Skip to content

September 6, 2013

The flipped classroom

by Dan Rodriguez

courtesy of Prof. Emerson Tiller, associate dean of academic initiatives:

Over the last five to ten years, there has been a major shift in thinking about how students learn.  That shift is from teacher-focused to student-focused learning – whereas the focus in the past has been on how the teacher conveyed information, now, the focus is on how students learn information.   A key driver of this shift is new technologies that facilitate different interaction between students and professors, and that allow for different interaction among students.  The “flipped classroom” – where students view lectures and engage in other learning activities online prior to class, and then use the classroom for problem-solving and team activities, real world speakers, or having the professor tailor class time to the subjects students are having the most problem with – is one of the most visible examples of what new technologies are bringing to higher education.  While much of the new technology promotes learning online outside the classroom, the classroom environment nonetheless remains vitally important, as students and professors meet for the enhanced learning opportunities that technology has afforded.

At the law school, we began experimenting with flipped classrooms last year for a traditional Contracts/Sales class.  Prior to class, students watched narrated PowerPoint lectures, worked in online discussion groups to solve hypothetical problems, and worked through problems from the assigned textbook.  While in class, students worked in teams on professor-assigned problems, presented group projects to the class, and interacted with the professor on a class-wide problem.  The professor gave short, focused lectures on the more challenging topics for reinforcement.  The professor who taught the flipped class noted that students came to class better prepared and the quality of responses to questions was notably high.  Moreover, the quality of the exam answers was higher than in the traditional course counterpart.

While NU Law has been out front on flipped classrooms and distance education (we’ve offered distance education courses for the last 5 years during the summer while students are away on internships and summer associate positions), the broader legal academy is now taking notice of the opportunities technology is affording for law teaching. This past summer, for example, the Center for Computer Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI) and Chicago-Kent Law School held a well-attended major conference on Law School Computing covering a range of technology-based pedagogies, including lecture capture, flipping the classroom, full-blown distance education, digital casebooks, and Google tools. [One can find the sessions on these topics on YouTube at]  The flipped classroom appeared to be the hottest topic with the most sessions on the agenda, including “Flipping the Classroom in Legal Skills Courses,” “Whether Guest Lectures Can Use the Flipped Classroom Format,” and “Using Bloomberg in Your Flipped Classroom.”

Flipped classrooms create major technology, training, and classroom needs.  In terms of technology, we plan to expand our infrastructure to create more and better audio and video lectures, interactive web-based content, whiteboard animation, and student assessment tools that would allow faculty a range of choices in developing and delivering content.  Faculty will be trained on how to manage student learning in flipped classrooms, and how to produce meaningful content both for online and in-class learning.  The physical classrooms would need to be redesigned to enhance the flipped learning environment, including flexible seating for group work, stages for student presentations, enhanced Wi-Fi capability for student and faculty in-class Internet use and demonstration, mobile LED screens for display and group work, in-class video and audio recording equipment.  Support staff specially trained for flipped classroom technology would also be needed.

Read more from Law School News

Comments are closed.