April 19, 2019

What is Flipgrid?

Flipgrid is a free video discussion tool that you can use in place of or in addition to traditional discussion boards. Instead of leaving written comments for each other, students post short video responses to the posted prompt and/or to each other. 

It sounds complicated. 

Good news. It's incredibly easy to use. When you use Flipgrid within Canvas, students do not need to create a separate log-in/password. All they need is a device with a camera and microphone, like a smart phone or laptop.  With the click of one button in the assignment, the video recording starts, they can quickly record their response, Flipgrid gives them a chance to watch the recording and redo it if desired, they add a few "stickers" (decorations) if they want, click another button to submit, and that's it. 

Why would I want to use Flipgrid?

  • You want to build community with/among your students. When you see people on video, you get a much better feel for them as a person. Students report that they feel more connected to their classmates when we use Flipgrid.  When I use Flipgrid in online courses, I love feeling like I would recognize my students if I passed them in the hall. 
  • You are tired of regular discussion boards. Your students probably are, too. Using Flipgrid often feels more casual. It is faster for many students, and you often get more spontaneous/"real" answers.
  • You are teaching or practicing an interpersonal skill, such as healing presence, communication style, etc. Written assignments don't often capture these types of skills. If you are teaching a clinical or communications-based class, using Flipgrid may provide an opportunity to assess and give feedback on these hard-to-pin-down areas. 
  • You want to build in a "live" component, but students are in numerous time-zones and can't always attend a synchronous session. Flipgrid is a nice blend of the "live" feel but with an asynchronous schedule. 

What types of assignments can I create with Flipgrid?

Flipgrid assignments have all the flexibility of a traditional discussion board, except that the response posts are typically limited to a certain amount of time (which you choose, as the instructor.) The maximum you can set is 5 minutes, although most of the time you'll want to set the limit closer to 1 or 2 minutes. This doesn't sound like very long, but it's plenty -  trust me. 

Here are some ideas:

  • Check-ins: Include a Flipgrid post once every week or every few weeks asking the students to let you know how they are doing in the course, if they have any questions, the most interesting/exciting thing they've learned so far, etc. I have Flipgrid check-ins once very 3-4 weeks in my physiology courses. I divide students into 4 groups alphabetically. One group posts a check-in via Flipgrid, and the others respond to a check-in of their choice. I respond to each of the original posters. 
  • Application: Have the students post a Flipgrid of themselves presenting information or skill as they would to a client and ask other students provide feedback. In my Mindful Eating class I had students post a short Flipgrid of themselves leading a hypothetical client through a mindfulness practice. They then responded to other students' posts with feedback and encouragement. Students loved the experience and reported that it was one of their favorite parts of the class. 
  • Review: Have the students explain a concept from the week's material that was challenging for them, and give them feedback on how they did. I find that when I ask students to explain a concept or term from the week's assignment in a Flipgrid, it becomes very clear how well they understand it. They also learn from watching each others' posts and asking questions. I can clear up any misconceptions and the students get solid practice with the concept they've chosen. 
  • Exam prep: After a quiz or exam, have students create a Flipgrid post explaining the correct answer to one of the questions they missed. This gives them a chance to review the question and provides a bank of study materials for the others in the class as they prepare for the final. I sometimes provide a bit of extra credit for this activity.

What about student privacy?

It's important to make sure that you feel comfortable with the terms of use and privacy policies in place for any technology you are asking students to use. I have read both and feel comfortable with them for Flipgrid, but have a look and make sure you do as well! You can view their privacy policy and terms of use before deciding to use. Flipgrids within Canvas are only accessible to people in the Canvas course (although I believe as the instructor you can invite a guest to join as well). 

Okay, so how do I use Flipgrid within Canvas?

It's very easy!  First, you'll want to set up a free educator Flipgrid account. Just go to the Flipgrid website and apply for your account. You'll only need to do this once. 

How to connect your Canvas course with Flipgrid

You'll do this at the start of each trimester with each course when using Flipgrid. Total amount of time per course: < 5 min. 

  1. Go into the Canvas course where you want to use Flipgrid and click on "Settings."
  2. Click on "Apps" and search for Flipgrid. Click "Add App." It will ask for a consumer key and a shared secret. 
  3. Go into your Flipgrid account. On the top right corner, you should see your name with a drop-down menu. Click on the drop-down menu and go to "integrations."
  4. Click on "+ New integration" and give your course a name. I recommend using the course name or #, trimester and year (e.g. Summer '19 ISci647b) so that you can easily find things later. 
  5. Copy the consumer key and shared secret from Flipgrid into the Canvas box from step 3.

