Tag Archives: Professor

The Flipped Classroom


A popular concept in education, which is reviewed on Inside Higher ED’s website, is the idea of a “flipped classroom.” The basic definition of a “flipped classroom,” which varies depending on your source, is that the typical lecture and homework elements of a classroom are reversed. This means students would listen to a pre-recorded lecture at home and do homework in the classroom. Several different business models and organizations already promote this idea, like the well-known Khan Academy non-profit model, but is this model optimal?

Don’t get me wrong; the “flipped” model has its benefits. (1) Students can go through the material at their own pace in a comfortable environment. This approach allows students who blaze through the material to be more efficient with their time and less confident students to spend as much time as they need to understand the content. (2) Students who are struggling with a problem or concept in class can ask an instructor for assistance who will guide them to the answer. Speaking from a student perspective, it is much easier (and memorable) to have an instructor work with you to solve a problem than it is consulting a textbook or searching for the answer online. (3) Plenty of opportunity to discuss and compare approaches with other students while in class. Students often solve problems and run into the same issues while working through problems. It can be very helpful and time efficient to collaborate with other students to achieve I higher degree of understanding. These benefits all contributes to a greater understanding of the content and a stronger awareness of troublesome areas that require greater attention.

So why hasn’t everyone adopted this model? Simply put, it’s in our human nature to resist change. The traditional method of suggesting material to read over before class, lecturing during class, and assigning homework after class has been in place for centuries. This traditional “teacher experience,” arguably, can never be replaced. As a student, one fatal flaw I’ve experienced in the current system occurs at home. I often find it difficult to concentrate and motivate myself to read from a textbook or learn a new topic that doesn’t particularly interest me, especially if the content isn’t specifically brought up in class. I relate this experience to a chore I never liked doing, but is required for a greater cause, like my parent’s satisfaction (or graduation). Of course, it isn’t a perfect system, but we implement support initiatives to redeem its shortcomings. Many of these initiatives mirror the benefits of the “flipped classroom,” for example Academic-Zone’s personalized online approach. Lecturing for more than 50 minutes may not maintain student attention and be effected by diminishing marginal returns. However, the lecture still plays an important role in highlighting the key information in a mountain of text. Instructors also make themselves available after class to clarify information.

Final Thoughts
Similar to the article written by Pamela E. Barnett, a potential solution would be an integration of both systems. Taking the best of both models with the help of modern technology can improve the effectiveness of teaching. For example, having a short lecture, in-class exercises, and relevant online material/assessment could be a possible layout for the lectures of tomorrow. With this model, we have the opportunity to try a new approach and personalize learning for students of the 21st century.

What are you thoughts?
–     Do you think this “flipped classroom” model could work?
–     Would it be easier for students to learn information using this model?
–     How about instructors to teach?

I look forward to your opinion!


TED Talk: Salman Khan: Let’s use video to reinvent education

Ah… my first blog post, how exciting! Like most students, when faced with a question, challenge or problem, I turn to the internet! While browsing, I stumbled upon this amazing TED Talk.

What I particularly liked about this video was the use of humour to keep the audience entertained. I laughed when he mentioned: “Here I was, an analyst at a hedge fund. It was very strange for me to do something of social value.”

Being a student, I can relate to Khan’s emphasis on “humanizing the classroom.” Often, I have felt like a zombie, mindlessly recording notes. Khan proposed the idea to allow students to go over the lecture material, via his online videos, as a form of “homework” the night before lecture. This would allow the professor to go over problems during class time to reinforce understanding of the topics discussed in the online videos. This also provides students the opportunity to learn the material in the comfort of their home and at their own pace.

The developers of Academic-Zone have taken a similar approach with their learning modules—offering resources that students can explore 24/7/365, at their own pace and based on their own need. As a student, I believe Academic-Zone is an easily accessible resource for today’s student and addresses many of the issues discussed in this video.

If this topic interests you, read more about it here!: http://blog.ted.com/2014/01/15/salman-khans-ted-talk-ignited-the-conversation-about-online-education-why-hes-doubling-down-on-the-school-of-the-future/

If you enjoyed this post and/or have any comments or thoughts about Khan’s video, please leave me a comment.
Thanks for reading!

