The Synchronous Online Flipped Learning Approach

I began flipping my face-to-face classes in 2012 and then later on realized that I was still lecturing in my online classes – and teaching them in a very traditional way – even though they were totally synchronous.  This seemed crazy!  I meet them every week just like my on-campus students, so why not flip?  I began flipping with my online linguistics course in 2015 with mixed results.  I realized I needed a different approach to flipping for an online class and could not simply migrate the face-to-face flip. So, after several semesters of experimenting, I hit upon a new course design, not perfect by any means, but a great start.  I call this design SOFLA – the Synchronous Online Flipped Learning Approach (Marshall & Rodriguez-Buitrago, forthcoming).  In my version of this design for my grammar course for teachers, I have also included a Peer Instruction In-Flip Component.


The Synchronous Online Flipped Learning Approach (SOFLA)

I was offering this five-week intensive pedagogical grammar course online for the very first time.  It had never been flipped in its face-to-face version, so this iteration was the first for both an online delivery and a flipped learning approach.

I created my video lectures using Zaption, now migrated to PlayPosit (formerly Educannon), which enabled me to insert questions strategically throughout the lecture.  Students were required to respond before the video would restart.  I also entered feedback they could see for their correct or incorrect responses.  All student responses were downloadable for assessment purposes. In this way, I maintained individual accountability and could see what was problematic for the group as a whole as well as for individual students. These learner analytics were used as input for the next synchronous class session.

We met synchronously as a class regularly, just as for a face-to-face class, the same number of contact hours.  Adobe Connect was our virtual classroom.  We had a routine for each class session: (1) sign-in activity; (2) small group practice activities with me popping in and out of each group meeting room; (3) exploring the next unit with “Discovery Activities” from the textbook (Musallam, 2013); (4) peer instruction in-flip segment (Gonzalez, 2014); (5) assignment for the coming week; and finally, (6) a reflection board where they each posted one take-away from the evening’s class. Recordings of these sessions – except for the small group work – were available subsequently for review or in case of absence.  


Peer Instruction In-Flip Component

Carolina Rodriguez-Buitrago, Institución Universitaria Colombo Americana, Única, Colombia, guided me in developing a peer instruction in-flip component.  We set up this component so that the teachers could practice their own video lessons and teach one “troublespot” of English grammar that nonnative speakers would find especially challenging.  Each student had to create a slide deck and learn to use Screencast-o-Matic to create an 8-minute video lesson. They then uploaded their videos to our Peer Instruction Video Playlist in YouTube.

Adobe Connect permits the use of “Breakout Rooms,” in which students can meet separately in small groups.  We took advantage of this feature to establish rotation stations.  For each weekly session, three students would teach a 20-minute grammar lesson by showing their uploaded video and pausing to ask questions, as well as answer fellow students’ questions.  They concluded with a short quiz that I was able to download to see the individual results from each student.  This provided a sense of both how effective the peer instruction was and the extent of each student’s mastery of the troublespot.  

As a final task, each student created a wiki page for their troublespot, complete with the slides, the in-lesson questions, the quiz, and useful websites for more information about their grammar point.  Some included other elements, such as cartoons or more examples and exercises.  

On their course evaluations, students rated this component as one of the most valuable of the entire experience, both as peer instructors and as learners.  As a side benefit, they were very enthusiastic about learning to use Screencast-o-Matic, which was our go-to application for making the videos, and many said they planned to try it for their own teaching going forward.  


Asynchronous Component

In addition to meeting in Adobe Connect, we maintained a Blackboard site for the course.  Here, I placed all course materials, procedural information, resources, links to the lectures, the playlist, the student wiki, the class recordings, video tutorials for all the course components, and a discussion board.


Findings and Discussion

First, I’d like to share my take-aways in terms of the Four Pillars of F-L-I-PTM (Flipped Learning Network, 2014).     The Flipped Learning Network (FLN) has developed a framework for implementing flipped learning that consists of four overarching components: flexible environment, learning culture, intentional content, and professional educator.  For each, the FLN provides a description and two to three indicators to guide educators as they flip their instruction.   

Flexible Environment:   My most important finding in this area was the importance of individual accountability.  Where I ensured accountability, results were positive.  This included the Adobe Connect sessions (30 points), the Zaption lessons (10 points), the Troublespot assignment (15 points), the two quizzes (10 points each) and final exam (25 points). When I neglected to hold them accountable, there were issues; this occurred for the practice exercises in breakouts, where some students came prepared and others not, the polls in breakout rooms from the peer instruction, and the discussion board, which was optional.

Learning Culture:   Here the major finding was that they highly valued the peer interaction, both in their small groups to work on exercises and for the peer instruction. They enjoyed interacting with each other, not only hearing from me.  That said, they also appreciated my jumping in and being available to them at a moment’s notice during the class session.

Intentional Content:   The key here, I found, was to make the content accessible in a variety of formats:   textbook, slides, video lessons, websites, pdf files, recordings of class – each of these contributed to their learning, as different students interacted with the content in different formats.  

Professional Educator:  The major insight I gained was the value of collaboration with colleagues.  Working with Professor Rodriguez-Buitrago was a key factor in the success of the design.  I constantly consulted with her and we tweaked the components continually as we went along.  Previously, I had been more or less isolated, flipping on my own, as no other faculty on my campus was inclined to join me. I highly recommend having your own “guide on the side” when you experiment with flipped learning models.

As for quantitative data, I did collect some information regarding student viewpoints on the experience (Marshall, 2016).  As you will note from the presentation slides (See Appendix A) showing graphs and student quotes, SOFLA resulted in shifts in perspective.  There was an increase in student appreciation of online learning and learning through video.  There was also a strong positive response on the synchronous sessions in Adobe Connect and the Peer Instruction component.  Nearly all students rated the overall structure of the course very highly and preferable to a traditional structure.


Future Directions

As I continue with SOFLA and the Peer Instruction In-Flip, together with my colleague, I hope to collect additional data on student mastery in this model compared with a traditional grammar course.  In addition, I am always looking for others who are interested in flipping online courses synchronously and would be enthusiastic about working with any of you to shift your own courses over to this innovative course design.




Flipped Learning Network. (2014). The Four Pillars of F-L-I-P. Retrieved from

Gonzalez, J. (2014, March 24).  Modifying the Flipped Classroom: The “In-Class” Version. Retrieved February 1, 2017 from

Marshall, H. W. (July, 2016).  Flipping the online learning space.  Paper presented at FlipCon 2016, Allen, TX.

Marshall, H.W. & Rodriguez-Buitrago, C. J. (forthcoming).  The synchronous online flipped learning approach – SOFLA. TEIS Newsletter, TESOL International Association.

Musallam, R. (2013, January 5). A Pedagogy-First Approach to the Flipped Classroom. Retrieved February 1, 2017, from–instruction/a-pedagogy-first-approach-to-the-flipped-classroom


Appendix A

Selected Slides from FlipCon 2016 Presentation: Flipping the Online Learning Space









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