Keeping Up With...Flipped Classrooms

Flipped Classrooms

This edition of Keeping Up With... was written by Candice Benjes-Small and Katelyn Tucker.

Candice Benjes-Small is Head of Information Literacy and Outreach, and Katelyn Tucker is Instruction Librarian, at Radford University's McConnell Library. Candice can be reached at and Katelyn at

What is a Flipped Classroom?

A flipped classroom inverts the traditional educational model so that the content is delivered outside of class, while class time is spent on activities normally considered “homework.” For example, students may access instructional material through videos, podcasts or online tutorials before the class meeting. Then during class time, students work on activities which force them to apply what they have learned.

The idea of a “flipped classroom” is most often attributed to two high school science teachers, Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, who used online videos to provide instruction to their students so as to free up more time for lab work; and to Salman Khan, whose Khan Academy videos teaching people math techniques were so popular that teachers began assigning them to students to watch outside of school time.

In higher education, teaching faculty have a history of moving the course content to outside the class: think of the science class where students read about the theory and then use lab time to practice the techniques, or the English course in which the professor gave instant feedback on writing exercises during the class time. The Carnegie unit traditionally used to measure credit hours emphasizes that out-of-class student work is expected to be greater than direct instruction time1. It is not surprising to see that a growing number of teaching faculty are leveraging new technologies and are embracing the flipped model.

Reasons to Flip

A flipped classroom has many benefits. Because the course materials are online, the student has greater control over the pace of instruction: they can pause or rewind videos, retake tutorials, and re-listen to podcasts on their own time. They can take as long as necessary to master the material. Class time is then devoted to application. I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of thinking we have mastered a concept when it is first explained, only to struggle with it when we are alone. In the flipped class, the instructor serves as “coach” or “guide,” ready to step in and help the students who have that experience.  It is truly a just-in-time, point of need instructional situation.

The flipped classroom places the responsibility for learning on the students. They cannot be passive attendees, silently sitting through a session, because the instructor is not there to lecture or present, but to support their work. In a true flipped model, the workshop is all about learning through hands-on activities. The biggest question an instructor (whether a librarian or professor) should consider is: How do you want to spend your time with your students? The flipped model works best for those who want to strengthen their students’ skills rather than transmit content.

How to Flip a One-Shot Library Workshop

A librarian interested in teaching a course-integrated one-shot workshop will need to work closely with the teaching faculty member. A flip requires that students actually complete the online assignments before the workshop, so the librarian and the teaching faculty member will need to discuss how the instructional materials will be provided to the students, accountability measures to ensure the material is accessed, and what to do with students who fail to complete the online instruction.

Next, the librarian should consider what objectives they want covered and how that information will be conveyed. Although sometimes these items need to be created from scratch, many libraries already have online tutorials and videos they developed for their students that can be repurposed. Our profession is also wonderful when it comes to sharing instructional materials. Repositories of tutorials created by other librarians, such as PRIMO and ANTS, are freely available online. A quiz, a checklist, a form, or some other type of activity will need to be developed to demonstrate student completion of online instruction.

Most importantly, think about how the library workshop time will be used. A classic application of the flipped model would have the students conducting research on their topics as the librarian stands by to address any problems that may arise. An expanded understanding of flipping allows for any kind of collaborative, student-led work. At Mary Baldwin College, librarians have implemented active learning exercises in which the students teach each other about topics like keyword searching and Web evaluation2.

Flipping Can Be Challenging

As with any instructional approach, there are inherent challenges involved with flipping a class. Most importantly, faculty buy-in is paramount to a flipped workshop’s success. If the teaching faculty member doesn’t require students to watch the online videos or complete the online activities before the class comes into the library, they will be unprepared to apply their new knowledge during a one-shot workshop.

Some students will be unfamiliar with the flipped model, so the instructor must make sure they understand the expectations and have access to the necessary technology to succeed. Finally, creating the instructional videos or materials for a flipped class can be tedious. Librarians should first look for existing materials, but often a class will have a unique twist or unusual element that needs to be addressed and have supporting materials developed. Librarians involved with  flipped classes must be prepared for the time-consuming process of filming, editing, and making original videos available online, and then updating them continuously. As always, equal access for individuals with disabilities is a concern, and creating and synchronizing ADA-compliant captions for videos or tutorials can be a lengthy process. Remember, in addition to the prep work before class, a true flip requires the instructor to guide students as they apply their new knowledge in the classroom, so the librarian must be available to provide feedback during the workshop.


Moving instruction online and application into the classroom requires that the instructor relinquish some of their control to the students. In doing so, instructors using the flipped model empower students to take an active role in their education and academic output. By flipping the one-shot workshop, librarians can free up valuable library class time for student-directed research and serve as a one-on-one “guide on the side” as students apply their new knowledge.


1. Definition of “Credit Hour” is available at: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. Title 34: Education. (accessed June 17, 2013).

2. Ilka Datig and Claire Ruswick, “Four Quick Flips: Activities for the Information Literacy Classroom,” College & Research Libraries News 74, no. 5 (May 2013): 249-257.

Learn More About Flipped Classrooms

Bergmann, Jon, Jerry Overmyer, and Brett White. “The Flipped Class: Myth vs. Reality,” The Daily Riff, April 14, 2012, (accessed July 15, 2013).

Berrett, Dan. “How 'Flipping' the Classroom Can Improve the Traditional Lecture,” Chronicle of Higher Education, February 19, 2012. (Accessed July 15, 2013).

Educause Learning Initiative."7 Things You Should Know About Flipped Classrooms." Educause Library. (accessed June 17, 2013).

Makice, Kevin. “Flipping the Classroom Requires More Than Video.” Wired. (accessed June 17, 2013).

Miller, Kimberly. “Flipping Out: Preflip Planning,” ACRLog Blog, entry posted February 25, 2013, (accessed June 17, 2013).

Strayer, Jeremy. “How Learning in an Inverted Classroom Influences Cooperation, Innovation and Task Orientation,” Learning Environments Research, 15 (2): 171-193.

Strayer, Jeremy. “The Flipped Classroom.” Knewton Infographic. (accessed June 17, 2013).

Zellner, Andrea. “Flipping Out? What You Need to Know About The Flipped Classroom,” Gradhacker Blog, entry posted February 22, 2012, (Accessed July 15, 2013).