You are here

Reclaiming Face Time: How an Organic Chemistry Flipped Classroom Provided Access to Increased Guided Engagement


Bridget G. Trogden, Mercer University; Macon, GA

05/16/14 to 05/22/14

Affording adequate time for students in organic chemistry to engage with material is a constant struggle for those teaching the course.  By using the flipped classroom model, students have more time in class to process information in the presence of the professor, while course content is not sacrificed.  This paper will discuss what it means to ‘flip a classroom,’ how the classroom time can be restructured, and how these changes improve student success rates.  In addition to presenting some alternative ways for flipping, this paper will also address the best means for implementation and how the flipped classroom ties into current research for cognitive theory.



Reclaiming face time: how an organic chemistry flipped classroom provided access to increased guided engagement


Bridget G. Trogden; Associate Professor of Chemistry; Mercer University; 1400 Coleman Ave.; Macon, GA 31207; 478-301-2753;


For many students, what makes organic chemistry difficult is that it is a physical science coupled with a hieroglyphic language.  The study of a physical science involves applying a particular vocabulary of natural phenomena to its numeric representation.  Organic students rely upon this physical science foundation, typically acquired from a pre-requisite course in general chemistry.  The background, however, widely varies, with students scattered somewhere between the extremes of completely unprepared to entirely prepared.  Added to the mix is the fact that organic chemistry is represented in an entirely new language: 2-D line structures of carbon atoms.  Although students draw and interact with these 2-D hieroglyphs, they must hold the actual 3-D molecular visualizations within their minds in order to truly grasp the reactivity and functionality.  With all of these new types of representations, the study of organic chemistry quickly becomes a study in foreign language.

Students perceive the subject matter of organic chemistry to be very difficult, and many enter the class with trepidation.1 Although lectures typically serve as methods of first-exposure to the content and help students with a basic understanding of it, students must have further practice, typically by working textbook problems as homework.  True learning requires both practice (by building new neural pathways) and emotion (by stimulating biochemical neurotransmitters),2 and for students studying late at night by themselves, frustration accrues and inhibits the learning process.

The Purpose of the Flip

Just as any good foreign language program provides the learner with access to a fluent speaker, so should an organic chemistry classroom.  Student misconceptions need to be quickly identified and addressed, and their accurate interpretations also need validation.   In my own experience teaching organic chemistry for the past decade, I found that student understanding and success rates were highest when I could get students working on problems in front of me, typically as part of small teams. 

Although this workshop-type of teaching is important in the classroom, there are two threats to its implementation.  The first is the sheer amount of content that needs to be covered in an organic chemistry course.  The second is that course sizes have been creeping up over the past few years to where it becomes increasingly difficult to give the students individual help during the lecture period. 

In recent years, I have tried many interventions outside of class time, including: a.) creating a workshop hour where students would work problems in groups; b.) utilizing a supplemental instructor program; c.) referring students to the university-sponsored tutor; d.) standard office hours.  All of these programs only reached a limited number of students, however, as the students are increasingly busy outside of class time with jobs, volunteering, campus activities, and various other commitments.  Increased class time on problem solving seemed to be the most effective intervention to benefit student learning.

In order to recapture class time, one day per week was set aside as a dedicated problem solving session where students would work organic chemistry problems in small groups while I circulated to answer questions and coach correct strategies.  In order to create time for this activity, one lecture per week was flipped outside of class time.  The rationale is that when students attend lecture, they are mostly engaged in the passive activities of content-driven learning, so flipping pushes those activities of listening, viewing, and note taking outside of class time.  The active learning of doing – solving problems, discussing strategy, asking for help – best belong not as homework, but as activities to be performed during class time.

In flipping the classroom, the pedagogical questions that I wanted to better understand were thus: 

  • Can flipped pedagogy be effectively applied in a larger-enrollment class?
  • Does recovered class time help with gains on final course grade?
  • How do the students perceive the teaching methodology?

Flipped Methodology: What Changed in the Classroom

There are many available resources to guide educators and help them share ideas on how to flip the classroom.3,4  There is no single pervasive methodology to the flipped classroom, but those who flip share a common goal to reassess the roles of student and teacher in the classroom in order to better engage students in both subject matter and their own learning processes.5  This was certainly my goal: to gain more face-time with my students to engage in guided problem solving activities.

