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April 11, 2018

The Benefits of Flipped Classrooms

Summary:

If you had an hour with an expert on a key subject, would you spend it watching a PowerPoint together? Not likely.

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Picture this scenario: For an hour, you have the undivided attention of an expert in your field with years of experience directly relevant to your current job and your career. How would you spend that time with the expert?

Specific answers will vary, but chances are that watching a PowerPoint presentation or reading from a textbook together isn’t very high on your list. Yet those passive acts sometimes make up most of an organization’s training sessions, leading some to wonder if there is a more efficient way to train employees.

A growing number of learning and development pros have found success by turning that model on its head with the flipped classroom approach. With this concept, trainees study material on their own time and spend classroom time working through real-world scenarios and having more in-depth discussions with experts on the topic.

The Pros and Cons of a Flipped Classroom

Proponents of flipped classroom training argue that traditional “sage on the stage” training sessions squander the valuable and limited time trainees get with subject matter experts. The experts essentially become content delivery vehicles. Even if they present the information in an engaging and informative way, much of their expertise and industry know-how remains untapped as they spend time covering the basics.

Traditional training sessions are not ideal for learners, either. In a traditional classroom setting, the lesson can progress only at a single speed. In turn, advanced learners may get bored with the pace and lose interest, while less experienced learners may struggle to keep up.

See also: How Millennials Are Misunderstood  

In flipped classroom structures, trainers record videos or prepare presentations that trainees watch on their own before the training session. They’re expected to show up to the session with a basic understanding of the material and to be ready to discuss it in greater depth with the trainer and fellow participants. This flipped classroom approach offers advantages that may be compelling to many—trainees can learn at their own pace with relatively basic technology requirements in preparation for a collaborative training session focused on social interaction and tapping the expertise of the subject matter expert leading the training.

Potential issues do creep up with flipped classroom learning. First and foremost, trainees must find time to complete the pre-assignments. This means either finding time during the workday to watch videos or being sufficiently motivated to review the material after hours—both of which are easier said than done. There’s also a small technology hurdle to overcome. Trainers need to be comfortable creating the content, and trainees need to be tech-savvy and have the resources to access the content.

Can Flipped Classrooms Work for Risk and Insurance Training?

The flipped classroom concept has already delivered proven results in school classrooms. In one school that implemented the flipped classroom approach, the failure rate dropped from 30% to 10%, and the rate of graduates going on to college increased by almost 20%.

The flipped classroom concept is not new to the corporate world, either, though advocates say it’s still underused. Some companies, including McAfee, are already using it to train and onboard new hires. Others are using the basic concept to flip business presentations and meetings.

Many insurance professionals are finding success with the approach, as well. The increased interaction between learning and development professionals and trainees is an obvious benefit for students, and employees showing up with a basic understanding of the material can make sessions less frustrating for trainers. In many cases, the flipped format is actually a better fit for learning industry-specific topics like underwriting or claims because the collaborative environment more accurately simulates the workplace.

See also: Time to Formalize Insurance Career Path  

It’s important to note that the same pitfalls that exist in traditional classrooms can limit the effectiveness of flipped classrooms. The challenge of developing quality materials still exists for those leading the training, as does the challenge of motivating trainees to thoroughly review the pre-training materials and actively participate in discussions. If you can solve these challenges, however, the format has serious potential to reinvent training, from general onboarding to more specific technical topics.

Have you had success with the flipped classroom approach or with giving trainees material to review at their own pace before entering the classroom? Let us know in the comments section below.

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About the Author

Ann Myhr is senior director of Knowledge Resources for the Institutes, which she joined in 2000. Her responsibilities include providing subject matter expertise on educational content for the Institutes’ products and services.

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