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Want to “Flip” Your Maritime Training? Here’s How!

Posted to Maritime Training Issues with Murray Goldberg (by on November 25, 2013

“Flipped training" is particularly well suited to the maritime industry where guided hands-on skills and practice are a critical component of training. This second article in a short series on the flipped classroom gives practical advice on how you can flip your maritime training for improved training outcomes.

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Want to “Flip” Your Maritime Training? Here’s How!


In the previous article on maritime training, I started a discussion on the flipped classroom and its applicability to maritime training. I'd argue that “flipped” training is particularly well suited to the maritime industry where guided hands-on skills and practice are a critical component of training. If you are involved in or care about maritime training in any way, then please read on.

As I wrote in the previous article, in the flipped classroom, the in-class experience and the outside-class experiences are "flipped". That is, instead of lectures happening during class time, trainees are asked to watch videos of lectures (or possibly read some learning module, or both) outside the classroom - before class. Then, when the trainees arrive in the class, instead of being lectured to, trainees are able to ask questions, participate in discussions, and do problems and practice in the presence of (and with the guidance of) the trainer. Simple, but very different.

There are many valuable benefits to the flipped classroom, and very few drawbacks. It is one form of blended learning - a technique which has been unassailably proven to improve training outcomes. These benefits were discussed the previous article. In this article, I am going to cover the mechanics of flipping your maritime training, and then conclude with why I believe the flipped classroom to be a particularly well suited training model for the maritime industry.

Flipping Your Training

If you are a training center or vessel operator providing classroom-based training, you might seriously consider flipping it for better training outcomes. I can say this with confidence because we already know that blended learning provides better outcomes (when done well) and it is easy to argue that a "flipped and blended" approach will perform even better. So - how can you do this? It does take a little effort, but is not hard. And the results will be well worth the effort.

The first thing to do is to take a look at the training you provide and critically analyze it to determine what parts of it can be "flipped". Look first to the training you perform that takes place in a classroom.  If your trainer tends to deliver any form of prepared lecture - for example using notes or a PowerPoint presentation - this is likely an excellent candidate. This is even true if the lecturer regularly stops to take questions. Not only are these lectures likely to be the best candidates for flipping, but they are typically the part of training that trainees like the least.

At the other end of the spectrum, any part of the instructor-lead training you deliver which is highly interactive (for example, on-board vessel-specific training, exercises using  equipment, etc), is not likely a candidate for flipping. Instructor-lead interactive training is generally a very effective and efficient use of trainer time.

What if We Don't Train Using Lectures?

If you can't identify any obvious candidates for flipping, this could be good or it could be not so good. It likely means one of two things. First - it could mean that you already deliver the "knowledge" portion of your training effectively without a lot of trainer time - either via eLearning or some other method. In that case you are already "flipped" to one degree or another and are therefore ahead of the game.

However, if you can't identify any candidates for flipping it could also mean that you are missing a critical component of training: knowledge delivery. Every competency that needs to be trained in the maritime industry consists of two parts: knowledge and skills. Even if you believe that the competency you are teaching is solely a skill - it is important to realize that at the foundation of every skill is knowledge. There is no such thing as a crew member who is highly skilled, but not knowledgeable. Show me a crewmember who you believe to be so, and I will show you a crewmember whose skills fall apart the moment an unexpected event arises or a piece of equipment does not behave in the expected way. At that moment, the knowledge which underlies the skill is required to reason through the unexpected situation and make an informed response. So - any training that consists of hands-on practice almost exclusively is a safety issue waiting to cause an accident.

We Do Use Lectures - Now What? Tell the Story.

As soon as you have identified the parts of your training that can be flipped, you have also identified the materials that can be used in your "outside the classroom" experience. If the activity is simply a lecture (as it usually will be), then the obvious approach is to record videos of the lecturer giving the lectures. Ideally these will be in relatively short segments (maybe 20 minutes or so), each one covering at most one topic. It is fine to break a larger topic into several videos, but generally not OK to combine multiple topics into one video. This is a great first step, but instead of simply replicating what typically happens in class, you have a real opportunity here to go many steps beyond.

First, before filming the videos, spend a little time with the trainer to ensure that the content really does represent best practice as you see it. This will be delivered broadly throughout your organization, so take the opportunity to standardize and improve.

Second, if you have multiple trainers to choose from, try to pick the most engaging and most effective trainers to perform the lecture. Even better, consider having a senior executive such as the CEO, or perhaps a senior union executive (if you have a union) deliver the videotaped lectures. If you have seasoned employees who have survived accidents or other significant learning experiences, videotape them telling their stories as profound learning experiences. Choosing a compelling personality is an excellent approach to humanize the training process, provide visible evidence of the organization's commitment to safety and training, and to engage the learner. These are all advantages of videotaped lectures which cannot be replicated in a regular classroom experience.

