Making the flipped classroom in corporate training more effective

Considering how busy everyone is, how do we make the flipped classroom approach in business training more effective for employees?

We’re all too familiar with the next scenario:

Your employees are joining a live (in-person or online) class, then sit there for an hour or two, listening to the instructor, perhaps gaining knowledge (who can tell?…), ask a few questions, and then go their way – without utilizing the opportunity to deepen the processes through the live interaction.

The mentioned above time waste is one of the biggest drivers for using the Flipped Classroom approach – in which learners educate themselves on some required knowledge before the actual class, and show up to engage with a deeper mutual exchange and understanding.

But even with this approach that has clear advantages, considering how busy everyone is and that it requires a lot of trust in employees to do the work before showing up to the live session – how do we make the flipped classroom more effective?

Let’s dive deep into a few best practices, prior and during the flipped classroom execution.


Set realistic timetable to prepare

Though it should be an obvious guideline, reality proves that often times the learning organizer didn’t set an optimal timeframe to allow pepper preparation.

You want to engage the learners enough time in advance of the class, so they won’t be too tight with time and couldn’t get to go through the materials efficiently, including time to process and prepare questions and/or assignments.

A good practice would be to consider their workload (is this right before a stressful deadline?), upcoming holidays, intersection with other learning assignments, etc.

Another important practice is to get their direct manager involved and get his/hers support in making time for the employee to get their prep done one time.

At the same time, you don’t want to give it to them too early and far away from the actual session. First, people tend to forget information when it’s not being put to use; second, people tend to postpone what isn’t “urgent”, therefore they might find themselves forgetting to do it.

Ideally, and depending on the subject and its complexity, you’d like them to get engaged with the materials approximately a week prior to the session.

Guide them on what will happen so they will come prepared

OK, so they’ve received the materials and read through it all. Now what? Don’t assume they know what the best preparation looks like.

Encourage them to prepare questions for the live interaction, but more importantly – to bring in ideas for design, implementation, and/or decision making.
You want the live session to focus on deeper learning, understanding, design processes, and building on each other ideas – how would they do that without knowing what to expect?

In one of the recent training sessions I delivered for about 40 senior managers, I gave them a preparation task in between sessions: I wanted them to take raw ideas they came up with, and start distilling them into feasible action items.

They set up small groups (up to five people), met in person and did the work in between sessions.

It worked well, saved a ton of valuable time with all the 40 people, and got them prepared really well.

Make the material engaging (not just the class itself…)

Training is usually delivered in an engaging way when the instructor is good – but why do the learners have to suffer while learning themselves?… no need to, especially in advanced this digital area.

Share the preparation materials through videos, stories, application to their field of work, animation, and humor – all ingredients that make knowledge compelling enough to consume. Think of it as part of the entire engaging session – only delivered individually.


Focus on the interaction and mutual exchange

The joint session is exactly what it sounds like – a joint place to connect ideas. Use this opportunity to bring people together for active listening, collaboration, and mutual growth. Those may sound like buzz words, but they are really not – especially when they are elevated into practical frameworks.

A few examples to support this approach:

  • Brainstorm together for ideas
  • Facilitate world cafe (advanced round tables methodology) or open space methodology (reach out to our team if you want some elaboration on this)
  • Trio groups, working on a few explorations
  • Kaizen method for hacking a process
  • Asking each other questions, offering each other support

The list could go on and on, but you get the idea: interaction could be facilitated to increase engagement and shared learning.

Aim for specific outcomes

I couldn’t emphasize more the importance of this question:

What would you like to achieve through this session?

Think of a specific deliverable (could be more than one) that should get done by the end of this class, and start working backward towards it. This way, both the preparation and the live season delivery don’t go off track.

If we go back to the example I shared before about the 40 managers in the room, our specific outcomes were:

Session 1: design a vision

Season 2: come up with a pile of ideas for actions

Session 3: build a strategic plan for implementation

When the desired outcomes are articulated straight to the point, every bit of the preparation and live sessions are oriented towards achieving those results.

Design structured exercises

To support the previous point about achieving the desired outcome, you’d like to offer structured exercises within the session, and not an open “Q&A” part. Nothing wrong with Q&A, but oftentimes, they only serve a small portion of the group, and do not necessarily ensure depth.

Structured exercises could be anything really, from groups to working templates, to exploration journeys, etc – as long as they guide the way for deepening the learning. People learn by doing and not by being passive vessels, and those exercises are what will turn the live class into worth their shared and valuable time.

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