So you’d like to flip a class…

Update: For those of you who attended the ILTL Conference, and are looking for the files we used in our demo, you can find the scripts: GoodScript and NotAsGoodScript, the segments: GoodSegmented and NotAsGoodSegmented, and the slides: GoodSlides and NotAsGoodSlides, and the final presentation and video.

If you’re reading this, you’re at least entertaining the thought of flipping a class, or maybe you’re sold on flipping, you just don’t know where to start?

This article is for you.  In it, I’m going to breakdown the costs and resources involved with getting an educational technology initiative started at your school. Granted, this isn’t set in stone or the One True Plan.  Rather, it’s what we’ve found over the last three years of development. The numbers and staffing and everything else is all flexible, but this should give any who are curious a place to start.
This will be written into three parts:
  1. Staffing. This piece will talk about the minimum amount of people/talent you should have in place before embarking on this project.
  2. Timing. Flipping a classroom will take some time, and we’ll share some of the investments that we’ve made to successfully flip a class.
  3. Solutions. If none of the above are possible, don’t fret. We’ve got some resources you can look to leverage or contribute towards to participate in these innovations.

Let me start by addressing a “light” cognitive reason why we’d want to blend the classroom. This video was created to give a light cognitive rationale when trying to determine what goes online and what stays in the classroom.

I’ve been asked many times, by multiple people, what sort of staffing is required to embark on initiatives such as flipping a class. At the S.J. Quinney College of Law, we’ve had the luxury of being able to really take a long hard look at what IT means to us and how to make it work for us.
We’ve jettisoned many in-house operations in favor of campus hosted solutions.  We’ve moved our server space all off-site. Our networking is handled by campus resources. Even our library circulation desk has been trained in basic computer troubleshooting, which has reduced the dependency on running a helpdesk.
Why do I mention this?  Because it’s opened up resources for less “operational” IT expenses and allowed us to focus on what we call Applied IT, or Educational Technology.  We want to focus our resources on things that can help accomplish the direct goals of the College of Law. Technology in the classroom, used by faculty and students should be our focus.  There are other organizations that do email really well, so we let them handle it.
This shift has afforded us the use of two staff members we couldn’t have otherwise – or unless we snagged some huge grant or endowment. A media expert and an instructional designer.
The media expert is going to do all the technical stuff that you might not have the time or capacity to do.  A media expert should be pretty proficient with audio recording software, video editing software, and probably even proficient in presentation software, such as Powerpoint or Keynote. Why? Let’s face it, students are going to have a hard time sitting through a lecture of a talking head.  Plus, there’s a lot of educational multimedia theory we can lean on to encourage learners to optimize their learning. So, our media expert can help create the technical output that we can share with our students.  However, the media expert isn’t a “higher level” position. You might even have a helpdesk employee who is studying this very thing in school. The heavy lifting behind the operation belong to the instructional designer.
The instructional designer is the position that most people are unfamiliar with, at least in law school. An instructional designer typically has a M.Ed. or M.S. in educational technology, instructional design, cognitive psychology, or any other degree that studies education and the creation of learning materials. There are many educational programs out there that specifically target the use of technology in education, so that’s what you’ll want to be looking for. The instructional designer can carry a pretty heavy load, mainly because they should be trained in learning sciences.  Let’s face it, there are many law faculty out there that teach the way they were taught – not because they’ve done extensive research on teaching. They are experts in their field. Sometimes experts can find difficulty in teaching novices what they know.  It seems so easy and straightforward, but novices need some extra help along the way to ensure they’ve learned the material.  The instructional designer can bridge this gap between novices and experts.  Collaborating with the expert, the instructional designer can tailor the learning materials to the audience, whoever that might be.  They can choose visual representations that match what the message is. They can coach the professor in how to write efficiently to convey the message they’re looking for. They can help suggest assessments and other exercises for the students to engage with.  Simply put, a good instructional designer can help augment the professors knowledge and optimize it for the learner. A good instructional designer is creative and intelligent – they are going to need to learn the topic well enough to represent it. They should also be personable as there needs to be a trust between the instructional designer and the subject matter expert.

