COVID-19 Changed Flipped Learning Overnight: What This Means to You

Editors Features Summer 20 / August 23, 2020
– Special Report –

Era: A memorable or important date or event that begins a new period in the history of a person or thing.  – Merriam-Webster 

by Errol St.Clair Smith, Dr. Caroline Kurban, Dr. Thomas Mennella, Jon Bergmann, Dr. Raul Santiago


Over 10,000 educator surveys, trend data, press reports, and interviews with academics from around the world point to a compelling conclusion, COVID-19 has changed attitudes about Flipped Learning overnight. The shift is large enough, broad enough, and significant enough to suggest that we may be entering a new era of Flipped Learning — Flipped Learning 4.0?  So what does this mean for you?  Let’s start with data most easily visible to everyone:


Google trends

Sixteen years of Google trends data confirms that a spike in Flipped Learning searches in the United States is approaching an all-time high after seven years of slow decline. The burst begins in March 2020 as schools began to close and started looking for ways to rapidly transition to online learning.


Worldwide trend

Global trends show that increasing international interest in Flipped Learning hit a new high in March 2020 and an all-time high in June of 2020.


Flipped classroom

Worldwide searches for “flipped classroom” also spiked in March 2020 before going on to reach an all-time 14-year high.




The regions of interest are also noteworthy and show significant leaps from Singapore to Italy, Spain, China, Ecuador, Denmark, Philippines, Norway, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, New Zealand, and Australia.



Internal surveys

Between February 28th and July 31st, 2020, the non-profit Academy of Active Learning Arts and Sciences (AALAS) surveyed over 10,000 K-12 teachers, university professors, tech coaches, and school leaders from 67 countries. The surveys were part of the registration process for the Rapid Transition to Online Learning Course. In June, the AALAS hosted a month-long Second Wave Summit, which engaged in conversations with hundreds of educators from around the world. These surveys and conversations produced a much clearer picture of the current global landscape for Flipped Learning and a deeper understanding of emerging trends. The top-level takeaway is that interest in Flipped Learning surged in response to the pandemic-driven need to shift to remote learning.


The CELTs has always been kind of an optional drop-in center for instructors who are interested in flipping or interested in doing some online learning, this has gone from optional to absolutely essential. Anyone who wants to continue in education these days needs to develop their online teaching and learning skills. So it’s been a catalyst, it’s pushed it much faster.


Other indicators

Pepperdine University: Dr. Christopher Heard, Director at the Center for Teaching and Learning at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, reported unprecedented registrations for his summer sessions on Flipped Learning. “I’ve never had 75% turn out for any other program in the last three years,” says Heard.

New York City DOE: Lisa Nielsen, Senior Director of Digital Literacy and Inclusion at New York City’s Department of Education, reported that NYC schools did not have a remote teaching contingency plan or a 1:1 program in February. NYC DOE selected Flipped Learning as a framework for the transition to online learning. When we talked again in March, thousands of NYC teachers had started the RTOL Flipped Learning crash course and Nielsen reported that every student in the largest school district in the United States had received a personal computer, launching their 1:1 initiative overnight.

MEF University: MEF in Turkey is the first fully flipped University in the world. When COVID-19 hit Istanbul, Dr. Caroline Fell Kurban, Director of the Center of Research and Best Practices in Learning and Teaching (CELT), and her team were called on to help the faculty move their classes online. MEF University was ultimately recognized nationally for its extraordinarily rapid and smooth transition to teaching online, based on the Flipped Learning framework. Fell Kurban reported that “The CELT has always been kind of an optional drop-in center for instructors who are interested in flipping or interested in doing some online learning; this has gone from optional to absolutely essential. Anyone who wants to continue in education these days needs to develop their online teaching and learning skills. So it’s been a catalyst, it’s pushed it much faster.”

Rising demand for PD: Around the world, Flipped Learning practitioners from K-12 to higher education reported being asked to help their peers, schools, and institutions flip instruction to meet the sudden need for remote teaching. At the Flipped Learning Global Initiative (FLGI), 256 educators applied to become Certified Flipped Learning Master Class Facilitators, and the FLGI saw a surge in school districts requesting professional development for their entire faculty.

RTOL registrations:  The Academy of Active Learning Arts and Sciences’ Rapid Transition to Online Learning crash course was developed on the Flipped Learning framework. AALAS received over 10,000 registrations for the course including state departments of education, university centers for teaching and learning, school districts, and individual educators from the United States, to Spain, the Philippines, and the Middle East.

News coverage: Flipped Learning stories are back in the news. Both the education press and traditional media see Flipped Learning as a solution to the need for hybrid teaching, and they are covering Flipped Learning with renewed frequency and vigor. (see search results)

Anahuac University: Dr. Diana Galindo Sontheimer, the Director of Academic Development, at Anahuac University, Mexico City, Mexico, reported a stark shift from the glacial pace of change at the university. Their faculty made the transition to online learning in a matter of days using the Flipped Learning model as the operational framework. The university is now in the process of putting all faculty members through a rigorous Flipped Learning certification. Her big takeaway is that “transformation is possible.”