CBTs Can Also Help Here

For any training which is not specific to your organization, instead of recording your own videos (or perhaps in addition to recording your own videos), you can take advantage of CBTs (computer based training modules) such as those developed by companies like Seagull. If you use these as the "outside classroom" activity, they will get your flipped classroom off to a very quick start. These CBTs often represent well constructed content which can be used right out of the box.

You could also consider combining one or more carefully selected CBTs with videos that you record internally for yet a deeper, blended training experience. Remember: providing a variety of media and learning opportunities to your trainees will make the training more interesting and compelling, will address a wider variety of learning styles, and will improve training outcomes. CBTs can be one important piece of the larger training puzzle.

What Happens Before Class?

Now that you have materials to be used in place of lectures, have your trainees watch the videos and/or do the set of CBTs before they come to class. As with traditional training, each class will have one or more topics it covers, and the trainees should be required to watch the particular videos or do the appropriate CBTs before they arrive at the class where those topics are covered. In addition, they should also be required to perform a quiz covering the materials either before they get to class, or as a quick activity when they arrive in class.

The purpose of the quiz is two-fold. First, if done properly (see these articles on common assessments mistakes here and here), then it will ensure that the trainees actually do the required pre-class work before arriving in class. Second, if the results are available to the trainer at the start of class or before, then he or she can immediately identify which parts of the material presented difficulty for the trainees. An LMS can really help here because it can randomize exams (so no two trainees receive the same exam) and can provide excellent reports on what parts of the knowledge were learned well and what parts presented problems.

Now - once class begins, the trainer can rely on the fact that the trainees are all arriving with a common foundation of knowledge, and know immediately what needs additional time.

Next - What Do We Do In Class?

Now that you have partly or completely removed lectures from the classroom, what do you do with all that free face-to-face time? The answer is to use it to actually "teach", rather than lecture. What, exactly, this means depends on what is being taught. But in general, it means one or more of the following.

First - it is very common in flipped classrooms to begin the class with a brief discussion of the pre-class materials. What questions do the trainees have? What did they find difficult and what requires further clarification. The quiz results can be used and even presented to the trainees to stimulate that discussion. You can also choose one or more trainees to stand up and speak briefly about what they found to be most interesting, or to answer specific questions in a mini oral examination. All of these techniques are very engaging for trainees and will give them additional incentive to do the pre-learning.

Next, depending again on the topic, flipped classroom time is often used to place trainees into groups and work together to solve a problem, perform an exercise, or discuss an issue. During this time, the trainer can wander from group to group, listening in or observing, and helping to guide the work or conversation.

Another excellent use of flipped classroom time is to have the trainees perform hands-on exercises. Clearly this is dependent on the availability of the needed equipment. But if available, it is an excellent opportunity to consolidate the knowledge learned before class and to put it into practical use in a hands-on exercise - with the trainer present to guide, assess and correct.

Note that all of these activities are interactive, and all of them include the participation of the trainer. Now contrast that with what happens in a traditional classroom, and you'll see immediately that it can result in a much better training outcome, and will allow the trainer to know each trainee and his or her abilities much more deeply that would be possible in a traditional lecture. This simple benefit of knowing each trainee well is invaluable both for improving training, and for being able to assess each trainee at the end of the course. These are some of the real benefits of the flipped classroom.


Is the flipped classroom right for the maritime industry? I'd argue that it is actually particularly well suited to the maritime industry where guided hands-on skills and practice are a critical component of training. It affords more time for hands-on practice and skill development without sacrificing (and possibly even improving) the knowledge transfer part. It is also very well suited because of how difficult it can be to accurately assess trainees in the industry. The flipped classroom connects the trainee and trainer much more deeply, giving the trainer the ability to more closely observe and assess the trainee. This allows for early training course corrections resulting in better trained crew, and fewer crew who end up in operational positions before they are fully prepared. So, yes. I believe the flipped classroom approach is very well suited to the maritime industry.

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Until the next article, thanks for reading and sail safely!

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About The Author:

Murray Goldberg is the founder and President of Marine Learning Systems (www.marinels.com), the creator of MarineLMS - the learning management system designed specifically for maritime industry training. Murray began research in eLearning in 1995 as a faculty member of Computer Science at the University of British Columbia. He went on to create WebCT, the world’s first commercially successful LMS for higher education; serving 14 million students in 80 countries. Murray has won over a dozen University, National and International awards for teaching excellence and his pioneering contributions to the field of educational technology. Now, in Marine Learning Systems, Murray is hoping to play a part in advancing the art and science of learning in the maritime industry.

Maritime Training: The full library of maritime training articles can be found here.

Blog Notifications: For the latest maritime training articles, visit our company blog here. You can receive notifications of new articles on our company blog by following the blog.

Maritime Mentoring: International Maritime Mentoring Community - Find a Mentor, Be a Mentor