Table 1 gives a description of how the flipped classroom was implemented.  As shown in the table, the class schedule only allowed three 50-minute periods per week (plus lab time, not shown).  It seemed unwise to throw the students entirely into an unfamiliar pedagogy, so a hybrid approach was established, whereby they would still have a traditional classroom experience during Monday and Friday sessions and the flipping would come in during the Wednesday session.  The table describes the activities during the Monday and Friday periods.  Although the majority (>50%) of the time was spent in
receiving new content via lecture, students were also able to work some examples at their seats, and they used i>Clickers for obtaining informal and instantaneous feedback on their understanding of the content.

After each Monday class, a video was provided that would substitute for the Wednesday lecture.  These were only created after the completion of the Monday session so that the video could start right where Monday’s class had ended, to provide a seamless transition to covering the new material.  To create videos, I used Camtasia Studio6 as screen capture software while I drew in the SMART Notebook program7 using a Bamboo writing tablet.8  (There are a myriad of programs available for creating content videos and multiple resources of pre-made videos.  For those unfamiliar, the references below are a good place to start.3,4)  When creating videos, I performed some basic editing, but did not worry about creating polished, perfect videos, just as I am not always polished and perfect in the classroom.  I uploaded the videos to the educational hosting site Vimeo.9  I would always provide my students with a pdf of the notes covered in the video and provide the video link on the course management system, Blackboard.

Although there was a small learning curve for me to learn to make videos and for the students to get used to watching them when assigned, it was the regained classroom time that was the major focus on the flipped pedagogy.  Students had all purchased a required copy of Organic Chemistry I Workbook for Dummies,10 which was used extensively during the Wednesday group problem solving sessions.  This workbook was inexpensive, easily portable, and provided simple review information right next to the problems in case the students needed it.  The use of a separate workbook also provided supplemental problems beyond those in the textbook, so that there was no redundancy for the high-achieving students who kept up regularly with their suggested textbook problems.

There were 58 students enrolled in the flipped organic chemistry 1 course.  In that same semester, I also had an additional 27 students enrolled in a separate section of organic chemistry 1.  Since a research goal was to see how flipped learning worked in a larger class, it was best to use the class of 58 as the experimental (flipped) class and the class of 27 as a traditional (not flipped) class.   The smaller section met at a different time and did not have any of the flipped components as part of their teaching and learning structure; the class time in the smaller section was devoted more to the traditional activities seen in the Monday and Friday columns in Table 1.  The content covered in the two sections was identical and the exams were virtually identical.  Thus, the traditional class worked as a control group and allowed for the measure and comparison of any learning gains experienced with the flipped class.

Results of the Flipped Classroom

When compared with historical data collected over several years (Table 2), the flipped class students showed increased performance outcomes overall.  There are four sample years compared, and each is designated with a letter code, ranging from sample year A to sample year D.  As discussed below, the failure rate dropped to 26% and the course GPA jumped to 2.42.

Students in my fall organic chemistry 1 courses typically experience a failure rate ranging from 35 to 42%.  The failure rate refers to the students who earned the grade of D or F, or those who withdrew by the midterm withdraw deadline because they were likely to fail.  Since students earning the grade of D in organic chemistry 1 cannot move on to organic chemistry 2, the D grade is considered not successful.  The success rate is thus the percentage of students who earned a C or above.

The average class GPAs were also calculated, using the university’s standard point system (A=4.0, B+=3.5, B=3.0, C+=2.5, C=2.0, D=1.0, F=0.0).  For the large-class enrollments seen in sample years A-C, the course GPA is just barely above passing (C average), showing that the students struggle with attaining high achievement.

Based upon these comparisons, the flipped class had a higher percentage of students who earned a passing grade (C or better) and the course had a higher average GPA overall.  As passing organic chemistry 1 is difficult for many students, these results have a significant impact for organic chemistry professors looking to increase their students’ success. 

The comparisons between the year D flipped and not flipped (control) groups are also noteworthy. As aforementioned, the students had the same material, nearly identical exams, and the same teacher.  The only difference was the course structure (see previous section).  Prior to year D, I had never taught a small (<50 students enrolled) fall organic 1 course, so I cannot comment on any historical success rates of students in lower-enrolled courses.  However, it is interesting that although the flipped course enrolled over twice as many students, they were more successful in terms of both average GPA and overall success rate.  The flipped pedagogy seems to make more of a difference in student success than the student-faculty ratio does, which directly addresses the research question regarding how flipping can affect a larger-enrollment class.


In a further comparison, Figure 1 shows the grade distribution of students in the flipped class and the average grade distributions from the not flipped classes.  There was not much change in the top-performing students (6.1% As in not flipped courses, 5.6% As in the flipped) or in students who withdrew (17.7% Ws in not flipped courses, 15.8% Ws in flipped), but there was a large shift in the middle. 

No students in the flipped class earned the grade of F, which contributed to the increased average GPA of the flipped class students as discussed previously.  The flipped class is the only organic chemistry 1 course I have ever taught in which no students earned an F.  Typically, students who were likely to earn an F would stop attending and/or stop studying by the time that three-quarters of the semester have passed.  In the flipped class, there was no such surrender.  Because of the increased in-class coaching and problem-solving that results from the flipped pedagogy, all of the students who had not previously withdrawn maintained their efforts until the end of the semester and earned a D at minimum.

To further analyze Figure 1, the evidence suggests that the flipped pedagogy helped the students in the middle to move up their achievement nearly a letter grade overall.  It seems as though the students who would have earned an F earned a D, those who would have earned a D earned a C, and those who would have earned a C earned a B.  To look at the high end of this shift, the z-score of those earning a B in the flipped class is 2.43 (31.5% Bs in flipped course, 19.9% Bs in not flipped courses, with standard deviation of 4.8), which is statistically relevant.  This seems to support another of the research goals, which was to determine how the flipped pedagogy could increase students’ final course grades.

Student Feedback and Suggestions

To gain insight into the students’ experiences, both flipped and not flipped students were asked to fill out an anonymous narrative survey about the experience at the end of the semester.  By applying qualitative analysis to the information provided by the students, certain trends emerged in how they perceived the flipped pedagogy.  This data can be seen in Table 3. 

Table 3. Student Survey Responses


For the flipped students, 100% found the dedicated problem-solving day to be useful to their learning.  Likewise, 100% of them preferred the flipped pedagogy to a traditional lecture-based classroom and thought that this teaching method should continue for future classes.  They had adapted to the new expectations and recognized the benefits of the flipped pedagogy.

Although the main goal for using video lectures for content delivery was to make room for in-class problem solving, the videos themselves seemed to be a valuable addition to the students’ learning practices.  The survey results also showed that the students liked the videos, with 93% of the students indicating this response.  A likely reason for the favorable view of videos is that nearly half of the students reported using the pause, rewind, and repeat features to go back over the material whereas in lecture time, they were often just copying down notes without complete comprehension.  The 7% (three students) who did not like the videos indicated that the drawbacks were: they could not ask questions during the video, the videos were time consuming/they were too busy outside of class, and/or that they would zone out while watching.  Since the flipped classroom should be inherently time-neutral, the student who is too busy to watch the videos would also likely be too busy to do homework problems.  The student who zoned out while watching videos would also likely fail to pay attention during a traditional lecture as well. 

When the not flipped students were surveyed (also in Table 3), it was clear that they also believed in-class problem solving was important (80%), but overall they did not emphasize its usefulness as much as the flipped students.  They recognized that it was difficult to pay attention to long lectures (15%) and that more in-class problems would be useful to their learning (40%).  Interestingly, when asked for suggestions on improving the course in the future, 60% of these students asked for homework problems or extra credit problems, stating that they were more likely to do problems if the professor required them to do so.  This is noteworthy in that I do require students to do problems: I just expect that they police themselves on this activity.  This type of comment was not apparent from the flipped students, further supporting the evidence that the flipped classroom helps students gain more competence in problem solving and reinforcing good study habits on their own.    

Reflection on Best Practices and Other Ideas for Implementation

In the semester immediately following the flipped year D organic chemistry 1 class, I tried to use flipping for my organic chemistry 2 course.  The course had smaller enrollment (25 students) and both the students and I quickly learned that the flipped pedagogy was more of a distraction than an aid in that particular course.  I had learned during the previous semester that some course content lends itself to video lecture better than others.  In the organic chemistry 2 course, I was trying to only create content videos for the easier material at the start of each chapter – naming of new functional groups, physical properties, etc.  This meant that videos were not posted on the same day every week, and the students had a hard time remembering what was expected of them on which day.  Additionally, since the teacher-to-student ratio was smaller and the students already had a solid foundation from organic chemistry 1, they did not seem to need the dedicated problem solving day as much as the organic chemistry 1 students had.  By about 4 weeks into the semester, I abandoned trying to flip the classroom.  Perhaps the Goldilocks principle11 can be applied to the use of flipping in organic chemistry 1: all of the conditions (student level of anxiety and motivation, content as foreign language, need for additional professor guidance, etc.) are just right to make it an ideal fit.

