I'd like to create a college-level AI course based on the famous AI MOOC created by Peter Norvig and Sebastian Thrun. My reasoning is that I wouldn't be able to create lectures as good as theirs, especially because I'm not particularly knowledgeable about AI. (The last AI course I took was in the early 90s.)

I would teach a "flipped" course in which the students watched lectures on their own, and we used class time to:

  • prepare them for upcoming material they might have trouble understanding (based on my knowledge of their background).
  • answer questions or elaborate on recently presented material.
  • supervise group work to apply what they've learned.

Beyond these general principles, I have no idea how to teach a flipped course. Can anyone offer guidance or resources, both in general or for this specific course?


3 Answers 3


I've hated the term flipped classroom since I first heard it. It was as if those young kid teachers invented a new way of teaching that us old folks could never have done.

We had flipped classrooms back in the day - it was called homework. When the history teacher said "watch the debate" - flipped classroom. Reach Act IV of the play? - flipped classroom. Reach Chapter 5 and try to do exercises 1-3? - flipped classroom.

So, you'll have similar issues with the MOOC but your homework are the videos and related content.

Some thoughts:

  • Will all the kids watch the videos? How will you handle it if a number don't or if they superficially watch it. There are embedded exercises but you can still "skim" the video and get through those. You'll want to have a plan if this happens.
  • The lectures are pretty good (I went through the MOOC when it first came out) but there are a number of holes and ambiguities. If you haven't already, go through all the videos with a teachers eye and you'll find a number of holes that the kids can fall through unless they think exactly the same way Norvig and Thrun are teaching.
  • This may have changed since I went through the MOOC but it was designed for individual participants working in isolation. Most of the exercises and the programming assignments thus are solo you'll want to work out group projects in advance to supplement what they're asking.
  • This also might have been addressed but there were a number of ambiguities in the lectures (depending on ones interpretation) which became clear after doing the online quizes (and depending on your interpretation, maybe getting them wrong) - this can be disheartening for a kid - you want to prepare them for this.

That's all I can think of for now.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, Mike. I definitely plan to go through the material myself well in advance. My lack of knowledge of modern AI should be a plus, as I stumble over material in advance of my students. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 20:37
  • $\begingroup$ It sounds like you took AI around when I took AI (prior to the MOOC) - even with it's limitations I really liked it. I also really liked Andrew Ng's ML course which was more project based. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 21:09

I can offer some general advice as I looked into the flipped approach back when I used to teach English several years back.

The Teachers Guide to Flipped Classroom is an excellent resource to begin with in terms of providing pedagogical guidance. The three cited benefits are as follows:

  1. Flipped learning keeps students more engaged.
  2. Teachers provide more personalized attention.
  3. Students can work at their own pace.

What I experienced - and what I've seen colleagues experience - is that these three "benefits" cannot always be assumed (obviously). In my view, they really hinge on the first one.

Asking students to watch a 45-minute lecture, especially if it's not done by you, can seem like you are phoning it in by outsourcing the instructional work of the course. Also, if students are lost five minutes in, you essentially lose them for their "homework" and the next class meeting because that time for application has to be spent explaining the lecture, i.e. doing what a non-"flipped class" already does. Thus, videos can be a far cry from keeping students engaged; they can just build resentment. However, if you recorded your own lectures, or in this case, your own commentary/follow-up to a lecture, you would demonstrate your own investment in the video content of the course and might increase buy-in that way.

Students detect authenticity in us very quickly, so I think it's imperative with this approach to explain how you envision your role as instructor in this pedagogical model. When flipped learning works, those latter two benefits shine. The classroom becomes a dynamic place for interaction among students and between teacher and students. But if #1 fails, the rest become moot.

As the article states,

"[the flipped classroom is] about moving the more passive elements of learning (watching a lecture, reading a chapter, etc.) outside of the classroom, so that more class time is available for interactive, hands-on learning."

In sounds good in theory and can be good in practice. The challenge is making sure those passive elements are well-received and are instructionally sound and effective.

As another resource, the hashtag #flipclass is a great place for exploring flipped classroom content on Twitter. There is a weekly chat every Monday from 5-6 PST (IIRC).


Some members of the Pedagogical Patterns community have worked on Flipped Courses. Christian Köppe et al. have written three recent papers.





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