What is Good Teaching?

In a post on the Canadian Education Association (CEA) blog, Dr. Bruce Beairsto, a professor at Simon Fraser University, shares his insight on what is effective teaching. He explains that teaching is an art as well as a science—that teaching goes beyond communication and it is the student response that determines the effectiveness of the teacher.

“…teaching is an iterative process of trial and error, guided by careful observation of student response (aka formative assessment).  The teacher adapts instructional technique depending upon student response until the desired responses are achieved.  When that happens, teaching has occurred.”

What are your thoughts? What factors contribute to good teaching?

Read the full post here.

Canadian Education Association website.

Professors’ Perspectives: Professor Bredin

The other day, I had the opportunity to sit down with Professor Marian Bredin and chat to her about Academic-Zone (A-Z). Professor Bredin is an Associate Professor of Communications at Brock University and a long time user of A-Z. She is one of the first professors to use Essay-Zone (E-Z) as a teaching resource and has been doing so for the past 4 years. This year, she has 380 students using the modules in her class. I thought it would be a good idea to catch up with her and see how she is using E-Z. During our discussion Professor Bredin shared three main points about her experience with E-Z.

Student Motivation

Professor Bredin encourages her students to use Essay-Zone by relating to E-Z frequently in lecture and having an E-Z workshop. Additionally, she requires her students to get a passing grade on the E-Z post quiz to complete the course—a strong motivation for students to access the modules!

Favourite Feature

Professor Bredin said her favourite part about Essay-Zone is its functionality: “The concise text, clear examples, and relatable language of Essay-Zone give the module a very user-friendly appeal.”  These features make it easy for students to work through the modules and adapt the learning experience to meet their individual needs. She went on to state that “every student enters university with different levels of skill. Essay-Zone provides a level playing field for all students to have an opportunity to excel.”  This offers benefits for both students and instructors. It is easy for students to become overwhelmed and fall behind on class material right from the start. Using Academic-Zone lays the foundational skills and gives each student an equal opportunity to succeed. As an instructor, Professor Bredin finds it helpful that she receives information as to where her students are at via the pre and post assessment quizzes.

Biggest Advantage

Professor Bredin says the biggest advantage of using the modules is that “Essay-Zone covers everything students need to know in terms of writing an essay. There are skills and practical tips for students of all levels of writing to learn that will help them succeed. I don’t have the time to go over these skills as I have to be teaching new concepts every class. E-Z provides my students with that extra support.”

Share your own Academic-Zone experiences here!

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Professors’ Perspectives: Dr. MacKenzie

“Writing is a life skill.” – Dr. Herb MacKenzie

Recently, I had the privilege of visiting with Dr. Herb MacKenzie who is an Associate Professor of Marketing for the Goodman School of Business. Dr. MacKenzie is a long-time user of Academic-Zone, and currently uses the Business Grammar modules in his first year Management class. In the class he places a high emphasis on grammar skills and requires his students to achieve a minimum of 70% on a grammar proficiency test to complete his course. He says, “Strong written communication skills are necessary for students trying to succeed in their current education, but also in their future careers. Writing is a life skill.”

To help his students develop these grammar skills, Dr. MacKenzie uses the Academic-Zone learning resources. He recognizes that instructors have been emphasizing the importance of grammar skills throughout the student’s education, but finds value in presenting the information in a new medium.  He says, “The Business Grammar module is useful for students as it reinforces the essential writing skills in a clear and interactive method. It engages students by using concise text, relevant examples, and plenty of practice opportunities.”

Dr. MacKenzie doesn’t think that it’s enough for his students to learn the writing skills in their first year, but rather that they are strengthened throughout their whole education. He believes that having the Academic-Zone modules available for upper year students, helps reinforce their skill development. The user-friendly navigation of Academic-Zone enables all levels of students to use the modules to support their learning.

 Herb MacKenzie Promo Photo 2.7Mb

Share your experiences of the Academic-Zone modules here!