EdX: Flipping Classrooms the Right Way

[![](http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/content/images/2012/05/edX_Logo_Col_RGB_FINAL.jpg "EdX")](http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/content/images/2012/05/edX_Logo_Col_RGB_FINAL.jpg)
MIT + Harvard + Interwebs = EdX
As an undergraduate on the Farm, it’s not often that I frown at a post in the media that hails Stanford as, among other things, a bastion of rigorous education. But Gregory Ferenstein’s recent[ Techcrunch piece titled “Move Over Harvard and MIT, Stanford has the ‘real revolution in education’](http://techcrunch.com/2012/05/09/move-over-harvard-and-mit-stanford-has-the-real-revolution-in-education/) was a disappointing read, not in the least because it reflects such a poor understanding of the flipped classroom model that it so enthusiastically lauds.

“Hanging a webcam in a classroom is not a revolution in education’ argues the post in response to the announcement of EdX, Harvard and MIT’s recently launched joint online education project. But ask any professor who has tried inverting their classroom, and they will tell you about the importance of course-specific accessible video content in flipping the classroom successfully.  “Khan Academy is a placeholder” according to Professor Mark Lucianovic who I spoke with last week about the new flipped model he is trying out in Math 51 (the largest undergraduate math course at Stanford).This week’s forthcoming Review edition will cover Prof. Lucianovic’s experience in more detail, so I won’t delve on that here.

I will however, point out that the Ferenstein’s conclusion that “Harvard and MIT have merely placed the 20th century education model online.” and that “Stanford, on the other hand, is completely doing away with the old model of the “sage on the stage”’ is problematic.

Perhaps most crucial to the success of the flipped classroom is the remote learning stage, where students watch a lecture/ complete a reading prior to their face-to-face session with an instructor, thereby allowing the professor to assume content familiarity. This means that a student needs to access the same course specific material from a traditional lecture in advance. This is the most significant value of EdX, even more than the added convenience of ‘course scheduling’ or ‘occasional online chats’ cited in the Techcrunch piece.

EdX, then, has actually taken the first important step in moving toward a neo-educational model that instructors and professors can use as the spatula, so to speak, to flip the pancakes that are their classrooms. If anything, it’s a bold move that deserves to be commended. Digitizing lectures, as will tell you several Stanford professors well versed in education technology, is not an inexpensive enterprise. Add to that the first major collaboration in online education between Harvard and MIT, and we have a great move toward open education that can only mean good for the world’s learners. In fact, as this week’s Review will reveal, Stanford is likely to follow suit soon enough if it follows through on the claim to switch to the much debated inverted classroom.

Education is not, as Mr. Ferenstein implies, a zero sum game. It would be most productive then, to leave the dynamics of US News rankings at the door when evaluating bold new steps toward better online education.

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