The flipped-classroom model is still relatively new at Yakima Valley College. Along with instructor Rachel Dorn's two classes, a handful of other Valley instructors follow a flipped instructional model.

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Humberto Urrutia took a closer look at the back of the life-size bust of Batman he had created in an art class at Yakima Valley College.

“This is for my kids,” he said of the clay sculpture as instructor Rachel Dorn stood nearby.

Technically, Urrutia’s efforts in Dorn’s hand-building pottery class were homework — something the sophomore would do in his own time. But as a student in a “flipped” classroom, he and the other students tackle homework during class time and instruction happens on their own time.

Dorn records videos she then puts into assignments and playlists that students access through video services such as Canvas and YouTube. Students had watched her video demonstrating how to hollow out and reassemble a sculpture the week prior, so were ready to work on their projects during class time.

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“Since they’re working here, I can catch those issues,” Dorn said of students whose clay may be too thick, potentially resulting in an explosion in the kiln, or too thin, which means it could dry too quickly and crack.

The flipped classroom allows students to do more, Dorn said.

“When they come, assuming they’ve watched (the videos), they come to class ready to work,” she said. “Class time is more focused.”

Margarita Cruz finds the system helpful for that reason.

“You come to school and you know what you’re supposed to be doing,” Cruz said as she used a loop tool to hollow out an elephant modeled on her 3-year-old son’s favorite stuffed animal.

The flipped-classroom model is still relatively new at Yakima Valley College. Along with Dorn’s two classes, a handful of other YVC instructors follow a flipped instructional model.

Mathematics instructor Michal Ramos was the first in that department to implement a flipped classroom.

“The aspect about the flipped classroom model I like most is the chance I get to walk around and work with students one on one with the problems they are struggling with,” Ramos said. “When I am up in front of the class lecturing, I can’t tell if students are getting it or not.”

Implementing a flipped classroom takes a lot of preparation.

“The challenges of the flipped classroom are that a lot more energy is required out of the instructor during class time, careful planning of in-class activities is needed, and the preparation time to create lecture videos can feel astronomical,” Ramos said.

Video quality is important; that alone can require extra effort to get it right. And students don’t want long videos.

“Research has shown that students don’t sit through hourlong videos,” Dorn said.

It’s a challenge to assess students successfully, Ramos noted. “I am still working on how to best match what we do in class with what I put on my exams,” she said.

Adding texture to her cat sculpture, student Nadene Orlando mentioned another challenge of flipped classrooms.

“I do like that I have more work time in class. The downside is when my internet goes out,” she said.