Blended Learning

Enhancing Flipped Learning With Microlectures 

Short, recorded instructional lectures that focus on one concept or skill can be powerful teaching tools.

July 6, 2023

Flipped learning turns the traditional model of instruction on its head. Robert Talbert, author of Flipped Learning, explains that in a flipped environment, students’ “first contact with new concepts moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space.” In other words, students first learn about new material through individual work so that the time that they are together with their instructor and peers can be devoted to interactive, higher-order activities where they can benefit from the support of others.

In their book In-Class Flip, Martha A. Ramírez and Carolina R. Buitrago note that a variety of content can be used to facilitate learning in the individual space, including videos, readings, sketchnotes, infographics, podcasts, and HyperDocs. Talbert explains that individual-space tasks should be well-structured, guiding students in processing and making sense of the new content. The three authors also discuss the importance of incorporating accountability into individual-space tasks by having students complete notes, quizzes, practice exercises, or other activities.

When utilizing video content for flipped learning, one helpful structure that educators can use is microlectures, which are instructional videos that focus on one particular concept or skill. (For a concrete example of a microlecture, check out this video I made for preservice teachers.) Instructional designer Hua Zheng explains that microlectures have three key characteristics:

  • They are shorter than 10 minutes. (In fact, research indicates that six minutes is the sweet spot for maintaining student engagement.)
  • They foster connection between learners and the instructor.
  • They prompt learners to actively engage with the content rather than passively taking it all in.

Educators can utilize the microlecture approach to create enriching flipped content for students to engage with during the individual space.

Video Design Principles and Accessibility

When creating microlectures, it’s important to keep research-based video design principles in mind. Vanderbilt University professor Cynthia J. Brame highlights four principles that can be particularly helpful for managing cognitive load:

  • Signaling. Point out key ideas in the video. This can be done through verbal emphasis on certain concepts or through visual cues (such as arrows or highlighting).
  • Segmenting. Chunk the content into manageable pieces. This makes it easier for students to follow along and see how the concepts are building upon each other.
  • Weeding. Omit any unnecessary information that does not align with the learning objective(s) and any visuals that may be distracting to learners. This includes audio (like background music) along with visuals (such as unnecessary graphics or busy slides).
  • Matching modality. Provide information in multiple formats. For example, convey information both aurally and through related visuals on the screen.

Additionally, it’s important to ensure that your microlectures are accurately captioned for accessibility and other purposes. The Clips app for iPad and iPhone, for example, makes it easy to record videos with accurate, embedded captions (via the Live Titles feature). With Flip, you can edit captions via the web, and Loom allows you to edit the video transcript, which will automatically update the captions as well.

Keep It Active

There are numerous ways to build interactivity, structure, and accountability into your microlectures. For example, platforms like Edpuzzle and PlayPosit allow you to embed interactive questions into your videos. Zheng notes that you can also simply tell students to pause the video and complete an activity or use a timer. For example, you can easily embed a YouTube timer in Google Slides, PowerPoint, or Keynote and play it whenever you want students to complete an activity.

Below are a few examples of activities that students can pause and complete while watching microlectures. Please note that there are no rules regarding how many pauses to include or when to include them; do what you feel is best, based on your content, context, and knowledge of your students.

Beginning of the microlecture: Activate students’ prior knowledge and spark their interest in the new content by having them complete a retrieval practice activity, quick write, entrance ticket, anticipation guide, Know-Wonder-Learn chart, brainstorm, poll, or thinking routine (such as See, Think, Wonder or 3-2-1 Bridge).

Middle of the microlecture: Have students complete a graphic organizer or guided notes sheet as they learn about the concept or skill, and provide them with opportunities to engage with the content. For example, students can pause the video to create sketchnotes, complete sample problems, respond to a scenario, participate in a virtual gallery walk, do a writing exercise, complete a mini choice board, practice a skill, and more!

End of the microlecture: Have students complete a check for understanding and to reflect on their learning. For example, students can complete an exit ticket, a geometric forms reflection, or a thinking routine (such as “I used to think… now I think…” or Connect, Extend, Challenge).

Students can complete these on paper or via tech tools like Mentimeter, Poll Everywhere, Google Jamboard, Padlet, Flip, Google Docs, Google Slides, Google Drawings, Mote, or Google Forms. One benefit of using digital tools is that they allow students to express what they have learned using multimodal tools (such as video, audio recordings, etc.). You can provide quick access to any digital tasks by including a QR code and shortened link in your microlecture (similar to the sample video in the introduction).

Alternatively, you can add the microlecture (along with descriptive hyperlinks to any digital tasks) to a Google Slide or Doc; an Apple Keynote, Numbers, or Pages document; a Wakelet collection; a Padlet board; or a webpage so that students have a one-stop shop for everything they need. You can even add the microlecture to a Google Form so that students can watch the video and respond to questions in the same place!

Next Steps

Ready to start creating microlectures for your learners? Check out this article I wrote that includes a helpful planning template, suggested tools for creating microlectures, and other helpful tips. Additionally, this microlecture peer review rubric can help you evaluate and revise your microlectures in order to ensure that they employ video-design best practices.

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