Based upon the data gathered from the students and on the class performance, I identified ways in which I could better implement flipping in the future. 

  1. I determined to spend at least one class period early in the semester coaching the students on how to effectively learn from videos, in keeping with the best practices in this field.1
  2. I believe that posting videos and scheduling problem solving sessions at regular, predictable intervals (such as seen in Table 1) provides the structure necessary for student buy-in.
  3. I would typically make my videos like I teach: introduce a concept and then do several examples.  In the future, I could cut back on the number of examples in order to shorten the videos without shortchanging the students, since the students have opportunities to do problems in the classroom. 
  4. Rather than making one long video of course content, I could make shorter (<10 minute) modules based upon each topic and/or subtopic that I want to cover. 
  5. To help students make connections between the concepts, I can also give a short (5 minute) overview of video content to introduce the start of each problem-solving day.

In the narrative survey that the students provided, they had also given some suggestions for ways to tweak the class in the future, allowing for the expansion of content-delivery in new ways.  I typically give students paper keys of exams and problems worked in class, but students see the answers rather than the process.  By making short videos where I work through the problems in real-time, I could provide the students with better models for problem solving on their own. 

This change was implemented in a subsequent semester when giving students problem sets on spectroscopy.  Working through a set of spectral data is not always straight-forward and the students need lots of guided practice.  They always feel that they need more practice with combined problem sets on spectroscopy - IR, mass spec, 1H NMR, and 13C NMR all for one specific compound.  Although some class time was allotted for working through the problem sets, creating a video key allowed the problem-solving strategy lessons to be expanded to out-of-class time (Figure 2).12  Students could follow along with the methods for deciphering the spectra and check their own strategies.

Figure 2.  a.) Flipped class student watching a video lecture.9  b.) Screenshot of a video key covering a spectroscopy problem.12

Another item that the students suggested was a video as exam review.  Exam review is typically not conducted during class time because I need to focus on the content or problem solving at hand.  However, students often ask for review notes or review sessions prior to exams.  Review sessions are difficult to schedule given that class time cannot always be sacrificed, and students have a myriad of other activities scheduled during their time out of class.  Posting a review video, however, would afford the students an additional learning tool.  I look forward to utilizing this idea in future semesters.

Conclusion and Summary

A major duty of teaching is to continually observe students in the classroom environment and to make adjustments when necessary.  It had become apparent that the previous lecture-based style of content delivery in organic chemistry 1 was not entirely giving students what they needed to succeed.  By flipping the classroom, I was able to determine that yes, flipped pedagogy can be effective in a larger-enrollment class; yes, the extra time spent on engagement seemed to help the class a whole with earning higher course grades; and yes, the students’ perception of the pedagogy supported that they found the methods worthwhile.  Even flipping just one class period per week resulted in measured improvement.  Based upon this preliminary data, I look forward to implementing flipped learning in my future organic chemistry 1 courses to help students succeed with less anxiety and deeper learning.


1.  Lynch, D.; Trujillo, H.  Motivational beliefs and learning strategies in organic chemistry.  Int. J. Sci. Math. Educ. 2011, 9(6), 1351-1365.

2.  Zull, J.E. The art of changing the brain.  Educational Leadership, 2004, 62(1), 68-72. 

3.  Bergmann, J.; Sams, A.  Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day; International Society for Technology in Education: Washington, DC, 2012.

4. Electronic Resources: a.) Peer Instruction Network. (accessed Apr 2014).  b.) Flipped Learning Network. (accessed Apr 2014).  c.) Flipped Learning Journal. (accessed Apr 2014).  d.)  Twitter.  Hashtag #flipclass. (accessed Apr 2014).

5.  Flipped Learning Network.  The Four Pillars of F-L-I-P™; 2014.  (accessed Apr 2014).

6.  Camtasia Studio.  (accessed Apr 2014).

7.  SMART Notebook.  (accessed Apr 2014).

8.  Bamboo writing tablet.  (accessed Apr 2014).

9.  Vimeo.   (accessed Apr 2014). (A sample video from my flipped class is available here:

10.  Winter, A. Organic Chemistry I Workbook for Dummies; Wiley: Indianapolis, IN, 2012.

11.  I first heard the idea of the Goldilocks principle at a seminar in September 2013 by Dr. David Christian of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.  Often used by astrophysicists and those who study “big history,” the principle implies that new innovations are made and new things appear when conditions are just right.  The term has been appropriated by many disciplines.

