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    HEA Senior Fellowship Case Study Series: 2 – Bringing lecture flipping to a new interdisciplinary programme

    By Matt Jenner, on 13 August 2014

    As a four-part series I am openly publishing my case studies previously submitted for my Senior Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy. I submitted my application in February 2014. If you’re interested in this professional recognition programme, please visit their webpages and look through the Professional Standards Framework (PSF). UCL runs an institutional model for fellowships called ARENA, your institution may run one too – speak to people!

    Case Study 2 – Bringing lecture flipping to a new interdisciplinary programme

    As an experienced member of staff I have a wide range of institutional e-learning responsibilities. In 2011 I was an integral part in designing, delivering and evaluating a new teaching style called the ‘flipped lecture’. It’s increasingly thought that lectures do not provide “students a rich and rewarding educational experience”[1]. The flipped model is where “students gain first-exposure learning prior to class and focus on the processing part of learning (synthesizing, analyzing, problem-solving, etc.) in class”[2]. The first academic to explicitly flip their lectures, and put the concept in the UCL spotlight, was Carl Gombrich, director of UCL’s flagship interdisciplinary degree the Bachelor of Arts and Sciences (BASc).

    Carl wanted to put “people back at the centre of the learning”12 and I supported and advised him while we created an active learning, ‘flipped lecture’, environment (A2, A4). UCL’s institutional teaching and learning strategy envisaged the BASc providing “a model for a substantial proportion of UCL’s undergraduate teaching”[3]. Our plan was to create a teaching approach with innovative and sustainable qualities.

    Carl is a capable teacher but he was less comfortable with the technological change required to achieve ‘flipped lectures’. I mentored him through the virtues, and downsides, of the available technological landscape. A barrier emerged within institutional systems which did not support his approach. While retaining alignment with the planned learning activities, (A1, K4) I researched available options and evaluated a new tool called Hot Question[4] based on research from Purdue University[5]. My research outcome delivered a solution which matched the requirements for the BASc and was designed to scale for the institution if flipping increased in popularity. It is now used across 81 courses at UCL (A4).

    Feedback received from Carl has been “In many (most) cases it really does get students thinking about the content of the lectures” and “how sophisticated” some of the student’s questions are. A student on the course commented “once you have the additional time in lectures, you’re going to be able to take advantage of that”9. Another academic commented ‘flipping’ uncovers “the impact of the information we provide for students, and their understanding at a much finer temporal resolution than what was available previously”[6]. One issue that’s arisen is that “so many questions are submitted and so many are of a high standard that it is a bit bewildering to look through them all”.

    I have shared the flipped approach within external communities[7] and Carl’s work has become an inspirational exemplar for staff to experiment with flipped lectures. The technological changes, and teaching approaches have been shared via blog posts[8] and case studies[9], they provide evidence for colleagues to learn from, discuss and adopt. Seeing this as a potential future component of teaching at UCL, it was my role to ensure we built a sustainable model not just for the BASc but for the wider UCL community. By ensuring the flipped lecture was well supported we have seen a growth in popularity across the university’s faculties of Engineering, Social and Medical Sciences.

    (505 words)

    HEA Professional Standards Framework links referenced in this case study:

    Areas of Activity

    • A1 Design and plan learning activities and/or programmes of study
    • A2 Teach and/or support learning
    • A3 Assess and give feedback to learners
    • A4 Develop effective learning environments and approaches to student support and guidance
    • A5 Engage in continuing professional development in subjects/disciplines and their pedagogy, incorporating research, scholarship and the evaluation of professional practices

    Core Knowledge

    • K4 The use and value of appropriate learning technologies


    [1] http://www.brookes.ac.uk/services/ocsld/resources/20reasons.html

    [3] http://www.ucl.ac.uk/teaching-learning/secure-downloads/ILTS.pdf

    [4] https://moodle.org/plugins/view.php?plugin=mod_hotquestion

    [5] https://www.purdue.edu/hotseat

    [6] https://www.ucl.ac.uk/stream/media/swatch?v=5461b59f4751

    [7] https://twitter.com/AndyKons/status/278446517537353728

    [8] http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/digital-education/tag/flipping/

    [9] http://www.ucl.ac.uk/teaching-learning/news/carl-gombrich-flipping-the-lecture-theatre