Concerns about student attendance is one of the arguments I’ve heard against flipping. Why would students bother coming to class if they can get all the content on their own time? Unfortunately, my lecture attendance did drop in my flipped classes. Of course, I can’t be sure that attendance decreased solely because of the flip. Maybe “life happened” more often to students in my flipped classes? But I don’t think this is the case. I think that when “life happened” to students in the flipped classes, they were more likely to decide they’d already gotten the content when they watched the video lecture, so attending class simply slipped to a lower priority. They assumed that as long as they completed the content acquisition portion of the flip, they had all the tools they needed to succeed in the class. But these students were missing the part of the flip that moves BEYOND a simple online course. The flip takes advantage of many benefits of online education (self-pacing, differentiated instruction and scheduling flexibility) but then it ADDS a component (active learning during class time with the benefit of instructor feedback) that makes it BETTER (in my opinion) than either modality by itself.
In the process of brainstorming ways to deal with these attendance issues, I began with this: I must actively demonstrate the value of participating in the activities we do during class time.
So this semester, I will assign a relatively small number of points (5% of the course grade) for in-class clicker activities, which I’m hoping will be meaningful and relatively hassle-free. I will give students two free passes to accommodate when “life happens”, and will probably offer bonus points for students who do not use the freebies. They will know the menial consequences of missing class and will see that I value their participation enough to reward them with points. Couple this with some direct coaching and encouragement, and I think I will have a different experience with lecture attendance. I look forward to relaying any changes I see based on these adjustments.
Next week I will report on a talk I am attending at Humboldt State University’s Institute of Student Success. The talk will be given by Eric Mazur, a physicist from Harvard who authoritatively advocates lecture-avoidance and provided powerful inspiration for my original decision to flip my class.