Arun Pereira’s voice rings out clear from a Web cast he’s made for his students. The Executive Director, Centre for Teaching, Learning and Case Development at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, is teaching his students the concept of marginal utility.
The flip clip, as he describes it, outlines a range of examples from Coke, Pepsi and newspaper vending machines to a day-care centre. Why, he asks his students, do the beverage companies go to great lengths to protect their machines from vandalism while newspaper vending machines don’t need to? Do you see an underlying theme there, is a question he poses as the flip clip ends. Pereira’s students are expected to see this clip before they come to class, ready to discuss the concept of marginal utility (the incremental value of each additional unit consumed) and come up with other examples they think reinforces the concept.
Welcome to the world of flipped classrooms, a method of teaching that uses technology to its advantage. Indian management schools such as ISB are experimenting with this concept that till now has been been rooted in American business schools. Says Pereira, “We’re moving from passive to active learning. Anything that is passive is a waste of face time in the classroom. Now, we are taking the lecture out of the classroom and bringing interactive group work into the class.” Last year, around 200 students at the ISB were exposed to the flipped classroom method, where concepts from entrepreneurial decision-making to taking products to the market were Web cast before class began. Pereira says the students find it stimulating. “You frame questions that force them to make decisions and defend themselves in front of other students.”. With so much information available on the Web, Pereira says the role of the professor as a repository of all knowledge has transformed.
Krishna Kumar, from ISB’s 2013 batch who now works with GE in Gurgaon, says the flipped classroom methodology and the discussions that happen later on are especially useful when students with varied experiences come with their own inputs. “Some of them approach a situation in a completely different way and you wonder why you didn’t think of that. A lot of learning comes about in the classroom,” he says.
Suresh Srinivasan, a Chennai-based management consultant and strategy professor, says major universities and schools abroad are moving in this direction where content is distributed in advance and the classroom is meant only for meaningful interpretation and debate. However, he cautions, “It’s difficult to replace good faculty and tutorials, which must be a part of this method.”
In the coming year, Pereira says ISB will be acquiring small digital gadgets like a PDA for a class of 70 students where students can use Wi-Fi to respond to answers shown on a screen.
Pereira emphasises that a lot of active learning already takes place through the case study discussion method, but B-schools like ISB need to do more, especially when the technology is easily available.