12.  A sample link for a video key covering a spectroscopy problem is available here:  (accessed Apr 2014).



Dr. Trogden,

Very interesting results and I think creating videos of solving the exam problems is a great idea. Quick question - do you think that if the students had a flipped classroom during the general chemistry sequence, their overall foundation, problem solving skills, study skills, etc would have been stronger eliminating the need for the flipped classroom in organic 1 (as it was for organic 2 in your study)?

-Dave Finneran

Bridget Trogden's picture

Hi Dave,
I think that's an interesting idea. There definitely seems to be a large gap between the skills & content of general chemistry 2 and organic chemistry 1. I wonder if utilizing flipping in general chemistry 2 could benefit those who go on to the next organic chemistry 2 course. I have not taught enough general chemistry courses to be able to intuit an answer to your question.
Everything that I've read (and seen in my own classroom) indicates that there is a large shift in content and cognitive skills necessary to succeed in organic chemistry: applying language skills rather than mathematical skills, etc. Regardless of what their experience is prior to enrolling in organic chemistry, I think that students still need much guided practice in the presence of a professor/tutor/etc. in order to succeed.

I too was surprised that flipping the classroom was more challenging for Organic 2. My experience flipping both courses this year has been quite the opposite. I wonder whether differences in student population could explain some of this discrepancy? The vast majority of my students took both courses from me, this year, with the flipped pedagogy. I typically see 70-80% retention from Organic 1 to 2 with a slight improvement in academic profile. Is that similar to your student population at Mercer? Are there other reasons our experience could be so different?

Justin Houseknecht

Bridget Trogden's picture

I have not been able to gather extensive data on flipping in organic chemistry 2. For the flipped class described in the paper, the student population did change quite a bit. I also discussed how I was trying to do flipping more along the lines of "just in time teaching" rather than a regularly-scheduled activity and how it seemed that the planning on the part of the student was different when the videos were not posted at a regular time.

Cary Kilner's picture

Here is a situation that is best handled, not necessarily by technology, but by good person-to-person communication skills -- the meaningful integration of courses and striving for a seamless transition. See Brian Coppola and the two-year integrated course at U of Mich. That's going all the way, however, and probably not for everyone and every situation. But the two (or more) instructors would sit down, probably in more than one meeting, and the gen-chem teacher would discuss syllabus items they might have in common, like bonding, VSEPR, formal charge, hybrid-orbitals, et al. and how he/she treats them. The organic folk(s) would suggest more or less or different treatment. And what additional needs they may have. Some topics should be repeated, some should be fully explicated by the gen-chem prof, some perhaps left alone for the organic prof -- and it wouldn't hurt to have biweekly meetings throughout the school year so that both parties could learn more about each others course, instructional methods, syllabi, lab-program, etc.

Bridget Trogden's picture

Thanks for your ideas. I think the problem is that at some institutions (like mine), we have a variety of people teaching both general chemistry and organic chemistry. We typically have about 9 different general chemistry teachers and about 4-5 who teach organic regularly. We do have a topics list for both general chemistry and for organic, and all use the same book in order to ensure some continuity.
However, that still only gets at the content of organic chemistry. The actual cognitive skills necessary to succeed are, it seems, quite different from general chemistry. The ability to translate 3-dimensional information into a mental process while also balancing multiple competing factors requires quite a bit of brain power. I think that we've recognized organic chemistry as a difficult course for some time now, but the research is still forthcoming about how the correct cognitive and study skills are developed. (The lag is understandable - organic chemists are seldom also experts at social science and brain research!)
I think that student maturity also comes into play. Some have the ability to focus on a difficult task and some just cannot do it during the typical sophomore year. My thoughts on that come from my intuition of what I've seen year after year in my own courses, and I look forward to reading future research about how students best learn chemistry and its subdisciplines as it becomes available.

