Making the Most of the Online Environment in Your Flipped Class

Online course environments offer students much more than videos of your lectures. A number of interactive online tools give students ways to process new material as they encounter it, which can deepen their learning, provide you and them with feedback on their understanding, and help you plan for class activities. These strategies for making the most of the online setting can ensure that your students’ engagement with online material is intentional and learning-centered:

  • Rather than flipping the lectures for the entire semester, many faculty begin flipping classes by strategically selecting a few lectures to record and put online. Lectures containing especially challenging or abstract material have been effective for students since the video playback provides flexibility. The online lectures create an opportunity for a more purposeful learning experience in class in which students grapple with the most difficult material. 
  • When designing your online content, break your original classroom lectures into short video segments. Many instructors use a range from 8-12 minutes. This segmentation allows students to refresh their attention and actively process new material as they encounter it. Organize the segments according to the concepts they should learn or be able to apply from each one. 
  • A common misconception about flipped classes is that the online setting is defined by the video content and passive viewing. Consequently, the classroom is seen as the site of active engagement. While on-line, however, students can interact with online content by adaptively pausing, rewinding or changing the speed of the video. They can engage with content more strategically and actively than they might during a live lecture. In addition to video viewing, the online work can include related quiz questions or a variety of brief low stakes problems or writing assignments that enhance understanding of the video content and give them real-time feedback. Online course sites can host a wide range of digital tools that allow students to manipulate course material and undertake creative work and collaborations. 
  • Another misconception about flipped classes is that the online environment is for individual student activity, whereas the classroom is the social setting. Some faculty have extended their structured group activities in the classroom into the online environment. Their online course sites are designed to promote interaction through discussion forums, ongoing galleries of student work, collaborative projects, and peer evaluation and commentary. These forms of interaction amplify student interest in the material and promote their enthusiasm for their roles as active learners. 
  • Consider your course site as part of your strategy for inclusive teaching, where your students can become more familiar with each other. Online settings offer some students a more comfortable environment than the classroom for participation or risk-taking. By combining online and classroom activities, you can create a learning environment that broadens the sense of belonging in their academic community. 

McGraw Center staff are available to consult individually with faculty on designing effective activities for their flipped classes as well as for creating interactive online course environments. Contact us at:

For additional pedagogical resources, visit the Graduate Students and Faculty webpages.