Skip navigation

Integrating a flipped lecture into a laboratory course

The flipped classroom model allows for active student learning by 'reversing' the traditional classroom structure. The content traditionally delivered inside the classroom (i.e. lectures) is recorded and provided to students online, while the in-class time is dedicated to identifying knowledge gaps and problem-solving.

This develops a more collaborative environment and provides more one-on-one interaction between instructors and students. Still, there is a disparity in the instructor to student ratio, lecture/lab correlation, and other variables.

In the Biotransport laboratory course taught at Purdue University's Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, an innovative structure was implemented to address this.

The Biotransport laboratory course is taught at the junior level with a focus on experimental design, computational modeling, and statistical analysis. The lab introduces 3 distinct open-ended modules covering the delivery of nutrients to tissues, drug distribution throughout the body, and preservation of cells in deep freeze.

Traditionally, the lab sections were supplemented by an additional stand-alone lecture. The novelty of the course restructuring is that lecture material is available online, the stand-alone lecture has been eliminated, and the problem-solving activities brought into each lab section.

The main drawback to this structure is that it requires additional time commitment from the instructor. Instead of managing one lecture session per week for the entire class, the instructor now delivers problem-solving activities four times a week at the start of each lab section.

However, due to the smaller class size in the lab, the content was more easily covered and required less overall time. Additionally, this structure makes it intuitive for students and instructors to carry on with discussions after the ''lecture'' portion is completed.

The success of this change was determined based on several factors:
- The ratio of students to instructors was dramatically decreased by 73.4%
- The mandatory in-class time was reduced from 4 to 3 hours per week
- 33% increase in student use of office hours and out of class time for lab work
- Student satisfaction was evident through midterm and end of semester course evaluations

Additionally, the success of this new course structure is evident by increases in overall student performance. Students' grasp of the material has improved steadily over the four years that the format changes have been in progress. One of the unexpected positive outcomes of this new format was an increase in the time that students were working together with their team outside of normally scheduled lab hours.

Student success in the senior capstone design course has improved because of the use of open-ended modules and emphasis on teamwork. Another measure of success is student enthusiasm for the course. One student remarked, ''I like the new format with no lecture on Monday and instead watching online lectures and beginning the lab with a discussion. After completing the first module I feel I have a better understanding of the process for designing an experiment.''

Contacts:
Tamara Kinzer-Ursem, Assistant Professor, tursem@purdue.edu
Asem Aboelzahab, Instructional Laboratory Coordinator, aboelzahab@purdue.edu