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Making the flip: Omri Shimron applies flipped instruction to music theory

Omri Shimron, Associate Professor of Music, has been incorporating flipped instruction into one of his music courses this semester. Flipped instruction is a pedagogical model in which new course content is delivered outside of class, thus reserving class time for activities that apply the new material. Shimron has chosen to flip Materials of Music III, which is the third course in a four-part sequence of music theory classes that are required of all Music majors. 

Why flip?

Shimron participated in a course on flipped instruction this past summer. Though he thinks that flipped methodology can be applied to a variety of contexts, he felt that it would be especially helpful for this particular music theory course. “Things weren’t working as well as I wanted them to work–in the sense that, the application of concepts happened when students were working on their own, and that’s when they needed me most,” he said. “I was thinking of ways of how I could be more present for the application phase versus just the content delivery phase.”

Flip-in-progress

As we have seen with several professors implementing flipped instruction, Shimron has not fully flipped his entire course. Fully committing to a flipped model takes a lot of time and preparation. “I’m using flipped methodologies from time to time, but my course is still a mix of traditional instruction with the flipped methods,” he said.

However, Shimron is taking steps to make the full flip. He is currently in the process of applying for a grant that will allot him more time to “plan an entire course or even a series of courses using flipped methods.”

To flip or not to flip?

For students and the learning process, Shimron believes that the pros of flipping outweigh the cons. However, he emphasizes that it requires a great deal of time investment. “I’m still not convinced, from the professor’s perspective, that the amount of work you put into making videos necessarily makes administering the class easier,” he said. Therefore, in that respect, Shimron is still grappling with the pros and cons of flipping.

Another challenge presented by the flipped model is student accountability. “Just because [the new content] is delivered in the form of a video doesn’t necessarily mean that students will be more motivated to watch it.” Though Shimron agrees that the visual nature of videos is more appealing to this generation of students, he still believes that some other system of accountability needs to be in place in order to ensure that students watch them. The example that Shimron offers is requiring students to complete a quiz after viewing the video.

Flipped technology

Making instructional videos and screencasts for a flipped classroom may require learning new technology skills, which Shimron found to be very time-consuming. “There’s certainly a learning curve in terms of technology,” he said. Furthermore, factors such as appropriate pace, length, and visuals must be taken into consideration in order to create videos that students will respond to.

However, Shimron was able to receive help from Teaching and Learning Technologies. “Not only were they responsive and supportive, but also very proactive, in terms of finding software that could help us with the technological bits,” he said. Nowadays, Shimron thinks that people who are “phobic of technology” have less of an excuse because it is becoming much easier to learn the necessary skills and receive the necessary support.

Shimron uses Screencast-O-Matic to create his screencasts. He finds it to be user-friendly and likes that the process can be as involved as the user desires. To read more about this screen-capturing program click here. Below you will find an example of one of Shimron’s screencasts that he uses in his class.

Students’ response

The response of Shimron’s students has been “generally positive,” though he hesitates to say that flipping has “really revolutionized his class.” However, Shimron thinks that he will be able to get a better feel for students’ reactions once he flips his course “in a more comprehensive way,” rather than applying it “sporadically.”

Shimron prepared his students for the flipped format by announcing it in class. He also went through a step-by-step process of how to access the videos on Moodle. However, in the future he hopes to spend more time explaining it and “‘selling’ it to them, so to speak.”

Flipping advice for other faculty

Shimron advises, like with any other pedagogy, to be sure that flipped instruction “matches your learning objectives.” That way, “you’re not just doing it because it’s ‘cool’ for you or ‘cool’ for your students, but so that real learning is taking place,” he said.

Overall, Shimron encourages other faculty to try the flipped format because students of today are already exposed to to a great deal of online content. “It seems like a natural extension of that phenomenon to also engage them with their classes through online methods,” he said.

“Music Note Bokeh” image source can be accessed here. 

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