Cary Kilner's picture

Research has shown that these two courses (sub-disciplines, if you will) are almost distinctly different engagements. Gen-Chem is more quantitative, with a wide variety of different interweaving topics, any of which could provide an entrance point, whereas organic is more qualitative, linear, and architectural. For instance, I had students who were quite challenged in gen-chem, who really liked and blossomed in organic the next year. (Of course there is the maturity factor.) Upon interrogation I often found them to have had Anatomy and Physiology in high school or college, and who were great a memorizing vast amounts of information. And the students who liked mathematics found little to engage them in the sophomore organic course. It would be interesting to do a study with organometallic students to see how they relate to and integrate these two chemistry sub-disciplines in this upper-level sub-discipline. Then study students in physical-organic chemistry, again with the integration of some quantitative aspects with some architectural aspects -- just some random thoughts.

Hi, Bridget,
Thanks for sharing your interesting project with us. Do you have any statistics about the groups of students in the two different sections you taught this year - cumulative GPA, ACT scores, etc? I am wondering if there might be a difference between the two populations in the two sections.

Bridget Trogden's picture

Yes, I do. (I did not want to go way over on my word limits on this manuscript, so did not include that data). However, I compared the students based upon two parameters. I looked at their grades in the general chemistry 2 prerequisite course and also at their "math index," a quantity determined by my university's admissions office and that is a metric of their high school GPA in core courses and their SAT scores. Since we use the math index to determine if students are calculus & general-chemistry ready and the general chemistry 2 credit as required for organic chemistry 1, those were applicable measures.
I applied a statistical t-test to measure for difference between the flipped class and the not flipped class prior to their enrollment in my course. The t-test showed that there was no statistical difference between the two groups of students.

Cary Kilner's picture

For those of us concerned with readiness for gen-chem, where could we go to get more information on how you compute your math index, and what validation studies have been done? Because in my experience one cannot look at the affective domain or at conceptual understanding as pieces of gen-chem achievement if students are struggling with their fundamental mathematics tools!

Bridget Trogden's picture

The math index is something that is calculated by our admissions office, and I am not exactly sure what their metric is other that what I had previously described regarding its calculation from the SAT score and high school GPA. (They don't publish it.) I just used it as a comparison to see if there was a difference between my two populations of students. I would certainly not advocate for its use as a predictor of general chemistry success. Several of my colleagues are, however, working on seeing if we have a correlation between students' scores on the Toledo Test and their success in general chemistry. To date, they have not seen a correlation.

malkayayon's picture

Thank you for sharing this interesting paper.
Can you elaborate more on the video design?
You mentioned that rather than making one long video of course content, you could make shorter (<10 minute) modules based upon each topic and/or subtopic.
1. Can you determine or characterize what kind of content/concepts are more likely to "fit" for videos and which shouldn't?
2. Can you use the videos from one year in the same course next year? Do you use videos from other sources?
3. When you use Camstasia, the long videos can be divided into sections. This may facilitate skipping concepts that are understood, isn't this enough instead of cutting the videos into 10 minutes ones?
Thank you

Bridget Trogden's picture

Thanks for your comments. Here are some thoughts:
1.) There is some content that is pretty straight-forward, and students seem to get it pretty well just with some explanations (either in a face-to-face class or via video) and then doing some problems on their own. I don't know if you are an organic chemist or not, but some examples from my field are: naming compounds with various functional groups, descriptions of physical properties, recognizing new reagents by reactivity type, etc. However, there are other topics that I know students typically stumble over and that require them to delve deeply into the material to make connections (i.e.-the 15ish typical addition reactions to alkenes). For those topics, they tend to need a face-to-face teacher so that I can answer their questions as they arise and to read their faces to know when they need me to explain in another way.
2.) Yes, I could reuse my videos, or take the video files and combine them in different ways. I have not yet had the chance to teach a flipped organic chemistry course since the first iteration, but I would certainly use the videos again when able. I haven't used videos from elsewhere in this particular class, but I have used them in other courses (general chemistry and for lab make-ups).
3.) Yes, Camtasia is easy to use for sectioning videos. I just did not have the feedback from the students that this would be beneficial at the time that I was still making the videos, so did not know to take advantage of the feature. Hindsight is 20-20!

