Best Practices: Flipping the Classroom

Use online tools to provide content before the class ever meets—and still retain the value of interpersonal interaction.

By Neal Goodman, Ph.D., President, Global Dynamics, Inc.

Is it possible to provide the learning and development that usually would take place in a classroom environment and flip it so the content is provided before the class ever meets? The value of classroom instruction is the spontaneity and serendipitous learning that cannot be replicated in an online e-learning classroom. But it is possible to use online tools for their maximum benefit and still retain the value of interpersonal interaction.

One example is a program on “Building a Global Mindset and Cultural Competence for Success.” This course has been delivered more than 1,000 times across all industrial sectors, from the NBA to pharmaceuticals to finance and high-tech and oil and gas companies. The course always has been offered internally, so the program could target the needs and goals of the specific organization or team. Traditionally, the course involved participants filling out a pre-program needs assessment, which guided the instructors who customized the one- to two-day program and delivered it on-site.

While this course has successfully helped more than 250,000 businesspeople to be more effective in the global and cross-cultural workplace and marketplace, the changing learning environment, technological innovations, and budgetary factors required a review of the way the course had been taught.

Getting Culture Wise

The new model involves having participants sign on to Culture Wise, a Web-based portal that contains much of the content from the in-person course. This includes: general cultural information; a description of what it takes to have a global mindset; quizzes; a self-assessment diagnostic tool that allows participants to compare their cultural profile to targeted regions and provides them with specific recommendations on how to modify their behavior; and detailed information on specific countries, including vignettes, case studies, and videos from country experts.

For example, if an American participant was in the process of joining a virtual team made up of people from China, India, and France, he would learn about relationship building, communication styles, leadership styles, and propensity for risk taking for each of the respective countries so that in the class the participant could demonstrate his knowledge through a simulated global virtual team meeting. Another person may be preparing to make the same presentation to co-workers in Japan, Russia, Brazil, and the U.S. and would be asked to come to class demonstrating how she would alter her delivery style and content to be most successful in each respective country. One team that was preparing to introduce a new HR system around the world used Culture Wise to adapt its approach to each country based on the country’s approach to innovation, change, decision-making style, and willingness to take risks.

The participants receive instructions on how to utilize the tool and are expected to spend four to eight hours working with the tool in preparation for the in-person class or live Webinars. This combination of asynchronous and synchronous learning blends the best of both worlds. Participants come to the program having already learned much of the content. The in-person class then can focus on simulated business scenarios; individual, team, and organization action planning; and applications and innovations. Participants are encouraged to discuss specific issues or topics raised in the online course with their associates and managers so they can bring their current challenges to the classroom.

Instant, On-Demand Access

One additional benefit of “flipping the classroom” is that it has made it much easier for organizations to use their own internal trainers to deliver the in-person course. A train-the-trainer program helps the internal instructors to master the Web-based tool and learn how to facilitate the in-person course. This has saved external trainer and travel costs.

One of the most important advantages of this blended approach is that participants now have access to the cross-cultural information they need globally, on-demand 24/7/365. Should they have a question that is not covered on the Website, they can “ask the expert” online or they can begin an online chat with others in the organization with similar questions or challenges.

Neal Goodman, Ph.D., is president of Global Dynamics, Inc.,a training and development firm specializing in globalization, cultural intelligence, effective virtual workplaces, and diversity and inclusion.He can be reached at 305.682.7883 and at For more information, visit

Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.