Flipped Learning in Organic Chemistry (Mellon Grant Report)

My project was to flip first semester organic chemistry, CHEM 221. I hoped to see a lower withdraw rate, higher grades on standardized ACS exams, and overall higher grades for the class. Based on the initial outcomes, I decided to take the same approach in CHEM 222, Organic Chemistry II.

In the flipped class students watch 30-50 min. of prerecorded video prior to coming to class. Students are then allowed to either ask questions about the videos or work on problems/worksheets that I  prepare for the class time. Additionally, students are required to take a post video quiz either using Moodle (class management system) or Socrative (free app) to hold them accountable for video watching before class.

The videos were recorded by me in my office, and edited and produced using iMovie. The videos were then compressed using Handbrake (freeware) and posted in Moodle where students have access 24/7 to the videos. Students in other sections of CHEM 221 and CHEM 222 have access to the videos through a guest account to my course. The in-class video quizzes were conducted using Socrative, a classroom response application. Unfortunately, several students did not have reliable access to a smart phone/ or had connection issues to the network, so they received paper copies. The quizzes were to check to see if student watched the videos on time.

The initial offering of the flipped course was novel to a large majority of the students (only one out of twenty-three had ever experienced such a course). By the third offering, though, the novelty is not as great, as nearly half of my course had previous experience with a Flipped course. This is mostly due to the fact that Dr. John Richardson has begun to flip CHEM 111, General Chemistry I.

For the initial offering of the flipped CHEM 221, students were diligent in watching videos prior to class and the quiz grades typically ranged between 75-85%. For the second offering of the course, a significant number of students did not do well on the quizzes, average scores where 50-75%. Looking at the number of views (in Moodle) on a daily basis, it is clear that several students binge-watched the videos on the weekends or before an exam. This defeats the purpose of the flipped class. When students participate in this type of behavior, they can not participate in class since they have not seen the videos. For the third offering (fall 2016), quiz results were mixed; while some students did poorly, the class average was between 70 and 80%, indicating better viewing habits.

Overall, I plan on continuing to offer my content heavy courses (CHEM 111, 112, 221, and 222) as flipped courses. I find the class much more dynamic in this format, with students asking question about material instead of being presented material for the first time in lecture. I will say that this does require the instructor to have complete mastery of the material, since students are asking more than surface questions. Typically, in a class session, only 2-4 students drive the question-answer sessions. It has been a major comment on my student evaluations that many students do not find these question-answer class sessions to be particularly useful. But of course it is always the case that some students are better prepared for class than others. In future offerings, I believe that I can increase routine student video viewing by increasing the weight of the video quizzes. Currently it is considered homework and is rolled into the homework grade, which is only 10% of the overall grade.

As for overall drop rates, my classes have seen significantly lower drop/withdrawal (D/W) rates in the last three years compared to the preceding five years. The preceding five year period had a D/W rate of close to 20%.  This is in response to the pressures of needed high GPAs for medical school. Students on the B/C borderline would D/W instead of taking the chance of earning a C. Since flipping my D/W rate is approximately 10%. I don’t know if it is due to the flipped class or the requirement of Biochemistry for medical school. Students are more likely to stick out the course to stay on track for the pre-med courses.

My students have not seen a dramatic increase in American Chemical Society (ACS) standardized exams scores. Average scores on the ACS exam for organic chemistry are typically higher than the national average by 5-10 questions. This was true before the flip as well as after the flip. I can say that at least the flipped class has not hurt student performance on this metric.

I will be offering flipped classes for the foreseeable future, but I will clearly identify them as such, so that students registering for the course will have an option to register for a traditional lecture if they have strong opinions against the flipped method.

I would like to end this report with student responses to some questions that I have asked for each offering of the flipped course. Students were offered extra credit at the end of the term to complete the anonymous survey. Students were given extra credit if 80% of the class responded to the survey.  For three years of offering I was able to collect 77 responses. The answered are given in % response. Most students (~60-65%) believe that the flipped model is better than traditional lectures, while 10-15% do not think the flipped model worked for them and they would avoid a flipped model in the future

QuestionResponses (%) (n=77)
1. Have you ever participated in a flipped class before?
  • Yes
  • 78
  • No
  • 17
  • Partial
  • 5
    2. Which best describes how you prepare for each class session?
  • I watched the videos once
  • 15
  • I watched the videos once and took notes
  • 45
  • I watched the videos more than once
  • 5
  • I watched the videos more than once and took notes
  • 30
  • I did not watch the videos before class
  • 5
    3. Did the viewing quizzes hold you accountable?
  • Yes, the viewing quizzes kept me on track
  • 70
  • Yes, but they were not valued enough
  • 10
  • No, they were just annoying
  • 20
    4. Compared to listening to classroom lecture, watching the videos before class
  • was much more helpful for my learning
  • 43
  • was somewhat more helpful for my learning
  • 20
  • helped me learn about the same
  • 20
  • was somewhat less helpful for my learning
  • 9
  • was much less helpful for my learning
  • 8
    5. During the in-class activities, I felt active and engaged in my learning
  • all of the time
  • 18
  • most of the time
  • 38
  • some of the time
  • 20
  • occasionally
  • 18
  • never
  • 6
    6. Overall, I believe the flipped class approach helped me learn more effectively than the traditional class
  • strongly agree
  • 25
  • agree
  • 32
  • no opinion
  • 21
  • disagree
  • 13
  • strongly disagree
  • 9
    7. For a second semester course, if you had a choice between a flipped class model and a traditional lecture class, which would best describe your choice?
  • I would definitely sign up for the flipped class
  • 35
  • I would prefer a flipped class but it doesn't matter
  • 25
  • I would have no preference
  • 14
  • I would prefer to have a traditional lecture
  • 14
  • I would definitely avoid a flipped class
  • 12