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Abstract

Flipgrid is an online video discussion platform designed to empower learners and facilitate social interaction between students. This paper reviews the use of Flipgrid to develop social learning with a cohort of undergraduate students at the University of Central Lancashire. Strengths and weaknesses of the Flipgrid platform are outlined, as well as potential barriers to its use, and future plans for incorporating it in teaching and learning.
Technology Reviews
Compass: Journal of Learning and Teaching, Vol 11, No 2, 2018
Using Flipgrid to develop social learning
John Stoszkowski
University of Central Lancashire
Abstract
Flipgrid is an online video discussion platform designed to empower learners and facilitate
social interaction between students. This paper reviews the use of Flipgrid to develop social
learning with a cohort of undergraduate students at the University of Central Lancashire.
Strengths and weaknesses of the Flipgrid platform are outlined, as well as potential barriers
to its use, and future plans for incorporating it in teaching and learning.
Keywords: Collaborative learning; Online learning; Education Technology.
Introduction
Flipgrid (www.flipgrid.com), an online video discussion platform, is designed to empower
learners and facilitate collaboration and social learning between students. Microsoft acquired
the platform in June 2018, making it freely available to educators worldwide as part of Office
365 for Education. The tutor creates a ‘grid’ and then invites students to upload short video
responses to ‘topics’ (i.e. questions and prompts) via a custom link. To upload responses to
a topic, as well as replies to each other’s responses, students use a simple video recorder in
the Flipgrid app (Android and iOS) or do so via any web browser. The user interface is
intuitive and functions like many other video-based social media platforms (e.g. YouTube,
Instagram and Snapchat). Students can pause while recording, with unlimited retakes
possible until they are ready to upload their video. Grids’, which essentially become
collections of topics, are managed through an easy-to-navigate ‘teacher dashboard. When
students ‘follow’ their grid, they receive an email notification whenever new content is
uploaded. Video length can be limited from thirty seconds to five minutes, which encourages
more focused, less ambiguous responses, as students must carefully consider how they
communicate their ideas. The ability to pause and re-record videos also helps students to
practise communication of their ideas before posting.
How Flipgrid was used in practice
Thirty final-year undergraduate sports coaching students, who were undertaking a
community-based coaching placement, used Flipgrid during one semester to support
monthly face-to-face workshops. Each workshop focused on a contemporary coaching
theme, with the intervening four weeks of Flipgrid discussion based upon that theme. Three
groups (or ‘grids’) were set up, with ten students in each group. Students took turns at
posting video responses to the theme, with discussion emerging via replies to that initial
response and each other’s replies. At periodic intervals, students were given individual
formative feedback on the clarity and content of their videos via the inbuilt feedback
mechanism that Flipgrid offers.
Technology Reviews
Compass: Journal of Learning and Teaching, Vol 11, No 2, 2018
Strengths of Flipgrid
Access. Students do not need to create an account or ‘sign-up; they simply need the web
link for their grid, which is free to access. This helps reduce any potential ‘overload’ of
platforms in their existing digital ecosystem (Stoszkowski, McCarthy and Fonseca, 2017).
Convenience. As the discussion is asynchronous and not time- or place-dependent, it
benefits ‘commuter students who live off-campus and are more likely to experience
challenges in relation to their engagement beyond the classroom (Thomas and Jones,
2017). Similarly, students who spend more time in paid employment and who typically
report lower gains in learning (Neves and Hillman, 2017) appreciate the flexibility Flipgrid
offers.
Participation. Discussion is evenly distributed across the cohort. Those students who might
sit back or ‘free-ride’ (Hall and Buzwell, 2013) in class-based discussions are more involved,
whilst those who might otherwise dominate discussion are less likely to do so.
Appeal. Students appear to prefer watching each other speak on video to reading written
material, which they perceive to be time-consuming and ‘boring’. Students with less-
developed writing and reading skills also appear to prefer video-based interaction.
Formative feedback. The ability to provide easily regular written and/or video-based
tutor feedback on videos, with the option to create custom rubrics, is in keeping with an
ethos of helping students take control of their own learning (Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick,
2006). Feedback is emailed directly to the students individually and only they can see it.
Tracking. The number of views on each video, as well as total engagement time across the
group, is tracked automatically. This makes it easy to monitor individual and group
participation levels. Data can also be exported to Excel, which is useful if participation is to
be assessed or added to other grading systems.
Compatibility. Custom integration means Flipgrid can be embedded into a range of other
platforms in the students’ learning ecosystem (e.g. Blackboard, Google Classroom and
Microsoft Teams). YouTube/Vimeo videos, as well as files and documents hosted on other
platforms (e.g. Dropbox, GoogleDocs, OneNote), can also be embedded in discussion
starters.
