Getting started

Completely flipping your classroom with videos, clicker questions, etc. is a lot of work. One way to make it happen is to do it in stages. It’s better to do a little bit than nothing at all.

The alarm clock approach
The most common use of clicker questions is to pose a multiple choice clicker question about half-way through the lecture to wake the students up. This begs the question, “Why put them to sleep in the first place?” but it’s better than letting them sleep. It also gives you some feedback on how much the students have absorbed.activating_students_630

If you feel you can’t spare five minutes for a clicker question because you are always hopelessly behind in the lectures, there may be something seriously wrong with the way you teach.

An experiment: is the lecture necessary?
1. Design a reading quiz with two or three questions on a topic you would like to skip in the lecture and that you feel the book explains well.

  1. Pose one or two in-class clicker questions that, if answered correctly by >75% of the students, makes you comfortable skipping the topic in the lecture.
  2. Repeat a very similar in-class question on same topic the following week (yes, you’ll need to repeat material to make it stick).

Convinced? Now:

First year
Look through your lecture notes and replace parts of lectures where you mostly repeat the textbook with reading quizzes and in-class questions.

Second year
Record video lectures in which you deviate from the textbook and use the entire lecture period for questions. This will also free up time for review questions on topics you have already covered.

Third year
Rethink the course in light of what you have learned. Is the book helping or hurting the course? Does it cover what you want in the order you want? If not, consider replacing the textbook entirely with video lectures. When doing so, consider reducing the material in the curriculum.

Clicker questions. In my experience I get through about six good clicker-questions per 45-minute session: about three review questions and three questions on new topics. It’s OK to re-use or only slightly modify questions that you haven’t used for at least a week (if you don’t believe me, try it).

It’s hard to write good clicker questions. Be prepared to replace questions that are too easy or too hard the following year.

Reading quizzes. You should give students a reading quiz before every lecture, in which you ask clicker questions about new material. The reading quiz shouldn’t consist of more than seven questions that are easy to answer (if you have done the reading or watched the video). I often use true/false questions. It usually takes me 15-20 minutes to write this kind of quiz.

Video lectures. The optimum length for a video is about seven minutes. If you already have lecture notes or PowerPoint slides and are comfortable with the recording software you use, then making a seven-minute video takes about 15-30 minutes depending on the amount of editing you do. This does not include the upload to Youtube, which can take up to 30 minutes depending on internet speeds, but you can do other things during that time.

Recording live lectures
Another option is to record your live lectures in year one for use in subsequent years. If you lecture with PowerPoint you can use screencasting software to record and use an external microphone. If you use a blackboard during your lectures you will have to ask someone to record it with a video camera (you can borrow one from your university e-learning office). Swivl is another option.

In either case you should edit the recording into shorter videos no longer than 10 minutes. It is just a boring and off-putting to watch a 45-minute lecture online as it is live. If possible, insert a question at the end of each video to activate the students.

Other universities have recorded lectures and put them online, so you might be able to find what you need just by googling or searching on Youtube. Notice that if you only want the students to see part of a video you can specify the start time in the Youtube link. You can also use the site eduCanon to add questions to the videos to make it more interactive.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0
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