Five Time-Saving Strategies for the Flipped Classroom

A few months ago, I heard a podcast by Michael Hyatt, a best-selling author and speaker who helps clients excel in their personal and professional lives. This particular podcast focused on how to “create margins” in life to reduce stress and avoid burnout. Quoting Dr. Richard Swenson’s work, Hyatt defines a margin as “the space between our load and our limits. It is the amount allowed beyond that which is needed. . . . Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion. . . . Margin is the opposite of overload.”

As I listened to this podcast, I realized that the idea of creating margins also applies to the flipped classroom. I often hear comments like “The flipped classroom takes too much time,” “I don’t have time to devise so many new teaching strategies,” “It takes too much time to record and edit videos,” “I don’t have time to cover everything on the syllabus,” or “I don’t have time to redesign all of my courses.” I also hear “I tried to flip my class, but it was exhausting; so I quit.”

If these comments sound familiar, it might be helpful to create margins in your flipped classroom. Here are five recommendations for building margins into a flipped learning experience that will be successful for you and your students:

Recommendation #1: Find flippable moments.
Faculty interested in the flipped classroom get really excited about the flipped classroom. They get so excited they want to flip everything! They flip every lesson, every assignment, every project. And they burn out. The first way to save time is to step back from a course and identify its flippable moments; this will help you choose what, when, and how to flip. You will know where to focus your time and energy so you and your students can avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Recommendation #2: Make small changes.
Once you identify the flippable moments in a course, focus on a specific lesson. Flip one lesson. Start by reviewing your learning outcomes for clarity and purpose. Then try one flipped strategy during the lesson. If you’re just beginning, start with a simple, two-minute “think, pair, share” to see how it feels. Flipped classrooms don’t have to be all or nothing; you can flip parts of a lecture or an assignment and leave the rest unchanged.

Recommendation #3: Build margins into the lesson plan.
Once you look at which lessons to flip, build margins into the actual lesson plans. Where can you find white space in a lesson? For example, if it takes you five minutes to solve a problem in a lesson, plan for your students to take 10 minutes. If you are trying out new technology in a lesson, plan for it not to work the first time. If you are introducing a new activity, allot enough time to explain the process three times. Building these types of margins into your lesson plan will help you stay in control and avoid getting overly stressed in a dynamic learning environment.

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Recommendation #4: Rethink how your time is defined.
If you’re thinking, I don’t have time to plan activities for the flipped classroom, I challenge you to rethink how your time is defined. Yes, it takes time to plan activities for the flipped classroom, but it also takes time to prepare a lecture. In the flipped classroom, your time is spent walking around, talking with students, and being actively passive.

Recommendation #5: Do less, accomplish more.
In his podcast, Michael Hyatt said, “Do less, accomplish more.” This is probably the best way to describe the power of the flipped classroom. Sometimes we think we have to “cover” everything on a syllabus. We have to assign more homework, require more reading, add more writing, work more problems, and give more examples. Such overload is the opposite of margin. When it comes to the flipped classroom model, you don’t have to use a new flipped approach every single day for every single class. Not every assignment needs redesigning. You don’t have to use games if games aren’t your thing. Don’t force the strategies. Do whatever works for you and your teaching style. By flipping only what needs flipping, by stepping back and doing less, your students will accomplish more.

Let’s keep the conversation going. How do you manage classroom time? What advice can you offer other faculty who are starting to think about planning flipped and active learning experiences? How do you build margins into your teaching?

Read the previous articles in this flipped classroom series:

Five Ways to Motivate Unprepared Students in the Flipped Classroom

Three Focusing Activities to Engage Students in the First Five Minutes of Class

Managing In-Class Learning Experiences in Flipped Classrooms

Hyatt, M. (June 25, 2012). How to create more margin in your life. Podcast. Hosted by Michael Hyatt. Available online at

Barbi Honeycutt is the owner of FLIP It Consulting in Raleigh, N.C. and an adjunct assistant professor at NC State University. She is the author of 101 Ways to FLIP! and FLIP the First Five Minutes of Class: 50 Focusing Activities to Engage Your Students. Connect on Twitter @BarbiHoneycutt and on the FLIP It blog.

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