Deidre Orriola presents poster at annual meeting

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USF College of Public Health instructor Deidre Orriola is calling it: Flipped learning is the next big thing in academics.

Most recently, the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health selected her poster titled “Flipping public health education: A rationale for turning lecture-based learning on its head” for presentation at the 2015 annual meeting. The meeting took place March 22-25 in Arlington, Virginia. While Orriola could not attend, the poster was still presented on her behalf.

Deidre Orriola, MPH

Deidre Orriola, MPH

The poster details an experiment with Orriola’s own flipped undergraduate class. Flipped learning is a newer method of teaching in which time is dedicated to the application and practice of material previously learned about outside of the classroom, opposed to a traditional lecture-based class.

Since the audience at the ASPPH’s annual meeting is mostly other public health educators, the poster included tips on how to give a flipped classroom a try and even a QR code that makes accessing Orriola’s self-designed templates easy to access with just a smartphone.

In flipped learning, students are assigned condensed lectures and videos to listen to before class, and then class time is used to reinforce and expand on the material. This means class time is heavily focused on hands-on activities, like group work or even tweeting about important concepts that help the students apply the information.

“They come to class already having heard the basics,” Orriola said. “They come to class prepared – whether to discuss, ask questions for clarification or do activities based on what they learned.”

For her poster, Orriola looked at final grades, student-reported engagement and overall material covered between a lecture-based method and flipped learning. The results reveal that the grades were slightly higher and that the overall student-reported engagement was resoundingly more positive towards flipped learning, while the material covered was the same in each.

“It was essentially the same class,” Orriola said. “But they’d get more out of it because they were actually applying something.”

USF’s Academy of Teaching and Learning Excellence is where Orriola first heard of flipping a classroom. After attending some workshops on the new method, she tried it one class at a time.

“You have to give up some control, and you have to realize that every student is the best teacher of him or herself if you provide them with the right resources,” Orriola said on transitioning from lecture-based teaching to flipped learning.

It’s a balancing act, Orriola said.

“You can’t just give them an activity and then walk away,” she said. “You still have to be the teacher.”

Despite the adjustments that have to be made, flipped learning is very rewarding, for both the teacher and the student. On even the first day of trying out a flipped learning-style class, Orriola said she could see more light bulbs going off for her students than she had before.

And when her poster was selected to be presented, Orriola said that was also very rewarding.

“It’s something I’m proud of,” Orriola said.

Orriola is a proud Bull. She earned her MPH from the COPH.

Orriola is a proud USF Bull. She earned her MPH from the COPH.

From here, Orriola would like to flip more of her classes and turn her research into a manuscript. She recognizes that she would need to sample a much larger group to draw any conclusive results.

“But,” Orriola said, “this is a start, and that’s really what posters are—kind of a start to something.”

Orriola’s end goal for her flipped-classroom experiment is to eventually turn it into a larger application for teaching with some research-backed information. Orriola currently teaches 3-5 courses per semester and hopes to eventually flip more of her classes.

While Orriola is rightfully proud of her progress and the work she’s done, it’s clear her top priority is her students.

“It’s really important that flipped learning engages them,” she said. “It makes learning fun.”

Story by Annamarie Koehler-Shepley, photos by Natalie D. Preston, College of Public Health.