Hi Bridget,
From Fig 1 it appears that there has been a shift from the D&F category to the B grade. Great! Does any pretesting allow you to predict which students are most likely to benefit from the flipped classroom?
From your paper:
‘To further analyze Figure 1, the evidence suggests that the flipped pedagogy helped the students in the middle to move up their achievement nearly a letter grade overall.  It seems as though the students who would have earned an F earned a D, those who would have earned a D earned a C, and those who would have earned a C earned a B.  To look at the high end of this shift, the z-score of those earning a B in the flipped class is 2.43 (31.5% Bs in flipped course, 19.9% Bs in not flipped courses, with standard deviation of 4.8), which is statistically relevant.  This seems to support another of the research goals, which was to determine how the flipped pedagogy could increase students’ final course grades.’
How do you know if a student is a potential F student and that they were able to jump to a D, C,or B?

Bridget Trogden's picture

My comment regarding the shift was more general: it seemed like overlaying the average final course grades with the flipped course grades showed a great improvement. If those who would have made an F in a not flipped class earned a D, and those who would have earned a D made a C, and those who would have made a C made a B, then the comparison between the Bs in the average not flipped and flipped would be appropriate. That's why I looked at the z-score there, which was between 2 and 3 standard deviations higher than normal. I also looked at the z-score of the flipped students who earned a DFW compared to the not flipped average years, and that z-score was -3.36, meaning that the flipped students were between 3 and 4 standard deviations LESS likely to earn a DFW grade.

Malka asks some good questions about video design, using videos, and their length.

Most topics I teach work well in the video format, but then I teach finance and strategy, not science. But we do a lot of math and quantitative exercises in the videos, and students seem to appreciate the ability to rewind and go over calculations as many times as necessary to get it right.

I reuse my videos year after year, but they can become a bit stale, so they do need to be updated from time-to-time. I make it a point not to appear in the videos because I don't want continuity problems with the way I am dressed or the way I look. In Camtasia, it is a straight forward procedure to remove a snippet of a video and replace it with something new and more fresh. I also make use of videos from other sources, especially online MOOCs like Coursera. There are plenty of YouTube videos available that can also be used by students. I usually link through to them using the class Moodle.

I started making videos the length I thought the material required, but I learned quickly that is a mistake. It is best to keep a video in the ten to fifteen minute range, though fifteen minutes is really pushing it. If students see a video is 20 minutes long they are unlikely even to begin watching. So it is kind of a psychological trick to use the shorter format. I try to use the last slide of a previous video as the first slide for the next video, to give a little review of where we left off. I find my material and my presentation style limits me to about six or seven slides per ten-minute video. So it is important when constructing your slides to think as though you are really preparing a script for video production. This helps you structure the presentation to fit the video format you are working with.

Steve raises the question of what to video and how long to video. In making a video, what's the goal?

To solve problems in chemistry, first-year students need declarative (factual) knowledge, procedural (algorithmic) knowledge, and conceptual understanding. There are certainly plenty of animated and narrative videos I have seen that do a fabulous job of explaining how molecules behave in ways that lectures and readings cannot (though instructor questions during pauses in those activities in my experience increases student retention and understanding.

That said, isn't 70+% of what students need to learn in their first two years of chemistry vocabulary, facts, and problem-solving procedures (to get around those well-documented restrictions in working memory), and mastery of computation math that tends to be de-emphasized in current K-12 curricula? To move those into long-term memory clearly requires extensive drill and practice. For that type of "first-year" material, what are the pros and cons of homework that is
A) a video versus
B) a "lesson" consisting of short written lecture notes interspersed with clicker questions, worked examples, and practice problems with answers?

What Steve suggested about not appearing in the videos is supported by research, particularly that of Richard Clark, finding that video needs to minimize "noise" - anything that appears that you do not want students to focus attention upon. Attention is the first step in learning, and undergraduates, notes research and experience, are particularly prone to distraction.

So, for how much of what we want students to learn during homework (so that lecture time has more activities that require instructor guidance) is a video the best choice?

A good source to start with is the set of Khan Academy videos on Chemistry. Their site says these are appropriate for a first-year high school or college course:

These are good models to work from for conceptualizing what material can be conveyed on video. Of course, the lesson Eric speaks of could be what is done during class-time -- computation, drill, and practice. The videos aren't particularly good for these activities.

Also, instructors can sign up as coaches at the Khan Academy and students can then choose their instructor as a coach. When a student watches a video, the coach is informed and the student can get credit for the activity. There are other instructor tools available at Khan Academy which are worth looking into.

ssinex's picture

I would strongly suggest screening these videos before use. Many mistakes and a vast use of sloppy terminology are contained in the general chemistry videos. In electrochemical cells, charges on metal ions are missing, while in a titration video you will hear the term "sopped up" in reference to neutralization. I agree the model used is good (short to the point single concept approach). Many videos are just problem solving with limited conceptual support.

