Kevin Kelly
Kevin Kelly
Director, Wiley Learning Institute

I gave a presentation on Flipping Professional Development as part of a May 2013 Wiley Executive Seminar panel on The Changing World of Learning, with Jeff Cobb (@jtcobb)  from Tagoras and Ryan Watkins from George Washington University. I expand on my presentation in this blog post.

For several years now, instructors around the world have been “flipping” the learning experience--i.e., sharing learning content asynchronously to free up time for more meaningful learning activities. The emphasis for instructors has shifted from being primarily subject matter experts who impart knowledge to becoming discipline-specific learning facilitators. As we combine the participatory, social engagement of Web 2.0 with a more personalized, semantic experience in Web 3.0, we can leverage a wide array of technologies to flip both teaching and learning experiences. The availability of so many technologies makes it easier for instructors (or trainers) to follow the Universal Design for Learning framework; namely, to provide multiple pathways for learners to consume content, engage in online and in-person activities, and show what they know.

Instructors who flip a learning experience might share content from numerous sources, ranging from finding resources online to creating their own.  For presentations and demos, they might combine vetted online recordings--e.g., iTunes U, YouTube, TED, and Khan Academy--with their own screencasts or lecture captures. For other types of learning materials, they may create new learning objects or draw from sources like MOOCs, Connextions, or MERLOT. For flipped learning to work, instructors also must use various activities, such as discussion, role play, problem solving in pairs, working through cases, and group projects, to engage learners in different ways and promote applying what they have learned. These flipped learning techniques have proven successful since 2007 in K-12 classrooms and more recently in higher education. In light of these practices and successes, why aren’t more institutions, associations, and societies using these same techniques for professional development?

Organizations can practice flipped learning to meet internal training needs, but associations and societies have begun to express interest in flipping regional, national, and even international professional development experiences. Just four months ago, leaders from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) made the decision to flip part of its July 2013 Annual Meeting and avoid the common “sit and listen” conference experience. For the month leading up to the meeting, Leadership Seminar participants reviewed three recorded presentations--30-40 minutes each--to prepare for the face-to-face experience. At the Annual Meeting, the recorded presenter became the live facilitator, leading around 80 participants through 12 activities in six hours. The AACP leaders are still collecting evaluation data from the event, but early anecdotes show that participants are ready both to participate in more flipped events and to flip professional development at their own institutions.

LEARN STARTUP.pngThis sparks another question. As associations like AACP gather feedback about professional development events, are we measuring anything with respect to what has been learned within our organizations? The flipped learning landscape should allow us to put greater emphasis on authentic assessment for institutional accountability and career development for personal growth. Learners and practitioners can use tools such as ePortfolios to show what they know, and leaders can use organizational ePortfolios to share effective practices within and among our organizations.

Looking at things more globally, the flipped approach drives further research and discussion about changes in the roles instructors play in the learning process and how their time is used. In The Lean Startup, Eric Ries (@ericries) suggested a cyclical, Build-Measure-Learn model, wherein an entrepreneur takes an idea, creates a simple product or service, makes changes based on data collected from customers, and repeats until reaching success. For our purposes, let’s add an R to the title and a twist to the model. To create a “Learn Startup,” I propose we take our professional development ideas, create flipped learning experiences, and make changes based on authentic assessment data and feedback collected from learners and practitioners. These days, it’s not enough to survive. It’s time for us to adapt to changes in the learning environment, so we can help professionals to thrive.