Meeting Diverse Styles through the Flipped Format

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To be the most effective in teaching chemistry to the present generation, an educator is best served by providing the resources learners need in the manner that is most familiar to them.  For the chemistry course that I teach, Allied Health General, Organic, and Biochemistry, I am quite convinced that the flipped format serves the students best.  Today’s students have been raised in and surrounded by technology that permeates EVERY aspect of their lives. This, I believe is where educators will most easily connect with students. Furthermore, I know this can be done without sacrificing rigor or lowering expectations.


Having said this, there is so much educational technology out there now from a variety of sources and in a range of quality.  These sources have not, and will not, standardize their language (terminology) and can be contradictory. To simply gather the existing technology and provide those links in a central location would likely be counterproductive to the students’ learning without actually integrating and standardizing the content.


Over the last 15 years I have invested considerable time developing and creating effective, engaging, and often-fun content for the Allied Health Chemistry Course (General, Organic, and Biochemistry). 


As a teacher I believe instructors should be responsible for providing learning solutions to meet the needs of all types of learners so that they can succeed in the class.  I believe the role of a teacher is one of facilitator; we facilitate learners in building their own understanding of the subject.   Learning must be done for one’s self, and “educators" facilitate that learning by giving them the best set of tools to do so. 


There are many "digital resources," but as one who has spent hundreds of hours searching what is out there, there is a huge gap in consistent and integrated quality material. However, not all learners use the same tools.  While a textbook and the primarily monologue style of lecture where the instructor "covers material" during class works fine for some learners, the data that I will discuss in this blog shows an overwhelming student preference for the video lecture format and the flipped classroom. 

The use of quality technology in education will bring the entire population of learners an increased level of achievement.    This generation of students is not served well using the same methods as was done in the past.  In my course, I provide a completely integrated video and text-based presentation of the content that is assigned as homework.  The in-class work includes worksheets, and graded online.  The flipped format class is flexible, student-centered, instructor-powered and adaptive. Students have multiple resources to engage with based on their own learning preference (reading text, watching video, working problems, tutorials, etc.).  The full suite of content and pedagogy enables students from being the product of teaching to the owners of their own learning.  By having the lectures available online, content is accessible whenever convenient for learners and can be started, stopped and repeated as necessary.  Students have varying attention spans.  Some learners are fine with 1-2 hour lectures, other do much better taking it in in small portions.  Our product allows the learner to choose their own learning times and durations!


Times are changing.   The best teaching tool is the one that provides learners with what they need in order to achieve their educational goals and accomplish the learning outcomes the instructor sets for the course!  It is very important for us to acknowledge that what was in the past defined as being literate is changing.  Being literate and perhaps specifically learning now includes the ability to find and process information in various formats beyond just the written word.  We are in the age of the Internet, video, and other forms of digital information and to be literate in today's society includes more than just the ability to read, but also to find and process information from multiple modalities.  The reason that I am a huge believer in the flipped class, in large part, come from the data below.


In an anonymous survey of students from classes that I taught using video lectures, the students were asked, "Which of the following choices was the better resource for you in this class?".  Here are the results:


When students were asked to respond to the statement: "The video lectures made this course less stressful. Circle one:" the response was as follows:


Students also perceived the lectures as advantages in their exam achievement by responding to the statement, "The video lectures helped me to perform better on the exams. Circle one:" as shown below:




I asked my most recent class, Spring 2014, the following question in an anonymous survey:


In traditional classes, the students listen to live lectures in class and do the assigned problems at home.  Our CHEM 108 course was presented in the "flipped" format; you had the lectures available to be watched at home and you did the assigned problem sets in class.


Which course format do you think you prefer for CHEM 108,  CIRCLE ONE:

  • I prefer the flipped format as we did in CHEM 108 (watch video lectures at home and do the assigned problem sets in class)
  •  I would have preferred the traditional class style (have live lectures in class and do the  assigned problem sets at home)
  •  No preference, both are equal for me.

 The student response data for this question is shown below.


I will conclude with a cautionary note.  We all know how the use of technology, for example PowerPoint, can be done well or can be done poorly.  The same is true for the flipped class.   One of the most important components of the flipped class is the video lectures.  I strongly advise against voice-behind-PowerPoint slides, these are very low on the visual engagement scale.  If you plan on making video by recording your in-class lectures, I suggest making several videos of the same lecture and then using video production software to cut and paste the raw video into an engaging, high quality production.  An example of a typical video lecture that I use can be viewed from the following  You can take a look at my entire curriculum at:


If you have any questions or comments about this blog, it is best to email me directly at:



Jim Zoval

About the Author
Jim Zoval is a Professor of Chemistry at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, CA. In addition to teaching, He has held positions as a Research Scientist at LightSense Inc., Sr. Project Engineer at Nanogen Inc., Research Specialist at University of California, and Sr. Manager of Special Projects Research at Burstein Technologies Inc. Most of his work has been in the chemical and engineering areas of medical and clinical diagnostic platform development. His professional publications include his own General, Organic, and Biochemistry textbook, several chapters in other textbooks, 30 journal publications, and 5 patents. Dr. Zoval has an undergraduate research group at Saddleback College that focuses on investigating technologies that will enable artificial, automated, wearable kidneys for individuals with renal failure.