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Flipping the Session

Updated 7/22/2012 to include a flipped session from Todd Conaway and Jill Schiefelbein.

The idea

Several months ago Alan Levine and Audrey Watters blogged about the possibility of flipping traditional presentation-centric conferences. Both suggest that presenters share session content prior the conference, and then use the freed up face-to-face time for conversations, debates, and brainstorming on session topics.

As program chair for the 2012 #et4online conference, I brought this idea to the conference steering committee. We agreed to support a small pilot project to test this idea. Four sessions flipped their presentations by sharing content-related videos prior to the conference. (Full disclosure, I am a presenter in two of these sessions and a close colleague of the third presenter. A number of lead presenters turned down an offer to flip because of other commitments prior to the conference.) Each group chose a slightly different path for how they will use their face-to-face time. TechSmith provided free access to a Camtasia Relay server for presenters to record screencasts. (Thanks TechSmith!)

A Bit About the Flipped Sessions

Apps @ the Common Core: MERLOT Teacher Ed Favorites (click link to view session page with flipped videos)

Lead Presenter: Jane Moore (National Louis University, US)
Dorothy Fuller (Black Hills State University, US)
David Wicks (Seattle Pacific University, US)
Cris Guenter (California State University, Chico, US)
Carol Helton (Regents Online Campus Collaborative, Tennessee Board of Regents, US)
Nicole Kendall (Tennessee State University, US)
Robin Blackman (Middle Tennessee State University, US)

Each presenter in this session used Camtasia Relay and AirServer to record a screencast of an iPad app that was to be shared during the original conference session. Flipping the demonstration of apps will allow the presenters to interact with participants in small groups, demonstrating features and answering questions during the face-to-face session.

Improving Student Reflections in Electronic Portfolio Environments (click link to view session page with flipped video)

Lead Presenter: David Denton (Seattle Pacific University, US)

This presenter used Camtasia Relay to record his entire presentation. Flipping his session content will allow more interaction time with participants during his face-to-face session.

Google+ as a Tool for Collaborative Learning (click link to view session page with flipped videos)

Lead Presenter: Karissa Locke (Google, US)
Tess Milligan (Google, US)
Mark Green (Simpson College, US)
David Wicks (Seattle Pacific University, US)

This session demonstrates why one size does not fit all. Google management asked that the presentation not be shared prior to the face-to-face event. Instead, Google+ Hangouts on Air was used by the presenters to create YouTube videos that preview what will be presented during the face-to-face session. A document with links to Google+ tutorials and directions was also shared. The hope is that participants will come to the face-to-face session prepared to ask questions and experiment with some of the shared techniques.

The Human Touch and Your Digital Personality (Presentation information) [Blog posts with video content]

Todd Conaway (Yavapai College, US)
Jill Schiefelbein (Impromptu Guru, US)

The presenters for this session added flipped elements to their session without any prompting from the #et4online steering committee.  They used VoiceThread, YouTube, and WordPress.com to share content prior to the conference. VoiceThread provides a means to make the session learner-centric by facilitating the use of participant answers to questions the presenters plan to ask during their live session. The face-to-face portion of the session can now include discussion of the recorded responses. The presenters also share numerous video examples of how instructors are adding a “Human Touch” to their online courses.


This pilot was a lot of work for all who participated. A total of twenty-four videos were created, accounting for 119 minutes of content. (This total now includes 12 videos and 38 minutes of content from the Conaway and Schiefelbein presentation.) Presenters learned how to use new software and had to think outside the box. I want to publicly thank the presenters for their participation and flexibility. Please support their efforts by watching some of the videos and attending one or more of the face-to-face sessions. Also, the project would have been impossible to complete without the support of TechSmith, Google, and the staff at Sloan-C, specifically R.T. Brown, Katie Fife Schuster, and Christine Hinkley.

Could this project be scaled to cover every session of an entire conference? That would be a lot of work and would require many presenters to change how they prepare for a conference (not a bad consequence as several presenters in the pilot commented that they feel better prepared for the conference after flipping their content.) My recommendation would be to open it up as an option for those who are willing to put in the extra work. If enough presenters participate, conference attendees like Alan and Audrey may be able to fill their entire schedule with flipped sessions.

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