I've heard other results that said having a "talking head" in the video can help get students engaged and helps them make a connection to the instructor. I've shot videos where students could see me only at the beginning and end so they got the connection but not the distraction for them while they were going through the video. It's also much easier to record the video if you don't have to worry about looking at the screen :) It's possible that being seen in the video may date the videos but while I've found that some videos will be useful as examples for some time to come, many others will not because they reference what we did in class yesterday or what we are going to do tomorrow.

As far as the video vs. written notes, students are more likely to watch a video than read anything. You can add questions to your videos with Camtasia, Captivate or sites like

Bridget Trogden's picture

I think you bring up several interesting points, and ones that I hope others will also respond to as the week goes on.
I heard a statement once that a bad teacher using good technology is just a really expensive bad teacher. In your A & B section above, you discuss a couple of pedagogical options. I prefer to teach with interspersed Clicker questions and examples for students to work during class, and I hope I made that clear in the paper. One problem, however, was that my class sizes were increasing: from "doubles" (2 sections of ~28 each in one lecture period) to "triples (3 sections of ~28 each in one lecture period). With a class of 90 students in a difficult subject, it did not matter how many 5-minute recesses I took for the students' brains to catch up; I couldn't possibly reach all of them, and the failure rates were very high. Thus, the flipping allowed me to have one full 50-minute class period per week in which to circulate through the desks and give individual attention and coaching. Flipping worked well for me in this scenario, but if my class were 150 students+, I think I'd be back to square one. Other scenarios for dealing with large courses and active pedagogies include the emporium model (, peer instruction (, and the tech-heavy "supersized" class (

Bridget Trogden's picture

You said: "I started making videos the length I thought the material required, but I learned quickly that is a mistake."
I think you're right! When I first started to flip, I would use the video tool as though it was the next class session and narrate my screen capture to cover the same block of content that I would otherwise cover in a lecture course. I realized (as you point out) that rethinking the content to match a new delivery mode is the way to go.

Layne Morsch's picture

I did the same at the beginning, recording my entire lecture as I gave it and posting it (before flipping). When I decided to record my lectures in advance, I had heard some "magic" lengths for videos, but the following data (and a related article, both by Philip Guo) really encouraged me to keep them under 10 minutes.

Short and to the point web article:

Extensive analysis of video details:

Bridget Trogden's picture

Thanks for the links!

Cary Kilner's picture

Research has shown that these two courses (sub-disciplines, if you will) are almost distinctly different engagements. Gen-Chem is more quantitative, with a wide variety of different interweaving topics, any of which could provide an entrance point, whereas organic is more qualitative, linear, and architectural. For instance, I had students who were quite challenged in gen-chem, who really liked and blossomed in organic the next year. (Of course there is the maturity factor.) Upon interrogation I often found them to have had Anatomy and Physiology in high school or college, and who were great a memorizing vast amounts of information. And the students who liked mathematics found little to engage them in the sophomore organic course. It would be interesting to do a study with organometallic students to see how they relate to and integrate these two chemistry sub-disciplines in this upper-level sub-discipline. Then study students in physical-organic chemistry, again with the integration of some quantitative aspects with some architectural aspects -- just some random thoughts.

Dr. Trogden,

I noticed in Table 2 that the non-flipped section of Course D also had a significant improvement in GPA (though not success rate) from previous years. Does this mean that your best students in the non-flipped section did substantially better than usual? How difficult would it have been for them to view the lectures that you posted on Vimeo and/or made use of the workbook problems? Do you have other ideas for why the GPA in the non-flipped section would have increased over previous years?


Bridget Trogden's picture

I was also intrigued by the fact that the not flipped class had a higher GPA than normal. I think that the magic lies in the course enrollment: there were a much smaller group of students in that course than I had ever had in a previous organic chemistry 1 course. I don't have historical figures to compare it to other courses of a similar size because I have never had one that small. But since the class was small, the students received a lot of time and attention from me in class.
The students in the not flipped section also had an absolutely phenomenal supplemental instructor - an upperclassman who sat in on the class and held help sessions outside of class times. I would drop by every now and then and see 80-90% of the students at the help session. The students were also able to receive a lot of individual attention that way, which I think contributed to their higher grades.