LARGE SCALE FLIPPED PROGRAMMING COURSES

N. van Diepen, R. Chung, R. Holwerda, L. Tijsma, J. Treffers, K. van Turnhout, R. Bakker

HAN University of Applied Sciences, Arnhem (NETHERLANDS)
In order to improve programming skills of students in computing at our Dutch University of Applied Sciences, two years ago we flipped two courses of 300 students each. This was based on two previous years of experience in a 25 student course. Theory and instruction in these courses is now studied at home by our students and they submit homework in advance of each lecture. During lectures, feedback is given on assignments, common mistakes are discussed, additional explanation is provided and homework for the next lecture is introduced.

Initial feedback was very positive. Students liked the approach and put more effort in the courses. Teaching staff was more satisfied with student levels at the end of the course. Dropout levels remained the same, a success considering the improved level of examination of the students.
Two methods were used to validate the success of our approach. The flipped class was first analyzed using Chickering’s Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. Five out of seven practices are achieved, especially active learning, prompt feedback, and time on task. Also, contacts between students and staff was improved, which facilitated the communication of high expectations.

A year ago, we took this further by applying a Lean analysis. A Lean approach focuses on reducing waste in processes. Based on a Canvas Business Model for higher education in the Netherlands, we analysed processes from a Stakeholder’s perspective. From a student point of view, waste in education is time not spent on learning. In numerous studies, it has been shown that student learning during lectures is rather limited. Also in our non-flipped courses, students spend much time on social media, games, etc. In our flipped courses, the lectures are in depth discussion on student issues. As a result both time spent on learning in advance of and during a class has increased.

From a staff point of view, a Lean analysis is slightly more complicated. The effectiveness of the approach is once more measured by student time not spent on learning. However, from a management point of view, staff time should not increase. Instead of preparing lectures, staff in the flipped classroom setting prepare interactive lessons based on submitted student work. An extra is preparing the flipped class material (video’s and exercises). Unfortunately, in the rapidly changing field of computing, this material requires annual updates. So staff time increases due to production and updates.

Finally Dutch society, represented by the government is an important stakeholder. The Dutch government is worried about drop-outs and considers drop-outs as waste in educational processes. By forcing students to spend more time on learning and enforcing steady study behaviour, the flipped classroom should achieve better student results. Unfortunately, the percentage of successful students did not change in the programming courses as staff raised the level of examination.

Currently we are improving ICT support for staff to reduce waste. Also, work has been done on improving reading material for the course to support another Chickering principle: support for various ways of learning.

Our conclusions are that educational and LEAN principles support the Flipped Classroom and that students appreciate the novel approach. However, ICT support should be improved.