Flipping your class by having students watch lecture videos for their homework can lead to richer discussions about the content, but only if students come to class prepared. And having them watch a video lecture at home “simply takes a technique that didn’t work in person and puts in online,” said Harvard University physics professor Eric Mazur.
During the 2016 Building Learning Communities (BLC) conference organized by education thought leader Alan November, Mazur unveiled a free tool that he and a team of colleagues developed to solve this problem.
Called Perusall, it’s a social learning platform that will “essentially make sure every student is prepared for class,” Mazur said. It also makes sure teachers are prepared to address students’ key questions and areas of confusion—without creating more work for the instructor.
Mazur spent the first part of his opening keynote recalling how he realized long ago that teaching must be more than simply transferring knowledge.
Crafting a Unique Approach
Early in his career, he would spent countless hours before every class preparing lecture notes from a different textbook than students were using. He even found a textbook that was out of print, so there would be no danger that his students would own a copy—and therefore his notes wouldn’t mirror what they were reading. He also prepared copies of his lecture notes for students to take with them at the end of class, so they’d stay throughout his lecture first. But in describing this strategy, he noted: “Isn’t that already admitting there’s a problem?”
Mazur found that taking an inquiry-based approach to teaching was far more effective for his students.