Utilizing VoiceThread to Create a Flipped Classroom: An Example in a Clinical Course

Flipping the class was a game changer for me.”  

Professor Alexis Kuerbis

Professor Kuerbis looked at her fall schedule. The first class was scheduled for 9:00am, the second for 4:00pm. It was going to be long day on campus and teaching a class closer to the end of the day would be exhausting. 

Image of Dr. Kuerbis Teaching

Dr. Alexis Kuerbis presenting on her flipped model for the inaugural SSSW Teaching Consortium in September.

The usual structure of lecturing off PowerPoint slides and engaging students, many of whom might not be prepared, in discussion was not going to work this time. Professor Kuerbis decided she had to make a substantial change to the course format. She wanted students to come to class prepared and she wanted students to be active in their own learning. So, she flipped her 4:00pm Clinical Practice 3 class. 

While there are many variations on the flipped classroom, the basic idea is that students watch recorded lectures and read outside of the classroom; the homework (or activities) is done in the classroom (Tucker, 2012). This model allows the instructor to provide support and guidance to all students as they work through their homework.  

Clinical Practice 3, like most of the courses at Silberman, is a hybrid course.

Instead of students meeting weekly for three hours they meet for two and the third hour is conducted online. Most faculty engage their students in weekly online discussions to meet the one-hour online requirement. Instead of weekly online discussions, which Professor Kuerbis says “can feel like busy work,” she decided to move her lectures online. This solved one of her biggest problems – an hour and fifty minutes just isn’t enough time to cover and apply all the theoretical concepts presented in this course. Requiring students to watch video lectures and take short quizzes on each before they came to class freed up class-time for application activities. 

The Tools

Professor Kuerbis used VoiceThread to record her lectures. She chose it because you can upload PowerPoint slides into the software and then record over each slide individually. This feature is handy if you make a mistake since you only need to re-record over one slide, not the entire presentation. 

There is always a learning curve when working with new technology. For Professor Kuerbis, the one issue she encountered, despite checking her VoiceThread presentation on multiple computers and browsers, was that some students had difficulty viewing the presentation on their computers. This may have been a user issue though (e.g. old computer, dated browser, etc.). 

In VoiceThread, students can post audio, video, and text comments. For this course, however, Professor Kuerbis disables this feature and asks students bring their questions to class. The first 10-15 minutes of the class is reserved for questions about the lectures and readings. Professor Kuerbis also provides a brief review of the lecture during this time frame.  

In addition to VoiceThread, Professor Kuerbis used the Tests feature in Blackboard to create the weekly quiz. She developed a pool of 10 questions for each week and five were presented randomly. For weeks where the content did not lend itself to multiple choice questions she had students write reflections in the Discussion Boards. For example, on the topic of individualist and collectivist culture she asked students to post a case and the cultural differences or similarities and their struggles with it.  

The Development

Flipping the class is time consuming but the “payoff is really

Image of the full room during Dr. Kuerbis's presentation

Dr. Kuerbis shares challenges in flipping her Clinical Practice 3 course.

high” according to Professor KuerbisBecause it is time consuming, it’s best to plan and create materials well before classes begin. It is not the instructional videos on their own, but how they are integrated into an overall approach, that makes the difference” in the flipped model (Tucker, 2012). 

For her CP3 course, Professor Kuerbis spent a considerable amount of time during the summer reformatting her PowerPoint slides for VoiceThread. VoiceThread converts all acceptable file types into static images, therefore animation no longer works. She recorded 7-10 lectures. Most of these were between 30-40 minutes but recording lectures typically takes longer than the finished project when you factor in the technology and rehearsal. Professor Kuerbis also developed pre-class quiz banks and reflection questions to keep her students accountable. Finally, she developed the classroom activities that would replace her class lectures. 

The Format

For this course, the students were required to watch the lectures and do the quizzes or reflection activities prior to coming to class. Students were also expected to read the course readings, but watching the lectures and doing the follow up activities were key to the in-class participation. 

Once in class, Professor Kuerbis reserved the first 10-15 minutes of class to clarify points made in the lecture and take student questions. The rest of the class was dedicated to application activities. The main activity consisted of case presentations. Each week one or two students posted case presentations in the Discussion Boards in Blackboard. In class, they facilitated discussion around the questions and comments posted by the classmateabout these case presentations. The in-class discussion was run like supervision with classmates creating a safe space in order to ask questions that dig deeper and provide feedback to the presenters. 

“The students were way more prepared for class.”

The Implementation

Although Professor Kuerbis was prepared to defend the change in class format, her students surprisingly had no resistance. In fact, based on their engagement throughout the semester and her teacher evaluations, the students really loved the flipped classroomIn requiring students to watch lectures and do the quizzes before class, Professor Kuerbis found that that they were “way more prepared for class and that this preparation “completely changed the classroom dynamic. It really put the students’ learning on fast forward. 

Will she teach this class as a flipped class again? Absolutely! She has made some tweaks. For example, students are now required to post at least one comment about the case presentation in the discussion forum. This suggestion came from her students, who found themselves repeating details of the case during the class presentation instead of leading a discussion.