University of Southern California

Learning Design & Technology

Advancing USC's strategic vision for teaching with technology

The Inverted Classroom

What does it mean to “invert” or “flip” a class?

Inverting or flipping a class is a blended learning approach that intentionally moves lectures, content and asynchronous activities into an online learning environment. Instructors can use face-to-face class time for homework and active learning methods that increase student engagement, deepen understanding of concepts and advance mastery of skills. Students are expected to go online in preparation for in-class activities as outlined by the instructor.

Inverted Classroom Strategies
Benefits of ‘Flipping’ a Class

Inverted Classroom Strategies

In practical terms, what are the core strategies and principles of flipping a class?
According to CST findings from a Fall 2012 pilot involving USC faculty across three disciplines (Engineering, Social Sciences, Humanities), we identified the following strategies that appear universally helpful to flipping a course. The first three principles are consistent with those from Vanderbilt’s Center for Teaching:

1. Provide an opportunity for students to gain first exposure prior to class
Students often seek to learn in-class content prior to class, and to review content discussed during class. Online videos of the lecture or short excerpts of key concepts are often helpful to students.

2. Provide an incentive for students to prepare for class
Students are often motivated to participate in online discussions or to comment about a video or text posted online with low-stakes points or grades associated with the participation.

3. Provide a mechanism to assess student understanding
Low-stakes quizzes and in-class exercises such as using ‘clickers’ helps the instructor to assess student understanding of key concepts or understanding of content introduced outside of class or during class.

4. Provide clear connection between in-class and out-of-class activities
Students seek a direct connection between online content and activities, and in-class activities. Carefully and deliberately structuring online content and activities with in-class content and activities helps students orient themselves to the value of the flipped classroom.

5. Provide clearly defined and well-structured flipped classroom activities
Students consistently characterize courses that are well organized as positive, since it helps them be more productive and focused on course concepts. Having an organized syllabus with clear deadlines for assignments, online activities, and in-class exercises helps students prioritize and commit to their learning.

6. Provide adequate time for students to carry out their assignments
Students can become overwhelmed if the time available to complete assignments is not sufficient. In-class activities should be designed with adequate time to apply the knowledge, information, and skills students acquire online or outside of class.

7. Provide facilitation and guidance that supports a learning community
In-class group work appears to be difficult for many students (i.e., group dynamics, roles and levels of participation, and satisfaction with grading schema). Group work is a universal challenge and often requires well-prepared facilitation and guidance for student collaboration to work effectively.

8. Provide prompt and adaptive feedback on group and project work
Prompt feedback is critical in a flipped classroom (or blended learning) environment where questions about what to do or what to prioritize regarding online activities can become overwhelming if left unanswered. Such feedback and answers can be provided using an online discussion board for greater efficiency, thereby answering the same essential question for all.

9. Provide technologies familiar and easy to access
For most students there are very few technological barriers if the technology is one that they are currently using, or have used recently. Select technologies that are in common use, if possible. You may wish to ask your students about their respective comfort levels before making a final decision on what to use.

Benefits of ‘Flipping’ a Class

  • Opportunity for students to review content (e.g., lectures) at their own pace.
  • Prepares students to participate in classroom activities.
  • Opportunities for self-assessment that students can use to identify challenging concepts or gaps in their skills and knowledge which can be addressed during class time.
  • Enables students to acquire knowledge and learn skills that they can apply in the classroom and receive real time feedback.
  • Opportunity for students to interact with their instructor as a learning facilitator, mentor and subject matter expert during class time.
  • Opportunities for questions, discussion, feedback, collaboration during class time.


Many technologies can be used to “flip” a class. All of the technologies below can be used to create  and present online content, lectures, assessments, and feedback. Collaboration tools can be used both in class and outside of class for group projects, problem solving and sharing resources, depending on the nature of the instructional activities.

•    Blackboard course website (assessments, course content, group projects and more)
•    Lecture capture tools: room-based (Media Site, studio classrooms) and desktop (Camtasia, Adobe Presenter)
•    Video recording and editing (webcam, camera, iMovie)
•    Annotation/commenting (VoiceThread)
•    Collaboration tools (Google Docs)
•    Polling and survey tools (TurningPoint)
•    Videoconferencing (Skype, GoToMeeting)
•    Mobile devices for project based activities (tablets, cell phones)


  • Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture for Higher Education (May 2012) Jackie Gerstein, education and educational technology writer and instructor, provides an in-depth discussion of flipped classrooms, basic concepts and learning theories supporting this approach, a model of the experiential flipped classroom, activities, tools and resources, and links to examples.
  • Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2012: The Flipped Classroom (November 2012)
    Audrey Watters, ed tech writer, details resources and steps to get started with the flipped model: tools of the flip, history and benefits of the flip, and flipping the flip. In this blog post, she makes the case for how instructors can use the flipped model to leverage content in support of student inquiry and agency.