More than one way to flip a class: learning analytics for mixed models of learning

Alan Dix

School of Computer Science, Universty of Birmingham
and Talis, Birmingham, UK

Work presented at APT 2015, Greenwich, 7th July 2015

Extended version published in Compass Journal


The flipped classroom is at the confluence of multiple digital technologies.  These include technologies for: (i) the creation and sharing of reusable, and possibly open educational resources; (ii) the delivery and consumption of those resources on multiple platforms, possibly adapted for or augmented by learners; and (iii) the monitoring and analysis of usage, progress and achievement.   However, unlike online learning, the flipped classroom is set within a matrix of face-to-face contact and personal engagement.

There is a level of continuity and discontinuity in these technologies.

Those who have been involved in education for some years will be aware of research including intelligent teaching systems almost as old as computers; lecture augmentation and video capture in Classroom2000/eClass since the early 1990s (Abowd, 1999); and m-learning almost as far back.  Crucially the ubiquity and low-cost of web delivery led to high-level institutional push towards digital delivery since the mid to late 1990s, sadly driven less by pedagogic goals, than financial considerations – albeit the latter usually misguided.

So, while the term ‘flipped classroom’ is new, both the underlying idea and much of the supporting technology are very familiar.

However, there clearly is a difference in the last few years, both in terms of fully online learning, notably the MOOC revolution, and flipped classroom practice.  This is due in part to the speed and availability of video editing and web delivery (the YouTube effect); in part the ubiquity of devices able to deliver online resources; and in part the changing expectations and skills of students being brought up with social media (UCL, 2008).

In order to study these changing styles of learning, the author delivered a small MOOC in 2013 and then reused the video materials as part of flipped teaching at his university in late 2014 and early 2015.  The latter also enabled him to try for himself a new universal media player developed by Talis, which enables a more consistent user experience and provides detailed usage analytics (‘micro level’ in Buckingham Shum’s (2012) terms).

One of the main lessons was about diversity (hence the title).  Some of the literature on the flipped classroom (e.g. Schell, 2012) suggests a quite uniform pedagogic style for each class, albeit differing between advocates. However, the experience of the author was far more mixed depending on the type of material and workload of the students.  In one class the face-to-face time was all ‘chalk and talk’, but the pre-class video materials enabled students with different backgrounds to come to a similar level.  Others were fully flipped with the ‘information delivery’ in videos and the class used for discussion, and others somewhere between.

As suggested by others (e.g. Long, 2011), fine-grain learning analytics, which were available from Talis Player, were also critical, giving a sense of control (“have they done what I asked?”), and allowing targeted feedback (“I can see most of you have only read the first few pages of this, feel free to skip the middle, but please read the last section too”). While the latter is of clear pedagogic value. it is perhaps the former, control, which is most significant in terms of academic motivation and well-being, a pre-condition to technology adoption and sustainability.

Keywords: learning analytics, flipped classroom, video, MOOC, learning-resource reuse


  1. Abowd, G. (1999). Classroom 2000: An Experiment with the Instrumentation of a Living Educational Environment, IBM Systems Journal 38(4):508–530

  2. Buckingham Shum, S. (2012).  Learning Analytics. UNESCO Policy Brief.

  3. Schell, J. (2012). Choreography of a Flipped Classroom, Turn to your Neighbour, Peer Instruction blog, 

  4. Long, P., & Siemens, G. (2011).  Penetrating the fog: Analytics in learning and education. EDUCAUSE Review, 46(5).

  5. UCL (2008).  Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future. UCL, 11 January 2008  (Report to JISC and the British Library on the "Google Generation") /media/documents/programmes/reppres/gg_final_keynote_11012008.pdf



Alan Dix 5/6/2015