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Is it face time or structure and accountability that matter? Moving from a flipped to a flipped/hybrid classroom

Kara Diane Smith (Massey College of Business, Belmont University, Nashville, Tennessee, USA)

Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education

ISSN: 2050-7003

Article publication date: 20 July 2020

Issue publication date: 4 May 2021



This research examines whether a shift to a hybrid classroom, which replaces some face-to-face classroom time with online instruction, adversely affects student learning if the structure and incentives that are characteristic of a flipped classroom are already in place.


This study features a quantitative analysis of individual student data collected over multiple sections of a single course with the same instructor. In all seven sections, over two semesters, principles of microeconomics used a flipped classroom format that features preclass video lectures, daily quizzes and highly interactive class time. In three of the seven sections, the time spent in class was reduced by one-third. For this experiment, student scores on the cumulative final exam evaluate student learning. Students took a survey at the end of the semester to provide feedback on time use during the course and to make observations about the class format.


Results from this study suggest that despite accountability for the work done outside of class, students score 4.4% points lower on the final exam in the class format that features reduced face-to-face time. However, student comments also suggest that this is a worthwhile tradeoff as they balance work, internships and other nonacademic demands on their time. Student evaluations of the course and instructor are statistically unchanged.

Practical implications

Efficiency in educational delivery is an ongoing concern for students and faculty. This research demonstrates that a classroom that is both flipped and hybrid makes better use of student and faculty time, provides a richer learning experience and only modestly reduces student learning. It is notable that students report a preference for the hybrid classroom model, despite modestly lower levels of learning.


While research has been done on flipped and hybrid classrooms separately, this is the first paper to isolate the effect of seat time within the flipped classroom context. This research addresses the flipped classroom design's ability to mitigate the documented reduction in student learning that often results from reduced class time or an increase in online learning.



The author is grateful for comments offered by Patricia Robak, participants at the 2018 American Economic Association Conference, participants at the 2019 Conference on Teaching & Research in Economic Education, Thorunn McCoy, and three anonymous reviewers. Special thanks to Lara Loewl for assistance with administrative data.


Smith, K.D. (2021), "Is it face time or structure and accountability that matter? Moving from a flipped to a flipped/hybrid classroom", Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 609-621.



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