Weaknesses and potential barriers to be overcome
Competitiveness. As is common on many social media platforms, videos can be liked’ or
hearted to show agreement or approval. This can lead to competitiveness, with the
confidence of some students potentially dented if a video receives fewer views or likes than
others. (This feature can be deactivated if the tutor so desires.)
Equipment. To access and use the platform, students must have a suitable digital device
(i.e. with camera and microphone) and a good internet connection. Students who have older
or ‘lower specification’ phones or tablets with a sound and picture quality inferior to that of
recent high-spec. models may therefore experience problems.
Technology Reviews
Compass: Journal of Learning and Teaching, Vol 11, No 2, 2018
Impression management. Initially, many students were concerned about gaining peer
approval and saying the right thing’ as opposed to posting genuine views and opinions.
Some students prepared a script from which to read, which detracted from the authenticity of
some videos and led to the appearance of some discussions as a little insincere. Over time,
the tendency to do this lessened, the sharing of ‘best practice’ examples being particularly
helpful in countering it.
Confidence. A few students were uncomfortable about being ‘on screen’, with some voicing
concerns that their appearance would be judged by their peers. Consideration should
therefore be given to the suitability of the platform for introverts, although research has
suggested that introverted students prefer communicating via social media to doing so in
person (Voorn and Kommers, 2013).
Conclusion and plans for future use
Flipgrid is a very useful tool to facilitate social learning and help students develop video
content creation skills for the digital era. It is simple and intuitive to use, and students
appreciate its convenience and familiar user interface. For example, Flipgrid is similar to
recording a YouTube reaction video in response to a particular subject or item of news, or to
recording and sending a video note in Snapchat. Moving forward, it is intended that Flipgrid
will be used with a bigger cohort of students on a year-long Level 6 module which requires
them to evidence continuous self-reflection as they develop their coaching practice. Flipgrid
will complement the individual blogs the students currently maintain on the module by
encouraging more direct peer interaction and collaborative discussion on the common
issues they are facing.
Reference list
Hall, D. and Buzwell, S. (2013) The problem of free-riding in group projects: Looking beyond
social loafing as reason for non-contribution. Active Learning in Higher Education, 14(1), 37-
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(Accessed: 31 January 2018).
Neves, J. and Hillman, N. (2017) 2017 Student Academic Experience Survey. York: Higher
Education Academy. Available at: https://www.hepi.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/2017-
Student-Academic-Experience-Survey-Final-Report.pdf (Accessed: 31 January 2018).
Nicol, D.J. and Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2007) Formative assessment and selfregulated
learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in Higher
Education, 31(2), 199-218. Available at:
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03075070600572090 (Accessed: 31 January
2018).
Stoszkowski, J., McCarthy, L. and Fonseca, J. (2017) ‘Online peer mentoring and
collaborative reflection: A cross-institutional project in sports coaching. Journal of
Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice, 5(3), 118-121. Available at:
https://jpaap.napier.ac.uk/index.php/JPAAP/article/view/289 (Accessed: 31 January 2018).
Technology Reviews
Compass: Journal of Learning and Teaching, Vol 11, No 2, 2018
Thomas, L. and Jones, R. (2017) Student engagement in the context of commuter students.
London: The Student Engagement Partnership. Available at: www.tsep.org.uk/resources
(Accessed: 31 January 2018).
Voorn, R.J.J. and Kommers, P.A.M. (2013) Social media and higher education: Introversion
and collaborative learning from the student’s perspective.International Journal of Social
Media and Interactive Learning Environments, 1(1), 59-73. Available at:
https://www.inderscienceonline.com/doi/abs/10.1504/IJSMILE.2013.051650 (Accessed: 31
January 2018).
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Student Academic Experience Survey. York: Higher Education Academy
  • J Neves
  • N Hillman
Neves, J. and Hillman, N. (2017) 2017 Student Academic Experience Survey. York: Higher Education Academy. Available at: https://www.hepi.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/2017-Student-Academic-Experience-Survey-Final-Report.pdf (Accessed: 31 January 2018).
Student engagement in the context of commuter students
  • L Thomas
  • R Jones
Thomas, L. and Jones, R. (2017) Student engagement in the context of commuter students. London: The Student Engagement Partnership. Available at: www.tsep.org.uk/resources (Accessed: 31 January 2018).
Social media and higher education: Introversion and collaborative learning from the student's perspective
  • R J J Voorn
  • P A M Kommers
Voorn, R.J.J. and Kommers, P.A.M. (2013) 'Social media and higher education: Introversion and collaborative learning from the student's perspective.' International Journal of Social Media and Interactive Learning Environments, 1(1), 59-73. Available at: https://www.inderscienceonline.com/doi/abs/10.1504/IJSMILE.2013.051650 (Accessed: 31 January 2018).