In the experience of teaching online, we often miss the lively nature of a classroom discussion. The asynchronous nature of discussion boards doesn’t replicate this well. It’s harder to become familiar with one another at first. Crafting responses takes time and we can lose the sense that we are being listened to. Participation in a structured discussion board can be daunting.

Flipgrid is a relatively new tool that solves part of this problem through structured video-based discussions. The goal is to foster communication with a minimum of technological overhead and to make it easy for students to jump into a conversation and stay engaged. Students can respond to topics and to each other in a web browser, or on the mobile app, without the need to log in. Topics can easily be embedded on course pages so that students never have to visit an external site. The low barrier to entry is one of the biggest strengths of Flipgrid. Instructors can limit responses to as short as 30 seconds which can make it easier for other students to actually watch and respond. And because users can easily record multiple takes, and take a separate thumbnail image at the end of the video, they are better able to present their best self to the instructor and their peers.

YouTube video image as part of a flipgrid; Spanish 101 instructor asks students to introduce themselves.

An example Flipgrid topic prompt from Dan Darrow’s Spanish 101 course.

The barrier for instructors is relatively low as well. Flipgrid has a free service tier that allows users to create topics at a basic level. It’s a good place to start.

UAF Term Instructor Dan Darrow used Flipgrid with over 90 students in his online Spanish classes during the fall and spring semesters.Weekly discussion and speaking practice activities took place in Flipgrid, and Darrow even used Flipgrid for the speaking portion of a final exam. He was able to create multiple speaking prompts that were randomized and assigned to the class for a robust assessment. In the coming week, Darrow’s Spanish 101 and 102 classes will join a university class in Baranquilla, Colombia through Flipgrid for a language exchange and discussion.

In addition to global exchange, Flipgrid is finding a place in higher education in the areas of outreach and peer mentoring. The University of Minnesota Raptor Center used Flipgrid to conduct Q&A sessions and raise environmental awareness of raptor habitat; A professor of biology at Doane University uses uses Flipgrid to foster mentoring and critical thinking in STEM courses such as biology.

Feedback from students using Flipgrid in UAF courses has been positive.Students have said that it helps them overcome speaking anxiety and that “flipgrid videos are helping with my fear of speaking.” Another student liked the immediacy of Flipgrid and its ability to “get the job done” rather than spend a lot of time recording and uploading video. This anecdotal feedback suggests that the Flipgrid environment helps increase a student’s willingness to communicate (1) and likeliness of participating fully in a discussion.

A word about privacy: Flipgrid allows for response moderation and password protection, but the default ethos of the tool is of openness. Many instructors share grids publicly in an attempt to move beyond the walls of the classroom. This can be problematic in K12 due to the age of the participants. At the university level, as long as students are aware of and consent to the nature of their presence on the web, it is not a serious issue, but should be approached proactively. Flipgrid does append last names by default.

Want to talk about all of this? Join our discussion of this teaching tip using Flipgrid: https://flipgrid.com/teachingtip

References

1. McCroskey, J. C., & Richmond, V. P. (1987). Willingness to communicate. In J. C. McCroskey & J. A. Daly (Eds.), Personality and interpersonal communication (pp. 119-131). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

See the PDF for this Teaching Tip.

 

 

Sean Holland

Sean Holland, M.A., has a background in foreign language education and motion graphics and is a Google for Education Certified Trainer.

smholland@alaska.edu

Instructional Designer