The LectureTools Blog

6 Easy Tips for Flipping Your Classroom the First Time

Posted by Christopher Machielse on Sun, January 27, 2013

You already know the norm. Students trudge to class, passively sit and feign attention while the professor lectures. After class, they sit down to do their homework or review for exams and have no idea how to start solving problems.

Enter the flipped classroom. Students watch videos and do reading outside of class, and valuable class time is used to solve problems and apply concepts. The instructor and fellow students (i.e. peer instructors) are thus present when students need the most help, enabling more active, hands-on learning.

flipped classroom stanford
Photo credit: Stanford EdTech

It sounds daunting. But if you are just looking to get your feet wet, here are six pointers you can follow to flip your classroom and see how it works with your teaching style:


1. Plan a gradual change

If you aren’t sure whether you are ready to change every aspect of your teaching, or if you are trying to make improvements to your course with limited time to edit or create materials, think of smaller changes you might be able to implement first.

Which things can be changed this semester? If there are topics you cover that you could record a short lecture of or find an online resource, could they be substituted for what you have used in the past for lecture? Better yet, are there questions that will get your students thinking more in-depth about how to apply concepts that you haven’t had time to cover in class in the past? Think of engaging problems that can test students’ understanding, generate useful dialogue, and facilitate peer instruction during class.


2. Stick with technology you know

The flipped classroom inherently requires the use of technology, as students must access videos, readings, and practice material online. It might sound complicated, but chances are that you are already using some technologies that can help you flip your class.

We’ve already talked about using LectureTools to flip your classroom because it allows you to share slides, videos, and practice quizzes with your students. But you can always share instructional material with students with lecture capture tools like Echo360 or even your LMS.


3. Share the goals of the flipped classroom with your students

Chances are, your students have been trained over the years to expect nothing but lecturing. Especially at first, some will be resistant to the flipped classroom – after all, life was much easier when they could just sit back in lecture without being held responsible for paying attention or the needs to engage with the class.

Their participation during the in-class sessions is dependent on them doing the assigned reading, watching your videos, and trying practice problems outside of class. The goal of the flipped classroom is, in its most basic form, to provide a more active learning experience during the face-to-face class sessions. This means students have access to you and their peers when they are working through problems. Once they realize the benefits, most students should buy-in to your new teaching method – after all, if you give students the opportunity to participate, they will.


4. Keep an eye on data to structure your class sessions

Robert Talbert, professor of mathematics at Grand Valley State University, notes that the flipped classroom requires more agility:

"In a traditional classroom setup, you prepare a lecture, and that lecture does not change between making it and giving it. Whereas, with the flipped classroom, I'm not really sure what my students are going to need to know once I get there. It doesn't make sense for me to prepare a lecture that covers the entire set of material. They may be really good at all of it and can jump right into the problem solving, or maybe they're stuck on one point that we really need to drill into."

Providing online assessments for students outside of class, whether option or mandatory, should provide you with some data on what students are struggling with, and which concepts they are having no trouble understanding. Even moreso than with “traditional” lectures, watch students’ performance to make sure class time is distributed between concepts appropriately.


 5. Have students complete midterm course evaluations

Most institutions provide course evaluations at the end of every semester. But, if you are trying this new approach, it is advantageous to solicit feedback from your students before it is too late and the semester ends.

If you usually give midterm course evaluations, compare the results to feedback from students in previous semesters. You might even consider moving up the evaluations earlier in the semester or even adding a second midterm evaluation to make sure you are on the right track.


6. Reflect and Prepare for the Next Semester

When you’ve finished your first flipped class, take the time to examine the results. Student course evaluations, grades, and even your own impressions will be invaluable to determining how successful your flipped class was and what to try next. Keep the components that seemed to be effective, and find ways to improve the things that didn’t. Try to think of technologies you are less familiar with that could improve the experience further.


Have advice for newcomers looking to flip their classroom? Leave your tips in the comments!


lecturetools flipped classroomLearn more about how to implement a flipped classroom with LectureTools

LectureTools is a cloud-based active learning platform that enables your students to practice with interactive activities, see and take notes on your slides, watch video lessons, and ask questions digitally. We'd love to show you LectureTools and discuss how it could be used to flip your class!

Topics: emerging technologies in education, Teaching with Technology, Student Participation, The Flipped Classroom

A Supplement of a LectureTools Testimony

Posted by Chelsea Jenkins on Tue, October 30, 2012

LectureTools: An engaging presentation tool to use in the classroom

Jim Barbour, associate professor of economics, uses LectureTools in his introductory-level courses.

Jim Barbour, chair of the economics department and associate professor of economics, uses LectureTools in his introductory-level courses.


While searching for an alternative to clickers to use in his classes, Jim Barbour, chair of the economics department and associate professor of economics, stumbled upon LectureTools.

Run by a five-person team in Ann Arbor, Mich.,LectureTools is an engaging, web-based program that allows instructors to create interactive presentations.

“I was looking for something that was more robust,” Barbour said. “Think of [LectureTools] as a combination of clickers, Facebook and Twitter all rolled into one.”

Special Features

By uploading preexisting PowerPoint presentations to LectureTools, instructors can enhance classroom materials by incorporating multiple-choice, short-answer or ordering questions, as well as images and videos onto slides. Students can access presentations on their own devices by logging in to the program.

“All of this is like a clicker on steroids,” Barbour said. “But now, you don’t have to keep track of the clickers, and you don’t have to charge them up.”

Instructors can incorporate multiple-choice, short-answer or ordering questions, as well as images and videos onto slides.

Instructors can enhace classroom materials by incorpoarting multiple-choice, short-answer or ordering questions, as well as images and videos onto slides.


LectureTools is free for instructors, Barbour said, while students must pay a flat $15 fee at the beginning of the semester.

LectureTools works best on laptops, tablets and smartphones, Barbour said, though students can still participate if he or she has a mobile phone with texting capabilities.

Barbour said out of the seventy-odd students he has had in his LectureTools-based classes, only one did not have a laptop, tablet, smartphone or phone with texting capabilities. Because of this, Barbour is lending his Kindle to the student.

“There are places [students can] checkout [laptops] from the school, so I’ve run into that once out of 74 students,” Barbour said. “It’s probably going to be a problem less and less as we go forward.”

Students can control the view of their individual screens, take notes on slides, mark slides as confusing, bookmark slides to review later and direct questions to instructors by typing inquiries into a comment box.

 Students can control the view of their individual screens, take notes on slides, mark slides as confusing, bookmark slides to review later and direct questions to instructors by typing inquiries into a comment box.


While logged in to LectureTools, students can control the view of their individual screens. Students can take notes on the slides, and because the program is web-based, students’ notes are saved online and can be accessed later.

Freshman Michelle Rich, a student in Barbour’s introductory-level economics class, said she likes the flexibility of LectureTools in that it allows her to control what slide is displayed on her screen. She said she likes the interactivity of the technology too, because it helps her to better learn the material.

“LectureTools is helpful, but I am still adapting to this new way of learning,” she said. “I really like how my professor asks us questions through LectureTools because it tests us while we’re learning.”

Students can mark presentation slides as confusing, and they can bookmark slides to review later. Further, students can direct questions to instructors by typing them into a comment box, and professors receive those inquiries instantly.

“It’s another way for me to communicate with the class, and that’s really what I’m interested in because at the core, we are storytelling creatures,” Barbour said. “This allows me to tailor the story as I go to match what the class seems to need. Any good instructor always does that.”

LectureTools records all student activity and converts the data into a report, which is sent to an instructor approximately 20 minutes after class is over.

Students in Barbour's economics class collaborate on a short-answer question.

 Students in Barbour's introductory-level economics class collaborate on a short-answer question.

By Sam Parker 



To use LectureTools and start increasing engagement in  YOUR classroom click here:



Topics: Mobile Devices for Education, classroom engagement strategies, emerging technologies in education, interactive classroom technology, enhance student engagement, Teaching with Technology, Student-Instructor Interaction, Engaging Students in the Classroom, Large Class, Classroom Response Systems, Educational Technology, instructor interaction, student engagement, student engagement strategies, Student Response Systems, Student Participation, educational networking, Enriching Scholarship Conference, Laptops in Education, Learning Outcomes, The Flipped Classroom

The 3 Best Times to Ask Your Students Questions

Posted by Christopher Machielse on Fri, December 09, 2011

peer instruction

You probably already know that polling students during class makes lecture more interactive, while improving student learning. Asking students to work through problems in class increases engagement and attentiveness while providing an opportunity to practice with the material.

Timing can turn a good "clicker" question into a great one. Strategically placing in-class activities can be a great student engagement strategy.

Here are 3 of our favorite times to ask for student responses:

1. Before covering a new topic

At the beginning of lecture, or between key ideas, ask your students an ungraded question. This gives them a low-stakes opportunity to share their pre-existing conceptions or beliefs, and also will keep their attention as they follow along with your lecture to discover whether they were correct or not. For example, before beginning a discussion about tornadoes, ask students where they think the most tornadoes typically occur.

For more open-ended discussions, your opinion poll might not have a correct answer. Rather, students can share their opinions. Show the results to launch a discussion about why some students answered the way they did. For example, a political science instructor once asked his students when they felt the United States became a democracy. Some students answered key dates in US history (women's suffrage, the Civil Rights Act), while others indicated they still believed there was work to be done. While the question had no "right" answer, it certainly provided ample opportunity for discussion.


2. After a multiple choice or image quiz question

A well-written multiple choice question can assess student comprehension, but cannot reveal why students chose the answer they submitted. This means that some students may have submitted the correct choice by chance. Additionally, there might not be much insight as to why other students missed the question. For image quizzes, it can be easy to miss nuances that caused students to select the wrong region.

To help solve these pitfalls, pose a free response question that asks students to defend their answer to the previous question. Your students will think critically through articulation while giving you insight into their logic. As an added bonus, some students may discover the flaw in their logic on their own when pressed to defend their answer.


3. After letting students discuss a question

Sometimes, you might ask a question that many students will answer incorrectly. In this case, consider using peer instruction. Ask your students to turn to a neighbor and give them a few minutes discuss the question. Once student discussions begin to wrap-up, pose the same question again. When you show the results to the class, the answers will have shifted. If most students have answered correctly, move on to the next topic. Otherwise, have students discuss in small groups or as a class.


Photo: velkr0

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Topics: classroom engagement strategies, interactive classroom technology, Teaching with Technology, Engaging Students in the Classroom, Large Class, Classroom Response Systems, Educational Technology, student engagement, student engagement strategies, Student Response Systems, Student Participation, Clickers

Infographic: How College Students Use Technology

Posted by Christopher Machielse on Wed, August 10, 2011

Walking to class with headphones over their ears, a laptop in their backpack, and a smartphone in hand, it's no secret that college students today are more connected than any generation before. Technology use is as much a part of daily life as eating or sleeping (perhaps even more than sleeping) for many college students.

A survey by eTextbook seller Coursesmart has already estimated that 38% of college students cannot go more than 10 minutes without checking their laptop, cellphone, tablet, or ereader. And, this week, the Ohio State University estimated that nearly 94% of its students own a laptop.

Any instructor knows these technologies can become a major distraction during lecture. But, instructors who deliberately engage their students' gadgets during class will find that their students will be more engaged, more attentive, and more likely to participate. With more computing power in their pockets, the potential for distraction is not the only rising trend: opportunities for research on-the-go, interactive content, and mobile learning are also on way up.

Students Love Technology

students love tech

Topics: emerging technologies in education, interactive classroom technology, Teaching with Technology, Engaging Students in the Classroom, student engagement, student engagement strategies, Student Participation, Laptops in Education

How Technology Empowers the Shy Student to Participate in Class

Posted by Christopher Machielse on Fri, August 05, 2011

shy studentWhether in a lecture hall exceeding 500 seats or in a small class of 20 students, college students are often reluctant to participate. For some students, the fear to participate is the largest factor, though for others, the passive nature of lecture inhibits participation.

The benefits of active learning -- including participating in class, applying new material, and thinking critically about new ideas – have been well documented. Despite these benefits, however, passive learning prevails, and students rarely participate in class.


Why Won't They Participate?

The easy answer to the tendency for college students to settle into a state of passive learning is that many are shy or afraid to raise their hands. Students are unlikely to answer a question if they fear their peers will judge them based on their answer.

Even instructors who routinely ask their students to interact during class find for many students, fear inhibits the ability to participate.

“I’ve always used lots of questions, I demand interaction,” said Dr. Ken Balazovich during an event this spring. “What [students] don’t want to do is make a wrong answer in front of 400 people.”

For other instructors, teaching style prohibits interaction. The lecture format by nature encourages passive learning. When students have a question, there is often no natural pause during the session that seems appropriate for speaking up.

It may only seem polite that students would be unwilling to interrupt lecture with a question, but without time for Q&A, it is difficult to assess students’ comprehension. Additionally, many students in the class may have the same question. Students have a lot to learn from hearing the questions of their peers, as well as the instructor’s answers.


Teach with Technology to Increase Student Participation

With students afraid to ask a “dumb question” in front of their peers, hesitant to “interrupt” lecture, and simply unwilling to participate, actively engaging students might seem like a hopeless cause. Many technologies, however, facilitate easier interaction with students, and encourage them to participate.

Student response systems are one solution. As we’ve mentioned numerous times before, interactive lectures taught with student response systems improve student learning. Questions posed to students break up the monotony of lecture, and allow students to self-assess their understanding while engaging with material.

Perhaps the biggest difference between using a student response system and traditional methods like a show of hands, however, is that students have a certain level of anonymity with student response systems. They can discreetly answer the question using a clicker, laptop, or cellphone. Answers are typically displayed as an aggregate to the class, without names attached. Students prefer to answer in-class questions with technology for these reasons, and thus, are more likely to participate.

Technology can allow students to submit questions as they arise, avoiding situations where students forget their question before it can be asked. Additionally, monitoring the backchannel can create a way for students to ask questions and receive answers without fear.

With college students and young adults most likely to be online, your students not only appreciate, but expect technology in the classroom. And it just might help the shy student to participate.


Photo: Jonathan Pobre

Learn How to Harness the Backchannel with an Anonymous Student Question Feed

LectureTools Instructor Dashboard

Schedule a live demo today and learn more about how students can submit questions digitally during lecture for TAs to answer. Answered questions become visible to the entire class anonymously, benefitting all students.

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Topics: classroom engagement strategies, interactive classroom technology, enhance student engagement, Teaching with Technology, Engaging Students in the Classroom, Classroom Response Systems, Educational Technology, Student Response Systems, Student Participation, Clickers