Debating the ‘Flipped Classroom’ at Stanford

January 16, 2012 at 8:22 am 9 comments

A blog from a Stanford student who took the online CS classes is raising some attention.  Who loses in online, “flipped” classrooms?  Maybe it’s the students who are there face-to-face.  Wouldn’t it be ironic if the efforts to expand the audience for the university, by putting classes on-line, ends up driving away the students who come to the brick-and-mortar university?

“Online lectures suck. Sure, they’re great for rainy days or people learning at a distance or people that don’t go to Stanford. However, these new classes are getting rid of in-person lectures completely. I met barely anyone in my CS229a class. Everything was done alone in my room, which is kind of crappy especially when there is such a nice campus right outside.”

“The initiative that Stanford has taken to open up education is great. However, God help me if all my classes become 2 hour weekly online lectures with review questions and auto-graded programming exercises. Stanford can expect a letter from me asking to get a cut in my tuition if the classes begin to go the way of CS229a.”

via Debating the ‘Flipped Classroom’ at Stanford – Wired Campus – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. John Pane  |  January 16, 2012 at 8:30 am

    This doesn’t sound like a “flipped” classroom if there is no in-class time at all.

  • 2. Edward Bujak  |  January 16, 2012 at 9:22 am

    I agree with John Pane.
    Online classes are not flipped classes,especially what you said about the distance learning students. If they are “at a distance” then they did not go to the P2P sessions that follow the learning outside of the class.

    I also agree with the Stanford student that online classes are not necessarily a good thing. Why pay full tuition for an online class? Why do an online class if you are on campus. There are some individuals that cannot self monitor, adjust and persevere with a distance learning environment.

  • 3. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  January 16, 2012 at 10:40 am

    I commented on the same CHE article at

  • 6. Jung Choi (@jung_gt)  |  January 16, 2012 at 10:55 am

    Yes, flipped classrooms have formative assessment and peer learning during class time. The student complaint seems legitimate, to pay Stanford tuition for on-line coursework.

  • 7. Cecily  |  January 16, 2012 at 11:31 am

    I think a major problem with CS229a is that basically all a student is paying for is “credit”. In old-school, pre-Internet days, when a student paid tuition, they paid for access to information, access to an instructor, access to a library, access to a classroom, access to a carefully selected peer group, and of course “credit”, some intangible concept that allows students to get degrees, and theoretically helps students get jobs. In those days, there were lots of very real expenses associated with acquiring information- information was conveyed in books which had to be printed on paper and marketed and that was a very expensive process. The information is still the most valuable part of education, but now instead of being the most expensive part to produce it is the cheapest, thanks to the Internet. The idea of “credit’ is actually the least valuable part of education(it is really only useful for paper-screening when it comes to job applications, as real mastery is usually tested again in an interview), and yet in the bizarre world of Internet education, credit has now become the most expensive component. Access to a teacher and a peer group remain very valuable but provide a problem in the economics of internet education because teachers and peers do not scale well . Most instructors that I’ve seen lose significant instructional efficacy when they have more than 12-15 students, and most students benefit most from having one or maybe two or three people to bounce ideas off of. Scheduling a group of people at a mutually beneficial time is complicated. Carefully designed intelligent tutoring systems and educational data mining have the potential to mitigate the challenges of teaching on a grander scale. I suspect that at some point in the next 5-10 years the software and data situation will have improved enough that computer models will be better at many aspects of education than human teachers; right now, most tutoring systems are laboriously designed by teachers and students who manually tweak them for specific subjects and populations. This is roughly tantamount to the old days of the Internet when engineers at Yahoo carefully created categories and manually indexed much of the information. At some point though, the Internet outgrew that system- there was too much data to manually index it all and there was enough data for robust statistical approaches. At some point in the not too distant future, I suspect we will see a similar flip in Internet-based education.

  • 8. Darakhshan Mir (@sciencemeandyou)  |  January 24, 2012 at 10:20 am

    I like the questions that are being raised in the debates that online classes have helped provoke, such as

    I wonder if we had to wait for online classes for these very important questions of exclusivity and the educational caste system to be raised and widely talked about. If online classes are not democratizing education per se, they really are making people think about why access to quality education is not more egalitarian. That is a purpose well-served!

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