Education never stops – we hear that every day. And it’s true; people continue to learn long after they have left the comfort of the classroom or lecture hall. For many, career choices demand certain certifications and compliance requirements, which necessitates the need for professional education.
Here’s the thing – while the importance of education remains unchanged, the way professionals prefer to learn has changed drastically. Even in just the last few years, the influx of younger professionals entering the workforce has created a demand for alternative learning methods, and we’re seeing a shift in the way continuing education providers design and deliver continuing education (CE) programs.
If we look back five years, continuing education still centered around a classroom. Professionals would sign up for a class (either online or through traditional mail-in methods) and would spend a day sitting in a room listening to an instructor share his or her knowledge on a given topic, with some room for additional details. The traditional classroom proved effective for some learners, but left others wanting more value from their time spent.
To address these concerns, organizations looked to the popular K-12 instructional design called the “Flipped” or “Blended” Classroom” for an example of dynamic learning. In a traditional style classroom, students typically sit through a professor-led lecture during class and are then assigned additional coursework to cement what was learned within the classroom. As the name implies, the Flipped Classroom flips this traditional style of learning by requiring students to study assigned material outside the classroom, saving classroom time for activities that reinforce the educational objectives of the assignment.
Though research on the success of Flipped Classrooms is still emerging, initial studies show that students saw better grades and deeper understanding of the materials. And professional organizations are taking notice.
Continuing education in the professional world has been slow to develop, and many organizations are just now experimenting with the use of technology for on-demand education. But for those who have already embraced technology as a critical component of a successful continuing education program, many understand the benefits of an instructional format that allows for a more comprehensive education and puts their members in control of their education. What’s more, many forward-thinking organizations appreciate the Flipped Classroom model’s ability to marry traditional in-person events with modern on-demand education, satisfying the learning styles of all members.
Let’s look at a medical specialty professional organization as an example. In the medical industry, regulations require doctors to renew their specialty certifications after a specific number of years to ensure that professional standards are being met by practicing physicians. The organization provides audio and visual lectures through its online platform, where physicians can go to learn the core information. Following that, medical specialty organizations will hold an instructor-led event complete with interactive portions – demonstrations, case studies, role-playing scenarios, games, discussion, and group exercises – to help cement previously learned information in the minds of participating professionals.
For professionals, this Flipped Classroom is incredibly popular – it gives them control by providing access to the content at their own convenience, and it puts the onus of learning on them, making the professional (rather than the instructor) responsible for success or failure. Plus, the follow up interactive component to the Flipped Classroom, if done correctly, reinforces what was learned and makes for some fun. But the benefit of a Flipped Classroom is not just for an organization’s members. It can add immense value to an organization as well.
Through a more interactive, strategy-driven process, continuing education providers enable more member participation and enrichment than if they only received the information from a single delivery method. What’s more, through the Flipped Classroom method, organizations have the opportunity to provide their members more in-depth content on a variety of subjects. And unlike in-person events, online content can be repurposed for other certifications, giving organizations opportunities for additional revenue.
Professionals may never totally abandon the classroom or lecture hall, but as more and more organizations see the value in transitioning their content programs online (and as millennials demand a more modern continued education system), we’ll start to see an uptick in the number of organizations that adopt the Flipped Classroom model.
Examine your own organization to see if the Flipped Classroom makes sense for you and your members. If it does, don’t feel pressured to flip your educational processes overnight – look for small opportunities to implement aspects of the Flipped Classroom within your organization’s CE program, and before long, you’ll find a transformed CE program that brings value to both you and your members.