15 takeaways from the data

We’re still digging through the surveys and discussions for gems of insight about what’s going on with Flipped Learning globally.  Below is a shortlist of our top-level observations and takeaways from the data so far: 

        1. Flipped Learning has gone from passe to mission-essential overnight.
        2. Experienced Flipped Learning practitioners have moved from the margins of their school communities to valued experts.
        3. The pandemic provides an unprecedented opportunity to rapidly and significantly improve teaching and learning globally amid a looming crisis.
        4. Many schools are still grossly unprepared to handle a second wave of disruption to teaching and learning.
        5. Educators, students, and parents extended “grace” to each other during the initial transition to online teaching and learning.
        6. The data suggests that the social-emotional load next school term is going to be massive as expectations will be high.
        7. Despite the desire to avoid approaching next semester with a deficit mindset, many teachers, students, and parents are already overextended, behind, and on edge. Next term will likely not be so forgiving.
        8. During the planning and execution of the summit, we saw few indications that most Flipped Learning practitioners are up to speed on the most current 3.0 best practices.
        9. There was little indication that most experienced Flipped Learning practitioners were trained to do Flipped Learning *online* or thought they needed to be.
        10. Many educators feel that they are equipped to provide the professional development schools need based on their past flipped classroom experience alone.
        11. The emergence of high stakes hybrid learning: Teachers who led local transitions to remote teaching will need to know how to do “diagnostic and remedial” Flipped Learning as the inevitable challenges with execution begin to surface. But now the stakes are much higher. Hybrid learning must be done right.
        12. Many “new Flipped Learning coaches” may be ill-prepared to provide the much-needed ongoing support in a high-stakes hybrid learning environment.
        13. New Flipped Learning teachers will need to know more about making the best use of class time online as well as specific strategies to do so.
        14. Many teachers will need to know more about how to kick-off a totally remote school year and how to do an initial assessment of where students are on day one.
        15. Many teachers will need to know more about how to do ongoing formative assessment in an imperfect, remote, Flipped Learning context.



What many are calling “unprecedented times,” we see as a defining moment. It is unlikely that we will ever see another time like this where educators all around the world are clamoring to learn and implement Flipped Learning, overnight. However, this is a fleeting and fragile moment. If Flipped Learning implementation is successful among the newly initiated, it can blossom. On the other hand, if teachers, students, and parents have a bad experience with Flipped Learning because of poor implementation, inadequate training, inadequate ongoing support, or shortcuts taken, this magical opportunity could be lost.

The good news is that a new and expanding generation of educators is embracing Flipped Learning around the world. The challenge is that this is happening during a time when (as Dr. Robert Talbert noted), “We have to get it right,” or the backlash against Flipped Learning from students, parents, teachers, and administrators could be severe. Perhaps the most significant current need is to raise awareness among Flipped Learning practitioners about why this moment requires all of us to level up. Right now, the data suggests that the education world needs masters of Flipped Learning, not just “practitioners.” By “masters” we mean Flipped Learning educators who:

      • have a solid working knowledge of the global best practices of effective Flipped Learning 3.0;
      • know how to troubleshoot and support the practices of teachers and schools who are new to Flipped Learning;
      • have a growth mindset and are prepared to evolve in real-time with schools that are “piloting” Flipped Learning as their needs evolve.


New Possibilities

A recent article from McKinsey and Company noted that COVID-19 has unlocked change at a pace and magnitude that is causing even the boldest and most progressive leaders to question their assumptions. The article identified two areas that are begging for rethinking: How big we can think and how fast we can move. The article was written to organizational leaders, but the wisdom clearly applies to educators as well.

“I keep pushing myself and our team to think about how we use this inflection point to reimagine our potential together, as opposed to allowing our organization to just go back to the comfort of ‘Let’s do what we’re doing.” – Michael Fisher, CEO CCMHC


Looking at this moment through the lens of education, Dr. Diana Galindo Sontheimer, at Anahuac University said it best, “transformation is possible.” More accurately, transformation is possible at a larger scale and a faster pace than ever before in history. That’s why this moment is so unique in the history of education and Flipped Learning. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines “era” as,  a memorable or important date or event that begins a new period in the history of a person or thing.  Does the surging global interest and adoption of Flipped Learning mean that we’re at the beginning of the Flipped Learning 4.0 era?  Only time will tell. What we do know now is that we’ll likely discover surprising new possibilities if we flip our mindset about how much we can achieve and how fast. Simply said, this moment represents a global challenge for all of us to park our assumptions at the door and think bigger about the new possibilities for Flipped Learning.

(En Espanol)

Special Reports Team
Special Reports Team
This report was compiled by a team of FLR researchers and editors and authored by Errol St.Clair Smith, Director of Global Development at FL Worldwide, Dr. Caroline Kurban, Director of Teaching and Learning at MEF University, and co-chair the AALAS Global Standards Project. Dr. Thomas Mennella, associate professor at Baypath University. Jon Bergmann, Chief Academic Officer of the Flipped Learning Global Initiative, Dr. Raul Santiago, professor at the University La Rioja and co-chair AALAS Global Standards Project.

Previous Post

Reopening Schools: Three Things We're Learning From Our Mistakes

Next Post

ACADEMIC FREEDOM: Why What Worked Yesterday Will Not Work Tomorrow

0 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *