Flipped Learning? Don’t Do It…Yet

Monday, December 11, 2017

You watch the Grammy awards show and don’t know many of the performers. You often say, “These trainees used to behave so much better.” You think the flipped classroom is a big deal. Sound familiar? If so, you may be getting old. You also may be easily impressed by new tech and want to jump on the bandwagon, lest you seem out of touch with the younger generations in the workplace.

Indeed, as new technology hits the market, it’s easy to become enthralled with its potential—even if you don’t always understand how it actually works. Unfortunately, the end result is that your company probably has a lot of expensive but underused tools.

No doubt, the interest in online learning is high. For instance, leaders in your organization may be pushing you to move to the flipped classroom. Some are probably saying, “Wow! You can make a video and then just post it on the Internet? That is so amazing! I bet Millennials will love this sort of thing.”

But don’t fall into this trap. Like any new learning solution, you need to ask a few critical questions: Does flipped learning put trainees in charge of their own learning? Is it more appropriate for new employees? Do trainees retain as much information? And so on, and so on. I won’t get into an actual debate about flipped classrooms here. I will say this: you may not be ready for prime time.


In other words, actors get paid well for a reason. They can do something that few people can—be very convincing on screen. What’s more, editors and special effects and soundtrack professionals also get paid well to enhance wat we see and hear. Very few of us regular folks can command the same sort of attention in a digital format. This may sound harsh, but it’s true in many cases.

All media—radio, TV, podcast, webinar—requires much more than in-person communication. When you digitize a live presentation, the nature of the small screen/small speaker often makes a great presentation seem good, a good presentation seem blah, and a blah presentation seem dreadfully boring. Who in your company has the chops to pull off the move to video? Way less than you think. One out of 20? One out of 50?

Bottom line: No one wants to watch a trainer talk for an hour, listen to 10 minutes of looped jingles added from GarageBand as a soundtrack, or watch multiple Camtasia screen captures. And if companies move to flipped learning before they’re ready, it would be cruel to force employees to go home and spend an evening watching less-than-stellar materials. In fact, it would be beyond the bounds of reasonable. YOU go watch an hour of some the stuff out there and see how YOU like it.

I started out teaching young students how to be better oral communicators. Now, much of my work is with adults. Companies, schools, and universities are contacting me not to show others how to teach oral communication, but to show the managers, trainers, and educators how to be better communicators themselves. These institutions realize that to be effective educators, all adults need to be more effective speakers. They realize that in an era of digital media that showcases oral communication skills, everyone needs to seriously improve those skills before attempting to use the new communication tools available.

Still think you’re ready for your close-up? If not, check out my new book, Own Any Occasion. The 11 steps detailed in this book show readers how to craft the perfect message and captivate audiences with exceptional delivery, no matter the circumstance.

About the Author

Erik Palmer is an author, speaker, and consultant from Denver, Colorado. He focuses on improving oral communication—whether one-on-one, small group, large group, informal or formal, in-person or digital—by sharing practical, understandable ideas that help all adults become effective speakers and teachers of speaking. Erik previously spent 10 years managing an office for a prominent commodity brokerage firm, where he was the national sales leader), and trading on the floor of a Chicago commodity exchange. He also taught in one of Colorado’s premier school districts for 21 years, and was named a Teacher of the Year. A frequent presenter at conferences, Erik has given keynotes and led workshops for adults across the United States and around the world. He is the author of the ATD Press book, Own Any Occasion, as well as Well-Spoken: Teaching Speaking to All Students, Digitally Speaking: How to Improve Student Presentations with Technology, Teaching the Core Skills of Listening & Speaking, Researching in a Digital World , and Good Thinking: Teaching Argument, Persuasion, and Reasoning. Erik has a bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College and a master’s degree from the University of Colorado, Denver. 

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A bit confused about your definition of a flipped classroom. In the cases where a flipped format is placed, the "homework (which may or may not be a video) is followed by a face-2-face in person or video conference practice session. The homework could be research, video or a reading assignment. This format is effective if learning retention is desired. If the course is a checkmark on a to-do training list, it doesn't matter if you use online, video or in-person. The goal is compliance.
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Interesting topic Mr. Palmer. I believe Flipped Learning is a must in very mature organizations taking into consideration that applying best fit learning methodology is way better than wasting time doing best practice. Every organization has its own culture and learning solutions differ from one to another.
All the best,
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