools and technologies.  As students work through a variety of quiz problems (multiple choice, short answer, essay, matching, ordering, true/false, etc.) and exercise activities (crosswords, drag and drop, identify, labeling, sorting, etc.) embedded in the interactive Softchalk or PolyPosit lessons, their learning and practice are recorded and graded instantly, which allows students to check their learning constantly and to learn from their own mistakes immediately.  Besides enabling students to interact with the course material in different ways from different perspectives, PlayPosit also promotes interactions between the teacher and the students by allowing students to evaluate the recordings and provide feedback.  The instant feedback on teaching from students provides a useful tool for teachers to optimize their teaching on a constant basis.  Once being prepared outside the classroom, students step into the flipped classroom for team-based learning with much more confidence and learn more productively.

              The online teaching tools used in this flipped course has changed and disrupted the basic structure of the traditional classroom and convert it to a more stimulating, inspiring and student-centered learning environment.  The technologies used in this course can be easily adapted to other courses whether it is face to face, online or blended.  For example, digital microscopy is a new trend of the tool in science subject dealing with morphology.   The combined use of digital microscopy (Panoptiq) with a screen-capture software (Camtasia), an authorizing tool (Softchalk), and an online learning management system has created a self-paced, challenging and collaborative online learning environment, where students can practice lab skills effectively by using authentic microscopic specimen.   Such model of learning of lab skills can be applied to any other life science courses using microscopes such as biology, microbiology, histology or pathology.  As recorded lectures have become the new normal in teaching and learning, more and more teachers have wondered if the students watch the videos that they spend days and nights to make and edit; plus, it has always been questionable if the students truly grasp the concepts presented in the recorded lectures. Recorded lectures have been used routinely in many online or blended courses or to flip the lecture-based classes.  Indeed, many recorded lectures that we have at hand are ready to be transformed into active learning lessons via the integration of interactive activities using PlayPosit.  Even for the topic that we don’t record our own lectures, many original videos published to YouTube, Vimeo, TeacherTube, and others for school licenses can be easily cropped and edited by PlayPosit based on specific learning objectives of the course.  The use of Softchalk in course design and development can be well expanded to any other courses and even the whole curriculum via collaborative authoring of the content by multiple teachers with expertise in different areas.  

              An entertaining and intellectual flipped classroom in real-time will be created by the presenter and the audience who can access the interactive lessons or lectures via their electronic devices.  After having the audience explore and learn the bells and whistles of the tools and get familiar with the lessons, the audience will be divided into groups to do team-based learning by solving specific problems related to the lessons.  This way, the presenter and the audience work together to create a live, engaging and interactive learning environment in real time to meet the satisfaction of both teachers and learners.  The session itself will be a showcase of a blended course that has been flipped elegantly with confidence.

              Both online and face to face teaching has its limitations, but they don’t have to be separated by time and space, as shown by the flipped course here.  Instead, the blended use of the two has created endless learning possibilities and may have the answer to the problems we have in teaching and learning.