Flipping the lecture - making time for discussion


School of Modern Languages, University of Bristol



Tools used


“Flipping the classroom” has been defined as:

“...students gain first exposure to new material outside of class, usually via reading or lecture videos, and then use class time to do the harder work of assimilating that knowledge, perhaps through problem-solving, discussion, or debates.” (Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching)


Mark used this approach on a second year unit, ‘Political Systems of Modern Europe’. The course itself consists of a large amount of factual information on countries’ political systems and their historical development, combined with matters of topical interest. Discussion of the rich material informs the higher-level analytical approach to comparative politics and forms the basis of the assessment tasks..

The course itself is divided into three parts: foundations of studying European political systems; individual countries’ political systems, both current and under dictatorship; and finally thematic approaches to revising political systems.

Feedback from previous years’ students indicated that they felt there was a large amount of the face-to-face lecture time, when they would have preferred discussion.

Mark wanted to explore ways of addressing this and utilising the Re/Play technology available to him as an Early Adopter.

What was done

As part of the Early Adopters Program for Re/Play, all classes for this unit for the 2014/15 academic session would be automatically recorded and added to Blackboard.

Mark looked at the structure of the current teaching and decided that, in order to increase the amount of time available in class for discussion, he would record the factual materials relating to individual countries in advance. Mark found that in an hour of recording time he could cover the equivalent of two hours of face-to-face lecturing.

Students were asked to watch these materials in advance of the lecture, as this would be where Mark would be doing his lecturing, and the class time would be spent discussing the material and asking questions.

Using Re/Play desktop recorder, he also recorded a short introduction; introducing himself, the unit, the approaches to teaching, and describing the structure of the Blackboard site.

What worked well

The automated recording process of the face-to-face sessions worked without problems.

The process of recording the shorter videos using the Re/Play desktop recorder was really easy, requiring little technical know-how.

Pre-recording the lecture material was a great way of utilising time: in a one-hour recording period, two hours of lectures could be delivered. There is no need to consider speed of delivery for students taking notes, and no interruptions/pauses for questions.

The analytics provided by Re/Play have been very useful, showing what had been watched, which parts of the recordings had been focused on, and who had been watching.

He found that most students had watched most of the recordings and were often more knowledgeable than if they were asked to read a text.

Overall, it was a very valuable experience for Mark and his students and they have enjoyed it. Students have said that, because of the recordings being there, they have spent more time studying for the unit. The analytics also demonstrate that students used the recordings again during their exam revision period.

Issues and considerations

It’s important that, prior to recording, you ensure your notes are ready, powerpoint slides are loaded, and desktop is tidy.

Think about the timings of each recording and divide the topics into chunks that can be recorded in ten minutes or less. Label them clearly, so they are easily found by the students, and they know what they are about to watch, and where to find the topics they wish to revise at subsequent viewings, particularly before the exam.

One of the biggest challenges for him, and others considering the practice, is to work out how to use the time freed up in classes. Mark thinks that this is an iterative process, but prior to each session he would have a general point to discuss, and he also allowed time to discuss the questions the students would raise from watching the recordings. In future years, he intends to structure the freed-up class time with more targeted assignments.