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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.