Quectures - Flipped Classrooms and Polling

By Andrew Carlin

Active learning has been found to improve engagement and learning; however, its implementation needs to be carefully designed and applied. Active learning can be conducted through 'Flipped Classrooms', during which students read lecture content ahead of the class and construct activities for the classes. Students are therefore in control of their learning and are required to take responsibility for it, with guidance from the lecturer.

However, some resist the change and prefer being taught in a traditional format, and the quantity of preparation time needs to be balanced such that students are not overwhelmed with work. Additionally, management of the learning objectives needs to be maintained, such that the student is still fully aware of what is expected of them and the desired outcomes of the class. Proactive management is crucial to ensure the newly found degree of autonomy does not lead the students away from the learning outcomes of the class. If not managed correctly, this can lead to additional workloads for both the students and the lecturer, which may be unproductive in the long run.

A simpler solution has been the implementation of in-class polling, which has been found to support learning and improve engagement. This does not result in some of the discussed complexities while allowing students to articulate their own understanding and knowledge.

A ‘halfway house’ between polling and the flipped classroom is ‘Quectures’. With the motivation of improving student engagement, Quectures require students to engage with pre-lecture content and in-lecture student-led questions while retaining a blend of student-led and instructor-led periods of the class. Thus, a balance is maintained between active and passive learning, reducing the chances of the student becoming ‘cognitively’ overloaded. The method has been implemented with the use of a mobile app, in which the learning objectives for the next class are sent to the student ahead of time. The student is asked to consider the objectives and is referred to pre-lecture material on their VLE. About an hours’ worth of material (readings, videos, inactive activities) plus a short quiz are required prior to the lecture. In particular, the quiz ends with an open-ended question, which aims to engage the student in the topic for their upcoming lecture.

During the class, students are asked to submit questions they have about the learning topics before discussing their questions with their peers. This overcomes the issue of students making their own misconceptions about the topics in advance of the lecture and allows any particular issues to be tackled directly in real-time with the expert advice of their lecturer. Their questions are all fed to the lecturer via the app, who may choose to address the most popular questions during the lecture. Subsequently, other questions can be answered outside of the lecture or at the subsequent lecture. Additionally, these questions can be revisited at a later date, potentially during an end-of-term review session.

Like all new methods, careful design and implementation of this methodology is required. Studies purely based on in-class polling indicate that the use of mobile phones is less effective than dedicated polling devices. The quantity of pre-lecture material should be carefully engineered to ensure students are not overwhelmed. Additionally, a strategy for answering questions should be devised and communicated with the students so they are ‘on-board’ with the new methodology and the value of their input.


Q: How do students with different student needs respond to active learning methods such as flipped classrooms and Quectures?

A: Students with different student needs may have varied responses to active learning methods like flipped classrooms and Quectures. These methods aim to engage students more directly in their learning process, encouraging them to take responsibility and actively participate. For example, visual learners might find the pre-lecture materials (videos and readings) particularly helpful, while kinesthetic learners could benefit from the interactive aspects, such as engaging in discussions or completing quizzes. However, it's crucial that these approaches incorporate elements that cater to all student needs, ensuring no student feels left out. Emphasising student voice, these methods encourage students to express their needs and preferences, allowing educators to adjust the learning environment accordingly. The goal is to create a more inclusive learning experience that recognises and respects the diversity of student student needs.

Q: What are the specific challenges and solutions in implementing active learning strategies in large classes?

A: Implementing active learning strategies in large classes poses several challenges, including ensuring all students are engaged and managing the logistics of interactive activities. In large classes, it can be difficult for instructors to give individual attention and for students to feel their voices are heard. However, solutions exist to overcome these hurdles. Technology, such as polling apps and learning management systems, can facilitate active learning by allowing students to submit questions or participate in activities regardless of class size. Moreover, breaking the class into smaller discussion groups can help manage student participation more effectively, ensuring that each student's voice contributes to the learning process. Instructors might also employ teaching assistants to help manage these smaller groups, ensuring that every student receives the attention and support they need.

Q: How is the effectiveness of these active learning strategies measured and evaluated?

A: The effectiveness of active learning strategies is typically measured and evaluated through a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods. Quantitative measures might include analyses of grades, test scores, and completion rates to compare student performance before and after the implementation of active learning strategies. Qualitative feedback can be gathered through surveys, focus groups, and interviews, providing insights into student satisfaction, perceived learning gains, and the overall learning experience. Incorporating student voice in the evaluation process is vital, as it offers direct feedback on how these methods impact their learning and engagement. By carefully assessing both the academic outcomes and the students' perspectives, educators can refine and adjust their approaches to maximise the benefits of active learning strategies for all students.


[Source Paper] McQueen, Heather A, and McMillan, Craig. "Quectures: Personalised Constructive Learning in Lectures." Active Learning in Higher Education 21.3 (2020): 217-31.
DOI: 10.1177/2F1469787418760325

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[3] Stevens, Niall T, McDermott, Hélène, Boland, Fiona, Pawlikowska, Teresa, and Humphreys, Hilary. "A Comparative Study: Do "clickers" Increase Student Engagement in Multidisciplinary Clinical Microbiology Teaching?" BMC Medical Education 17.1 (2017): 70. Web.
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