Here’s the model- my post, that follows, will really just go over the description here and add some details.
The idea behind the supplemental model is that the course structure itself is fine – the number of lectures, labs, review sessions, etc. The basic, scheduled structure of the course stays the same. What changes is what happens outside the class. And, no surprise here, the work goes up for the students. What that work looks like may vary. But the idea is that students do more outside of class so that they are more prepared for class.
An example the site describes from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in an Introductory Biology course.
Students review learning objectives, key concepts and supplemental material posted on the class Web site prior to class and complete online quizzes, which provide immediate feedback to students and data for instructors to assess student knowledge levels. During class, the instructors use a commercially available, interactive technology that compiles and displays students’ responses to problem-solving activities. Class time is divided into ten- to fifteen-minute lecture segments followed by sessions in which students work in small groups applying concepts to solve problems posed by the instructors. Instructors reduce class time spent on topics the students clearly understand, increase time on problem areas, and target individual students for remedial help.
This is sort of the classic scenario, from my brief experience. Students get credit for quizzes that let the instructors know where they are in terms of understanding the content. Since the students are sitting in front of a computer and grinding through the content to make sure they understand it outside of class (and then being rewarded for it, point-wise) they should be more prepared for class. So then, the in-class dynamic changes. It becomes more active. Since they’ve been grinding, their understanding of the basics can help them as they sit down with the other students in class.
Really, the model used above is just taking the standard assumption of most classes (students will diligently read the material, then come to class to learn more about it and ask questions) and making it more formal. Students MUST learn the content outside of class to take the quizzes to be ready for class and to get the points for the quizzes. So they force themselves to be ready. Then, in-class the instructor does not review what students already knew, necessarily – if trouble spots show up on the quizzes, that can be addressed, and then the higher level learning, the analysis and problem solving can be pursued in class.
While this looks like a non-invasive way to change a class (and compared to some of the other methods, it looks tame) there is still a fundamental shift happening. During class instructors are on their toes and interacting – so are students. Planned activities shift and change. Everyone can be more involved. This may be a shift for the instructor, who is used to speaking on a topic they know well and may not be as used to managing a large group. It is also a shift for the student, who is used to sitting, listening, taking notes when convenient, and looking for cues on what will be on the test. Both of these shifts should be kept in mind when transitioning to this kind of class.