What is ORS?

The One-Room Schoolhouse is the name we gave our experimental practice of combining multiple low enrollment classes in the same classroom with the same instructor.  ORS is made possible by flipping the classroom.

What is the flipped classroom?

The flipped classroom is a setting in which students are expected to watch lecture videos and read the text prior to coming to class.  Class time is then devoted to problem solving, and interaction between students and instructor. 

What are the advantages of ORS?

In addition to the advantages offered by the flipped classroom setting, ORS allows small institutions to offer a variety of low enrollment courses on a regular basis. 

What are the disadvantages of ORS?

Instructors unaccustomed to teaching in the flipped format may find ORS to be particularly challenging.  While using lecture as a last resort is possible in the flipped format, lecture is incompatible with the ORS setting.

What is the student faculty ratio in an ORS classroom?

During the first five semesters of implementation, the average student to faculty ratio in an ORS classroom was 11:1.  We do not recommend that the number of students exceeds 16 per one instructor.

What courses can be combined in the same classroom?

The best courses to combine are a mid-level prerequisite and an upper-level course requiring that prerequisite.  This brings students in different years of the same major together, and there is no risk of one student wanting to take both classes simultaneously.

What subjects are well-suited for ORS?

While our own experience is limited to mathematics courses, there is no reason to believe that this model would not be suitable for courses in the natural sciences, computer science, business, and many other areas.

How do you ensure that students do their work outside of class?

We have been very fortunate to have students who are well motivated and do not require much encouragement to do work outside of class.  However, the following techniques may help students who are less motivated:

  • Require students to take notes as they watch videos, and check those notes regularly.
  • Use electronic quizzes that students must complete after watching each video and prior to coming to class.

Do instructors have to make their own materials?

Not necessarily.  There are many different options available for creating materials for the flipped classroom.  Check out some of our suggestions in Links and Resources.

Is it more work to teach in the ORS setting?

If the courses have to be created from scratch, then the answer is a resounding 'yes'.  However, once the courses have been created, teaching them becomes less work than teaching a traditional course.  In addition, the type of work that goes into teaching is completely different.  The instructor's focus shifts from preparing lectures to assessment and providing constant feedback to students.  Also, the total number of students in an ORS classroom is typically much smaller when compared to a regular classroom.  This too, relieves some of the burden.

How is faculty load calculated?

Once the courses have been developed, we recommend that one ORS class should count as one regular course.  However, we believe that faculty should be supported through course releases and/or stipends as they develop materials and prepare for the initial offering of the courses.