“Hands-on” Time

In our previous research, we’ve tested out various theories on the length of online modules. In the past, people would take full length lectures, upwards of 45′, and put those online.  Basically, they were verbatim reproductions of the actual in-class experience. Any lecture capture software can do this: Panopto, Echo365, whatever.  We used Panopto.  We found that students were not watching the whole lecture.  Why might that be?  45′ is a long time to sit in front of a computer.  It’s only a matter of minutes before they become distracted by Facebook or kitten photos.
When we were developing our videos for the Contracts project, we targeted ten minutes for a maximum length.  That’s not to say that EVERYTHING needs to be said in ten minutes, but rather we chunk the information in 10 minute slices. This makes the information easier to digest for the learners. It also gives us a target to shoot for.Our contracts videos averages 8.5′ in length, and we average just over 6 minutes of view time per video.
When we created our videos, we tried to leverage the digital medium. We might be tempted to use the webcams built into our laptops, but we can do so much more with technology. Plus, a lot of time can be wasted setting up video equipment, getting the lighting or sound correct, and trying to give the presentations “off the cuff.” We developed a strategy that minimizes the amount of time needed to create a 10 minute module.  Ultimately, we find that about 8-12 hours of hands-on time needs to be used for the creation of a single 10 minute module. This time is divided among three workers. A professor, a higher level instructional designer, and one lower level media expert.
Script Writing (2-4h of professor): Writing a script is hard. It takes time and revisions to write well for use. Couple that with a three page limit, and it can be a challenge.  Three pages is approximately 10 minutes, give or take. Remember, the whole topic doesn’t need to be limited to three pages, just chunked.  Some of our Contracts sections took four total videos totaling just shy of forty minutes.
Since this is where the rubber hits the road, this is the most important step and the most valuable time in this whole process. We have a few sample scripts on our Contracts project page.
Script Consultation (2h of instructional designer): We’ve found that it takes roughly two hours to get the script prepared. The script consultation includes reading and re-reading the script written by the professor for accuracy, clarity, and completeness. Additionally, time is set aside for “comprehension.” This comprehension time involves the instructional designer understanding the content in the script. This works out wonderfully because the instructional designer is not a subject matter expert in the field. A preliminary run by a novice can help even out the message and ensure that it connects with the novices in a meaningful way.
Additional time is set aside to make alterations, and ask questions to ensure understanding. The instructional designer uses this script for the Multimedia Creation step outlined later.
Audio Capture (1h of media expert):
It takes one hour to capture the audio for one module. This time includes setup, practice, coaching, and re-takes. A good base is twice the amount of time of the video, so a 10 minute video will take 20 minutes of audio recording time.  Throw in a few hours for setup, breakdown, and other miscellaneous setup, and  you’re at an hour. We’re fortunate enough to have a sound studio a short walk from the College of Law, so we’re utilizing resources instead of making/buying our own. If you don’t have a sound studio to access, you can make an audio recording box that mimics the effects of a sound studio well enough. More tips here for doing it yourself.
Audio Production (1h of media expert): After the audio has been captured, it needs to be produced for further use. This involves listening to the recording for quality, trimming silence, editing out erroneous takes, and other quality control. Typically this involves the use of some specialized audio software in order to create it in a manner that can be integrated with created visuals. The basic output for this step is an mp4 or other audio file that can be used later in the process.
Multimedia Creation (5h of instructional designer): The bulk of the time is spent here. First, the script is segmented into smaller sections that can be represented by an individual “scene.” We call this cognitive chunking. Then we seek visual media that can accompany the script. Sometimes this involves the purchase of stock media. Sometimes this involves the creation of specialized graphics. Sometimes, it’s plain ‘ol text. This is also where the most “know-how” is put in to select relevant and appropriate visuals (or text, if necessary) for the module. We lean heavily on multimedia theory, cognitive load theory, and other theories to guide the design of the visuals. A lot of research has been done on how to best transfer information from multimedia to learner.
Final Production (1h of media expert): This involves the meshing and timing of the audio and video. This time includes processing time to encode the final module.
Advising/Planning Time
Advising and planning time is set aside for initial meetings of the three project principles. This is typically front-loaded as the groundwork is laid, timeline set up, and expectations communicated. It’s also highly variable and depends on whether or not there is an established relationship between the professor and design team. These times are not per module, but rather per project or course.
Processing and Planning (5-10h): This involves all the meetings to discuss the project, talk about expectations, explain the process, develop goals, monitor progress, etc. These are typically weekly or bi-monthly meetings to assess progress.
LMS Integration (5h): If you have a learning management system (Blackboard, TWEN, Canvas), you’ll need to set aside time to integrate the videos and assessments into the system. This time is specifically for ensuring the videos are uploaded and display correctly in whatever system is being used. This time can also involve adding assessments and other things to improve the learning environment.
Assessment Consultation (5-10h): Though we’re currently working on this stage, and don’t have a good handle on the time, we advise professors on writing good assessments.  We can help define what kinds of assessments are most appropriate for the content. As our knowledge increases, we can offer Item Response Theory (IRT) analysis to determine the efficacy of the assessments.
Maintenance and Re-dos (5-30h): Obviously, there can be errors and re-dos throughout the whole process. Sometimes the audio goes bad and we need to schedule a retake. Sometimes we think of a better way to explain a concept. Sometimes we need to re-encode a module due to computer issues.
If you add it all up, it’ll take roughly 300-350 hours to create modules for a course. Add on a handful of hours for consulting, advising, and other stuff and you’re just short of 400 hours for a course.
This might seem like a ton of time, and it is, but we pride ourselves on creating the best possible learning materials that we can. If we’re going to go online or blended with the classes, we need to understand how to appropriately leverage the environment to meet our learning objectives.  If we do it right, we can create a better learning experience that involves more activities like role play or simulation, or deeper conversations that help the students better understand the topics.
Remember, these are times we’ve found over the past few years of experimentation. They obviously flex with the complexities of the project and difficulty of the learning materials.  There’s a whole ‘nother factor that requires the faculty member to reassess how they teach and what kind of classroom they’re implementing.  If it’s a blended classroom, the professor will need to find activities that encourage deeper connections with the information being presented.  This is the benefit of flipping or blending your class.
So, you might not have the time or resources to invest in this. There’s a lot that needs to come together to get an initiative like this started. This why we’ve created TheFirstYear. This is a project started right here at the University of Utah.  We’re trying to crowd source first year content. We’re looking for professors to write scripts and contribute lectures to any of the six first year courses.  When a script is contributed, and after it’s vetted to make sure it flows with the content, we take on the creation of the media in partnership with the Center for Innovation in Legal Education. If you’re interested, sign up for TheFirstYear project or contact the Center for Innovation in Legal Education.