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Flipping the Classroom

What is flipping the classroom?
Why flip?
How can you flip?
Getting started with flipping.

What is flipping the classroom?

Flipping the classroom, or ‘inverted teaching’ is a response to the idea that class time can be used to engage students in learning through active learning techniques, rather than through delivering lectures alone. Flipping the classroom is the process of replacing traditional lectures with more student-centered learning strategies, such as active learning, discussions, problem-based learning, and other forms of group work and peer instruction. Content delivery is moved outside of the classroom, for example, through videos, or pre-class readings.

There is no one formula for flipping a class, as the amount of flipping from course to course, and class to class can vary. Here are examples from both ends of the spectrum:

      • An instructor integrates a 5-10 minute hands-on learning activity into a class period and consequently lectures for 5-10 minutes less.
      • An instructor designs a course in which content is delivered completely through video segments, pre-class reading and exercises, while class time is used entirely for group work activities.

Why flip?

      • Moving content outside of the classroom allows for more class time to be spent on engaging learning activities such as peer instruction or active learning.
      • Interactive teaching techniques, such as the two mentioned above, have been shown to enhance learning (Crouch, & Mazur, 2001; Deslauriers, Schelew & Wieman, 2011).
      • With the advent of technology that can more easily facilitate content delivery, such as lecture capture, videos, podcasts and other online information, there are now more ways for learners to access knowledge. The lecture is less essential to content delivery than it once was.
      • Students report that they prefer courses that have online components (ECAR, 2012).

How can you flip the classroom?

With flipped classrooms, the challenges become: “how can I deliver content to students outside of class in meaningful ways, and what can students do in class that encourages meaningful learning?” As in blended learning courses, instructors must determine what can be accomplished best online, what can be accomplished best in class sessions, and how online and in-class activities can best be integrated for optimal learning.

How to move the lecture outside the classroom:
Instructors do many things to remove lecture from a class session. Often these strategies are facilitated by technology:

      • Assign pre-class readings and have students complete quizzes on this reading before coming to class.
      • Create videos that explore a topic and require students to watch them before class.
      • Integrate quizzes, or some other kind of activity that engages students with the material, such as having students come to class with one or two questions they have about the topic.
      • Have students contribute to online discussions by requiring them to find, post, and draw connections to relevant online information.

Moving learning outside of the class requires students to self-regulate their learning. In order to support students in doing so, try these techniques:

      • Communicate how much time-on-task is expected for each learning activity.
      • Provide a rubric to articulate what assignment outcomes are expected and how they will be assessed.
      • Encourage students to create a learning plan. This is more crucial for courses that require a lot of online work.
      • Break larger online assignments up into smaller pieces and create staggered deadlines along the way.
      • Incorporate peer feedback. For example, if students are required to post reading responses, include responses to peers’ responses as part of the assignment.
      • Include incentives for completing online or out of class assignments. For example, for reading assignments, require students to do a pre-class quiz on Blackboard and have these quizzes be a small part of students’ grades. Alternatively, give a quick 5-minute quiz at the beginning of a class session and allow students to earn bonus points for correct answers.
      • For required pre-class quizzes, Blackboard’s adaptive release feature allows you to provide students with additional information only when they attain a certain score on a quiz, providing incentive to not only complete the quiz, but to do well on it.
      • Discuss the expectation you have for students to preview content before class. Instill accountability for not doing pre-class activities by noting that not doing so decreases the value of class session activities for both themselves and the students they work with. Students should be held responsible for not letting themselves or their classmates down. Establishing ground rules can help.

Be aware that the effectiveness of your class activities can be influenced by whether or not students have come to class prepared. Think ahead about how you will incentivize students to complete their pre-class assignments. This article discusses the effectiveness of two approaches to get students to read.

How to incorporate active learning:
Once students have been exposed to content before class, any number of things can be done in class:

Learning opportunities:

      • Active learning techniques: Allow students to apply concepts in class where they can ask peers or instructors for feedback and clarification.
      • Peer instruction: Students can teach each other by explaining concepts or working on small problems.
      • Collaborative Learning: There are a number of activities students can do to enhance understanding, and provide opportunities to apply knowledge.
      • Group work: If group work is one of the ways you plan on assessing your students, giving them time in class to do their group work activities alleviates the inconvenience of holding meetings outside of class time (ultimately leading to fewer issues of participation), and gives you a chance to check in on how things are going.
      • Problem-based learning: Class time can be spent working on problems that can last for the duration of a semester.
      • Discussions or debates: Give students the opportunity to articulate their thoughts on the spot and to develop their arguments in support of their opinions or claims.

Assessment opportunities:

      • Having students engage with working on assignments in class gives you the opportunity to provide ongoing feedback.
      • Students can also provide peer feedback to each other and respond to feedback they receive. This encourages a dialogue on student work and focuses on the process rather than on the final product. It also ensures that students receive feedback regularly and gives students practice at assessing work.


      • Students may not all be enthusiastic about active learning techniques. Explain why you are using this technique and describe the learning benefits. Focus on engaging more students in more meaningful ways.
      • Opening the class to active learning makes it less predictable. Have a plan for a few possible directions a discussion can take, and decide how you will signal that a learning activity is over and it is time to debrief and move on. Some instructors flip the lights on and off, especially for larger classes.
      • Realize that you may be relinquishing some control of your class session, which can feel understandably risky. Through a learning activity, you may learn that a significant amount of students do not understand a concept, which prevents you from moving on to the next part of your class plan. Perhaps a heated debate on a controversial issue erupts unexpectedly. Realize that this comes with the territory and the more these events happen, the more practice and skilled you will become in predicting and dealing with them. When using interactive learning activities, have a back up plan. For potential heated debates, reflect on the material ahead of time to predict what could happen. Classrooms with inclusive climates endure these events with more ease. Read more on building inclusive classrooms, leading discussions, and dealing with hot moments.

Getting started with flipping.

      • Start small. Choose one class, and one new activity that you would like to try.

        Here is an example: Instead of taking questions at the end of a lecture, you create an online FAQ board for students to post and answer each other’s questions. With the time it usually takes to address (usually the same students’) questions, you instead engage the whole class in an active learning technique that actually engages all students with the course material. Pose a question. Have students think about the answer for 2 minutes, and then discuss their answer with a classmate for 2 minutes. Elicit a few examples for the larger class and draw some conclusions.

      • Consult with CTI staff on ways to best flip a class for your particular course.

George Hudler, a CTI Menschel Fellow writes about, among other things, starting to think about flipping the class.


Please note that these PDF files require a CU NetID to access. The links will direct you to a login page.
CTI Moving Content Out of the Class
CTI Designing a Blended Learning Course
CTI Active Learning
CTI Group Work: How to Create and Manage Groups
CTI Group Work: How to Evaluate It


Crouch, C. H., & Mazur, E. (2001). Peer instruction: Ten years of experience and results. American Journal of Physics, 69, 970.

EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (ECAR) (2012). Dahlstrom, Eden, with a foreword by Charles Dziuban and J.D. Walker. ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2012 (Research Report). Louisville, CO: EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research. Retrieved from:

Deslauriers L, Schelew E, Wieman C. (2011). Improved learning in a large-enrollment physics class. Science, 332, 862-864.
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