What Can We Learn from Flipped Learning for Business Training?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

By now, most L&D professionals are familiar with the concept of “flipped learning.” The simple explanation is that flipped learning moves direct instruction from the classroom to the learner’s own space, allowing for more practice time, one-on-one observation, and interactivity when learners get together with the instructor in class. 

Organizations like the non-profit Khan Academy, which makes 2,500+ free videos available to anyone at any time, have been leading this revolution in the K-12 and higher education settings. This video featuring educator and flipped learning pioneer Aaron Sams gives a great overview of the concept as he used it in his classroom. 

The Flipped Learning Network breaks this approach down into four pillars. (I’ll summarize here, but be sure to check out the complete guidelines on its website, too.) The instructor can use these guidelines to flip a single lesson or an entire instructional approach: 

  1. Flexible environment

    : Design space and timeframes for student interaction and reflection; observe and help students as needed; provide various ways to learn and master content.

  2. Learning culture

    : Take the focus off the teacher; let students engage with each other through meaningful activities; make activities available to all learners and give feedback.

  3. Intentional content

    : Focus on concepts in direct instruction that learners explore on their own; create or organize relevant content (usually videos) for learners; differentiate for accessibility and relevancy.


  4. Professional educator: Observe learners and be available to them for individual, small group, or class feedback as needed; observe learners and provide assessment; record data to design future instruction; collaborate with other instructors.

    In a business setting, flipped learning has great potential, too. Here are some concepts to keep in mind as you get started (most of these you are likely already doing): 

  • Make a conscious effort to shift away from the lecture. We all know what too much lecture-based training leads to. Instead of making the face-to-face time all about listening and taking notes, make the lecture content available in brief videos or e-learning segments that your learners watch before attending the class. With the ability to pause, rewind, and skip ahead, online learning gives learners more control over how they choose to experience the lecture.

  • When creating the design for your learners, genuinely keep the focus on what the learner needs to do as a result of the training, not what the learner should


  • Design your classroom experience with plenty of open-ended situations. Invite the learners to be part of discovering or building solutions.

  • Create meaningful activities and projects for learners to work on during face-to-face time; the more clearly connected to their jobs, the better.

  • Be available to observe and provide feedback on the spot as learners are working on their activities. 

    Indeed, the flipped learning model has plenty of promise in the business world. How many of you have used it, and what were your results? Share your experience in the Comments below. 

About the Author

Jillian Douglas is co-founder and chief experience officer for Idea Learning Group. With more than 20 years of experience in adult education, Jillian has a passion for conceptualizing and delivering operational, managerial, and leadership-focused employee development programs. She also facilitates classroom learning and conducts speaking engagements on a wide variety of topics related to adult learning and development. 

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