Access Digital and Distributed Learning

Supporting Ulster staff to plan flipped practice

By: Fiona McCloy | Posted on: 20 May 2016 | Views: 1946

Flipped Classroom Session

In the previous post, Professor Neil Morris explored how educational technology can be used to foster active and collaborative learning in- and out-of-class1. My post outlines recent training offered to Ulster staff, to help them to effectively plan to flip, or further flip, their learning and teaching practice and take advantage of the potential educational benefits2 of the flipped learning pedagogy.

This training consists of a hands-on workshop3 to plan flipped learning, with online pre-workshop activities to prepare for this. From November 2015 to April 2016, 117 participants attended a variety of these training events facilitated by myself, Áine MacNeill, Richard Beggs and Colette Murphy.

The workshop helps participants to plan flipped learning tailored to their learning and teaching practice, either individually or as a group. It uses the Viewpoints Curriculum Design Toolkit4 that helps to reflect on, discuss and plan effective curriculum design. This approach has been shown to be effective “in creating change locally but, importantly, in seeding change beyond the immediate participation experience” 5.

The student timeline worksheets, Learner Engagement cards and analytical grid worksheets are used to help staff plan flipped learning. The timeline worksheet is split vertically to separate in-class and out-of-class activities. This helps plan the sequence of the activities and how they link together to meet the learning objectives and develop the student understanding of the topic/module. The Learner Engagement cards6 help generate ideas for in-class and out-of-class activities. The front of the cards suggest activity events (e.g. Create, Debate) whilst the back of the cards help to further plan these, by considering the interactions (e.g. self, peer, tutor, professional); assessment and feedback (e.g. formative); and potential digital technologies to enable it.

The workshop presentation7, photos8 and learning designs9 created during the session are available to view. Participants can further develop their learning designs, and additional topics/modules, after the workshop (worksheets and cards are distributed at the end of the workshop for this purpose).

The pre-workshop activities prepare participants for the workshop, whilst also modeling an example of flipped practice, from the student perspective. These were available via Ulster’s Digital Learning Environment (DLE) and included a flipped learning video lecture10 and digital story11; a quiz based on the lecture material, with automatic feedback to self-correct; and discussion topics (Introductions, Your topic/module, Possible technologies and Any questions). These out-of-class activities were reviewed briefly at the beginning of the workshop; as is recommended in the flipped approach. The DLE tools to monitor student engagement are shown, so participants know how to check student progress and tailor in-class activities accordingly.

Participants are encouraged to consider the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of flipping their practice. This helps develop an effective learning design tailored to needs. Some common issues that arose include large class size, physical space restrictions, lack of student engagement/motivation and reliability of Wi-Fi in classrooms. Some possible solutions include using Apps (e.g. Nearpod) in the classroom along with discussion in pairs, to get interaction and feedback from large cohorts; low-stakes assessment of regular activities; aligning learning outcomes, activities and assessment12; checking Wi-Fi capacity in advance and having a back-up plan.

The intervention raises awareness of the potential of digital technologies to enable flipped learning. The workshop demonstrates a range of digital opportunities, including creating Video Content13; Apps in Education14; and the range of communication, collaboration and assessment tools available via the Ulster DLE15. The training encourages participants to share ideas and practice across disciplines. For example, Denise MacDermott, course director, BSc (Hons) Social Work, explains how she has been enhancing her practice by making effective use of digital technologies16.

The training intervention has been evaluated and proved to be effective, with 93% (n=90) of practitioners agreeing that they are more likely to flip or further flip their practice after attending the workshop. Some comments included:

“Great session – left me really wanting to develop my practice.”

“Very helpful session that will definitely inform my teaching practice and reinvigorate my modules.”

“Importance of integrating assessment with the active learning”.

“It has made me think of more creative learning methods – particularly more use of IT and digital technologies to respond to contemporary ways of learning. Especially as more students are IT literate and expect this type of approach to learning.”


  1. Neil Morris (2016) http://addl.ulster.ac.uk/digitalfutures/view/flipped-classroom.
  2. UOW Hybrid Learning & Assessment (2015) The Flipped Classroom. https://www.uow.edu.au/content/groups/public/@web/@dvce/@tel/documents/doc/uow205449.pdf
  3. Designing Flipped Learning Workshop. http://addl.ulster.ac.uk/news/view/designing-flipped-learning-workshop
  4. Viewpoints Curriculum Design Toolkit (2012). http://wiki.ulster.ac.uk/display/VPR/Workshop+Toolkit
  5. Nicol, D. (2012) Transformational Change in Teaching and Learning Recasting the Educational Discourse, Viewpoints Evaluation Report. http://wiki.ulster.ac.uk/download/attachments/23200594/Viewpoints_Evaluation_Report.pdf?version=1&modificationDate=1378371821000&api=v2
  6. Viewpoints Learner Engagement Cards. http://wiki.ulster.ac.uk/download/attachments/29557521/LearnerEngagement.pdf?api=v2
  7. Designing Flipped Learning Presentation (PDF). https://learning.ulster.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/xid-6707722_1
  8. Flipped Learning Workshops – Photos. https://learning.ulster.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/xid-6765300_1
  9. Flipped Learning Workshops – Learning Designs. https://learning.ulster.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/xid-6765299_1
  10. Fiona McCloy (2016) Designing Flipped Learning. https://stream.ulster.ac.uk/ssdcms/ipublic.do?u=92bea3ca77fb4e9
  11. Fiona McCloy (2015) Flipping the Classroom Digital Story. https://stream.ulster.ac.uk/ssdcms/ipublic.do?u=12a38cc6f6864da
  12. Biggs, J. and Tang, C. (2012) Aligning the curriculum to promote learning. Encyclopaedia of the Sciences of Learning, 198-199.
  13. Fiona McCloy (2016) Digital Learning Video Content. https://stream.ulster.ac.uk/ssdcms/ipublic.do?u=b3147f457b1942f
  14. Richard Beggs (2015) Apps in Education https://stream.ulster.ac.uk/ssdcms/ipublic.do?u=73753667209f400
  15. Aine MacNeill (2015) Blackboard Demonstration. https://stream.ulster.ac.uk/ssdcms/ipublic.do?u=9420635c2ded43c
  16. Denise MacDermott (2016) Using Flipped Classroom Technologies. https://stream.ulster.ac.uk/ssdcms/ipublic.do?u=fcc376dc1853496