The polarizing effect of the online flipped classroom
Journal article, 2020

Against the background of the burgeoning use of online learning in higher education, and more recently the online flipped classroom, this study sets out to evaluate the efficacy of the online flipped classroom. To this end, a campus-based course in applied physics for master and doctoral students was transformed into an online flipped course. We analyse how this transformation and student participation in specific asynchronous and synchronous learning activities affect performance for the online flipped format. Results reveal that, while there was no statistically significant difference in average performance between the campus-based and online flipped format, the online flipped format led to a significantly larger spread - a polarization - in performance. Further, drawing on transactional distance theory, we attribute this polarization to a higher oscillation in transactional distance for the online flipped format. This link between transactional distance and performance constitutes the main theoretical contribution of this paper. Our findings speak to the importance of analysing shifts in transactional distance across learning activities to better understand their potential to bolster student learning. Future research would do well to focus on how students experience such shifts in transactional distance, and online instructors need to consider how to scaffold students during these shifts.

Distance education and online learning

Evaluation methodologies

Post-secondary education

Teaching/learning strategies


Christian Stöhr

Chalmers, Communication and Learning in Science, Engineering Education Research - EER (Chalmers)

Christophe Demaziere

Chalmers, Physics, Subatomic, High Energy and Plasma Physics

Tom Adawi

Chalmers, Communication and Learning in Science, Engineering Education Research - EER (Chalmers)

Computers and Education

0360-1315 (ISSN)

Vol. 147 103789

Subject Categories

Educational Sciences

Other Physics Topics

Areas of Advance


Learning and teaching

Pedagogical work



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Latest update

4/6/2022 1