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Flipped Classroom Learning Ecology

The Flipped Classroom Learning Ecology (FCLE) is a heuristic model of Flipped Learning that emerged as an outcome of my MA International Education dissertation research. Developed through a Delphi methodology, using experienced practitioners, the FCLE uses an ecological perspective to give educators guidance on designing Flipped Learning. Download the Quick Guide to the FCLE. Using the FCLE in practice, developing the model and support guidance is now the focus of my PhD.

The Flipped Classroom Learning Ecology

Flipped Learning as an Ecology

The comparison of education systems with ecologies in nature is one that has been drawn previously. In nature, an ecology models a biodiverse environment where different species and their habitats co-exist. Brown (2000) originally used the term ‘Learning Ecology’ to observe the impact the ‘Web’ has had in creating places that enable the joint construction of knowledge through ‘informal’ learning beyond the confines of formal institutions. O’Toole (2011) believed this to be a ‘gadget orientated’ perspective, a view shared by Visser (1999) who believed a Learning Ecology encapsulated the interconnectedness of individuals within education organisations, or a ‘Learning Community’. Ellis and Goodyear (2010) moved the definition forward to consider the holistic educational system, including the learning environments, the communities and even institutions’ strategies as a Learning Ecology.

In my work I argue there is a similar interconnectedness in Flipped Learning as a Pedagogy. The inside and outside of the classroom nature of Flipped Learning requires a need to create effective ‘formal’ physical and digital learning environments for learning to take place, whilst the ‘Learning Community’ can establish their own ‘informal’ habitats. Furthermore, the constructivist nature of Flipped Learning encourages a dependency between the ‘inhabitants’, namely the students and the educator and between the learners themselves. To describe and model the pedagogy in this way requires a vocabulary. In the literature two phrases are used interchangeably; ‘Flipped Learning’ and ‘Flipped Classroom’. Yarbro, Arfstrom, McKnight and McKnight (2014, p. 5) believe the two phrases are ‘not synonymous’. They argue ‘a flipped class, does not necessarily, lead to flipped learning’, reiterating the point that just presenting learners with content outside the classroom is not Flipped Learning. This definition aligns to a distinction made by Lundin et al. (2018, p. 17) who observe, throughout the literature, terms like ‘blended learning’ and ‘active learning’ are used as descriptors of how to achieve Flipped Learning. This study would agree with the observation that blended learning considers the educational design on a ‘system’ or technology level, whereas active learning considers the mediation of ‘human practices’. Therefore, although not made explicitly by (Yarbro et al., 2014), in my work I have adopted adopted the terminology that ‘Flipped Learning’ is the pedagogy and the ‘Flipped Classroom’ are the environments in which the pedagogy will be experienced. Therefore, to model and represent the interdependencies between the pedagogy and practices of Flipped Learning, the environments of the Flipped Classroom and those that experience them, the educator and learners, the Flipped Classroom Learning Ecology emerges.

The FCLE considers four core influences that shape the Flipped Learning experience:
  1. The inhabitants of the FCLE, namely the educator and learners;
  2. The environments of the Flipped Classroom, like the learning ecology of a Higher Education Institution as described by Ellis and Goodyear (2010) ‘consists of a complex mix of physical and virtual environments’;
  3. The interactions between the inhabitants.
  4. Time, with regards to when events occur and the duration they take.
The FCLE makes a distinction in the nature of these influences of ‘formal’ and ‘informal’. As the FLCE is designed to be a heuristic for educators, the distinction here is the ‘formal’ elements are planned or under the control of the designing educator and the ‘informal’ are determined by the learner.

Theory into practice

The FLCE emerge as an outcome of the MA dissertation research project. The expert practitioners that took part in the study believed the FCLE reflected their own experiences and had utility to support the design of Flipped Learning. Although this outcome provided, to some extent, ratification for the FCLE as a conceptual heuristic, the FCLE itself remains theoretical at this stage. Therefore, the role of my PhD will be to test and evaluate the theory in variety of real-world educational contexts. Furthermore, through the practice-based nature of this study, a focus will be upon the how to engage educators with the theory; considering, designing and evaluating how to turn a theoretical model into a usable learning design tool.

Much of the focus of this Blog going forward will be gathering information and reflecting on the research and development of FCLE and myself.


Brown, J. S. (2000) ‘Growing up Digital: How the Web Changes Work, Education, and the Ways People Learn’, Change, 32(2), pp. 10–20. https://doi: 10.2753/JEI0021-3624440403.

Ellis, R. and Goodyear, P. (2010) Students’ Experiences of e-Learning in Higher Education: : The Ecology of Sustainable Innovation. New York: Routledge. doi:

Lundin, M. et al. (2018) ‘Higher education dominance and siloed knowledge: a systematic review of flipped classroom research’, International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education. Springer International Publishing, 15(1), p. 20. doi: 10.1186/s41239-018-0101-6.

O’Toole, R. (2011) Extended Learning Ecology versus Virtual Learning Environment, Designing Higher Education. Available at: (Accessed: 17 January 2020).

Visser, J. (1999) ‘Overcoming the underdevelopment of learning : A transdisciplinary view’, in Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 19-23 April.

Yarbro, J. et al. (2014) Extension of a review of Flipped Learning, Flipped Learning Network/Pearson/George Mason University.