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.

  1. July 20, 2012 at 7:52 am

    Wow, David, I could not be more excited to see your flipping efforts play out here. I agree it would be a huge undertaking to flip an entire conference, but perhaps there are less intense ways of prepping the prework than videos (I imagine it also puts a responsibility on the audience to do their “homework”).

    Kudos to Sloan for supporting this too.


    • July 20, 2012 at 8:10 am

      Thanks Alan. I do think there could be an easier way forward. I originally thought efficiency would be gained if we all used the same screencasting tool (Camtasia Relay). However, after troubleshooting a few minor issues I learned that several of the presenters were already familiar with Camtasia Studio and I could have just asked them for an .MP4 file or embed code. The use of Google+ Hangouts on Air also proved to be an efficient way to share about a session.

      Your second point is also important. Even if we make it, will they come? A common question among flipped presenters is “What do we do if half the people attending our session haven’t watched the videos?” We will find out next week. 🙂


  2. July 20, 2012 at 8:08 am

    Did you get any feedback from the participants? Did they like having the time for more interactive activities?


    • July 20, 2012 at 8:13 am

      We will find out next week, July 25-27. We plan to survey both presenters and participants.


  3. Todd Conaway
    July 22, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    I wish I would have seen this earlier as our presentation content is all here: http://bit.ly/thehumantouch

    and it would have been fun to get some other ideas about tools used out there. It would have been interesting to create a blog and add authors as folks signed up. Each of them could have been responsible for a post on a particular tool.

    A few years ago I saw Sarah Robbins (intellagirl) do a presentation where she had “gamified” it and pushed a lot of content out to conference goers prior to the event. It was a sort of webquest/badge earning like thing if I recall. Great idea, but I was in the live session and only a couple of the folks had actually done any of the work prior to the event. She used Twitter pretty heavily as a communication tool and I think there were not many there who were used to communicating that way?

    I think for next time around I will give the multiple author blog a go. See you in a couple days.


    • July 22, 2012 at 4:44 pm

      Great work Todd! It makes me wish that I would have sent out a request to all presenters to participate. I like how you integrated VoiceThread, YouTube, and WordPress.com to share about your session. I will update my post to include your session as part of our flipped session experiment.


  4. Kristen Milanovich
    July 26, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    I, unfortunately, was unable to attend the conference live and I love this idea! As a virtual attendee it still provides me with details and examples. Thank you for your efforts. I wish more were flipped!


    • July 28, 2012 at 6:14 am

      Hi Kristen,

      Thanks for your feedback. I am glad you were able to make use of the flipped content even though you could not attend. There were discussions early on about whether the flipped content should reside on a password-protected website for conference attendees only. In the end, we decided to make the flipped content freely available as a possible way to get the word out about the conference.

      We also need to consider how to support virtual attendees attending flipped sessions. The Apps @ the Common Core: MERLOT Teacher Ed Favorites session had face-to-face participants gather in small groups to discuss apps for almost the entire session. A live stream of this session would have been useless to virtual attendees without careful planning on how to include them.


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