Most learning enthusiasts of the modern corporate world are excited about flipped learning. Flipped learning is a combination of approaches wherein the concepts are taken up by the participants by themselves (through any of the self-paced media – digital or non-digital) and the clarification and application of concepts are done either in a classroom setting with SMEs or in a real environment with mentors and through action learning projects.
Be it the Gurukuls in ancient India or the monasteries through Southeast Asia or the apprentice/understudy approach in many parts of the Western world, some form of flipped learning or the other has been practiced across cultures from Oriental to Occidental for ages. But it seems that we are just waking up to the power of flipped learning now.
Ask most corporate training managers, and they will unanimously agree that it has always been difficult to first get people into a classroom and then to keep them there. Leave alone the talk of learning happening in between. The answer to a simple question of where did one’s most impactful learning happen is nine times out of ten shared as ‘outside the classroom’ – somewhere in everyday life, at work, through a life experience or in interactions with people who we trust and believe in. So, is there a value in first struggling to get people into a classroom and then making them learn something that may be useful for them but since it is not self- driven, it is perceived to be of less value?
Globally, organizations are shifting to a self-owned and self-driven approach towards learning. A paradigm of – it is my career, my performance, and hence I need to be responsible; ensuring that I am adequately skilled to be able to deliver. The organization will provide the environment and necessary resources, ensuring that opportunities to develop one’s competence are available on demand.
So, where does flipped fit in then? It definitely does where the only purpose of the course is to disseminate some knowledge or create comprehension over a topic (such as a process or a policy). It also fits in where the concepts are easy to comprehend or the audience is evolved enough to take up even complex concepts on their own and only clarification and practice of concepts are required to done in collaboration with a facilitator or SME. In such cases, the participants don’t need to be pulled into a classroom, away from their work where they are critically required.
The moment we talk about flipped learning, we are automatically building blend into it since flip cannot happen without putting two or more learning strategies together. An important aspect to consider for getting the flip (or the blend) right is a consideration of the different learning strategies and their suitability for ensuring learning at different levels (of Bloom’s Taxonomy). The following table gives one an idea about how to take a call on creating a blend basis the suitability of the learning strategy for specific developmental needs:
Case in point:
Example 1: POSH – prevention of sexual harassment – a compliance based topic.
Flip and Blend – E-learning/ WBT and Classroom Sessions.
POSH is a compliance based topic. Typically, organizations would want their employees to be well informed about the policy, the dos and don’ts and who to approach in case of any untoward situation being faced. Most of this is knowledge, comprehension and application of knowledge around specific situations. Hence, the preferred medium of delivery in view of distributed workforces, varied learning situations (on boarding, reinforcement modules) is e-learning or WBT coupled with in person sessions with a POSH champion or committee member. This helps in building knowledge and comprehension with people at their own pace and then open sessions can be scheduled with the champion for addressing specific queries that people may have.
Example 2: Learning JAVA programming – a software technology topic.
Flip and Blend – Video based tutorials, classroom sessions, assignments and online community.
Learning a programming language requires a good hold over the basic concepts, applying one’s problem solving ability to be able to understand different situations and create a logic driven solution for them and the practice of writing programs using the language.
A successful experimental approach was that of assigning video based tutorials to participants for them to go through these on their own by a set deadline and attempt online quizzes that tested their knowledge and comprehension. As per a pre-set schedule, they are then required to come into classroom sessions for clarifying doubts with an instructor and practice concepts on simple scenarios. Participants are then given assignments of increasing complexity that are discussed in subsequent classroom sessions. In between, they are free to approach the instructor for help and also have access to an online learning community to discuss doubts, ideas and solutions.
Example 3: Leadership Development – a complex topic as it requires adoption of new approaches and change in behavior!
Flip and Blend – classroom, documents, videos, projects, coaching and online discussion forums.
Leadership development is a complex topic as it requires a multidimensional change in the individual and hence a multipronged learning strategy. From reflecting on who they are and who they want to be, to immersion into new concepts, to adoption of those concepts in real life, to cross functional exposure to peer support for reinforcement of learning.
A successful blend created and implemented across industries, organizations and several levels of leadership is that of documents/videos for knowledge and comprehension, classroom sessions for reflection, immersion and experiential learning, coaching – to set and achieve developmental goals, projects – to be exposed to areas of challenge and get cross functional exposure, learning communities – to share experiences and learn from peer group.
Flip it or blend it, the idea is to enable learners to learn in a manner that suits them best at their pace and at the appropriate time. The ultimate objective of corporate learning is to achieve the desired performance (even if it is compliance). If we start with keeping this end in mind, it would definitely enable us to choose right. And who knows, just like the cook or the acrobat, in this process we could master the art of doing the flip!
-Rahul Agarwal, Sr. Consultant, Learning Strategy, G-Cube
Rahul is a passionate Learning & Development professional and has spent a good fourteen years of his experience (out of a total sixteen years) in the training and consulting field. During these years, he has experienced a complete range of program design and delivery. At his core, he feels deeply about enabling peak performance in organizations and people through high impact learning & change. Hence, he has stepped beyond training to organizational development and talent management and has done extensive work in the areas of Organizational Effectiveness & Workforce Transformation, Leadership Development, Talent Management and Functional Competence Enhancement.