Important Note

When you add the Flipgrid integration, it will automatically add a "Flipgrid" link into your Canvas course navigation. I have found that this is confusing to students. Also, if they complete the assignment via the navigation button rather than through the Flipgrid assignment it sometimes doesn't show up in Speedgrader. Therefore, I recommend removing Flipgrid from the navigation menu.

To do this: Go to "Settings" in your course, click on "Navigation" and simply drag Flipgrid from the course navigation into the "hidden items" list. Be sure to save at the bottom of the page before leaving, or else it will show back up πŸ™‚

How to set up Flipgrid Assignments

If you will be copying your Canvas course from one trimester to the next, you will not need to do all of this every trimester. Here is how to do it the first time you'll be using Flipgrid in a course:

  1. Go to the module where you'd like to add a Flipgrid assignment and click on the "+" at the top of the module. Add a new assignment, and name it whatever you like. 
  2. Add your assignment instructions in the Canvas text box. I usually write out a short question for them to answer, and note who is supposed to answer it. (e.g. If your last name begins with A-E, please respond to the question posted above. If your last name begins with F-Z, respond to at least one classmate.) I also note that they can email me their written responses if they prefer not to use Flipgrid (see note below). 
  3. Set the number of points, due date, etc. 
  4. Under "submission type" select "External Tool" then either start to type in "Flipgrid" or click "Find" and scroll down to select Flipgrid. Click "Save and publish" 
  5. If this is your first Flipgrid assignment for this course, when the page refreshes you'll see a pop up box asking you if you want to connect this course with Flipgrid. Say yes and create a new course. 
  6. Now you can edit the Flipgrid settings right from Canvas if you like. You don't need to add an additional description since you did so above. Do make sure that "student to student" responses is enabled, and adjust the time limit as you see fit. You can have the topic shut down on a certain date if you don't want responses coming in after a deadline. 

What about accessibility? What if students don't want to post a video/don't have a webcam?

Flipgrid automatically adds closed-captioning to all of the videos within a topic. (You do need to make sure this feature is enabled - go to your Flipgrid account and click on the grid in question. In the settings you'll see the "enable captioning" option. As long as this is checked, they will be automatically captioned.) 

However, not all students are comfortable or able to post videos. I have had students opt out for personal safety reasons, because they are sick and don't want to appear on camera, because their webcam or audio isn't working properly, because the're completing their assignment on a break at work and don't want coworkers to hear their responses, etc. I always give students the option to email me their responses instead if they can't/don't want to do Flipgrid. (In cases where the live interaction/facial expressions/verbal responses are critical, I offer a not-recorded synchronous live session as an alternative.)

Hint: If you give the option of emailing you instead, be sure to specify that they can email you a written response. I have had students email me video recordings of themselves in huge files (!). 

How do I grade all of this? 

It's easy. You go through Speedgrader as usual. Each student's post(s) will show up under their name. If they have more than one, there will be a drop-down menu where you can choose which one to view. You can respond privately in Speedgrader, or you can reply either privately or publicly within Flipgrid. I typically respond to each original post with a public video of my own, and provide short written comments to people who have been assigned to complete responses.  

Do I have to do all of this every trimester? 

No! If you write the assignment description/instructions in Canvas they will transfer over along with the settings (points, due dates, etc.) when you copy the course. The only things you'll need to do the next time you teach the course are:

  1. Set up the integration with a new consumer key and shared secret
  2. Click on the each Flipgrid assignment within Canvas and adjust the settings if needed. (You may want to check the settings within Fipgrid as well to make sure that closed captioning is on, and that your notifications are set up the way you want them)


I'm happy to help if I can. Just shoot me a line! 

About Camille Freeman, DCN, RH (she/her)

Hi there! I'm a clinical herbalist and nutritionist specializing in fertility and menstrual health. I run the Monday Mentoring community of practice and also offer continuing education programs for practicing herbalists and nutritionists (Check out this year's Deep Dive!). I'm also a former professor with the Maryland University of Integrative Health, where I taught physiology, pathophysiology, and mindful eating for 17 years. 

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