Flipgrid is a popular video-based discussion tool that has many advantages over an LMS discussion forum. For one, it arranges student postings on a single page rather than in a threaded forum. This makes it good for collecting a variety of independent responses to a question rather than holding a threaded discussion that develops lines of thinking on a topic through student responses to one another. Two, the visual element can make student postings more engaging than reading pages of text. Three, as an independent app, it seems to take students out of the mindset of needing to craft an academic-sounding message for a grade, making student postings more genuine.
Microsoft purchased Flipgrid in 2020, and at the ISTE conference this June, it announced a number of updates. This provides a good opportunity to also go over recently added features that many people might have missed.
First and foremost, Flipgrid has become just Flip. The reason is that discussions are no longer called “grids” but rather “topics,” a change that was actually made a couple of years ago. Beyond that, there will soon be an upgrade to Flip’s appearance: a more modern look that uses a dark background, less text, and content arranged in tiles around the page. This should make it more intuitive to students. Plus, instructors will be able to create custom links to invite students to groups rather than rely on randomly generated codes. This will allow instructors to give students easy-to-remember link names, such as MedicalEthics2022. There will also be a home page feed of new content, much like most social media apps, allowing students and instructors to see what is new as soon as they log in.
Flip has added a number of helpful features over the past two years that are often overlooked:
- Video upload. Most users default to recording a webcam video, but they can upload a video instead. Instructors can thus upload a video to accompany their discussion prompt as well as embed a video from YouTube or Vimeo, while students can create videos in other formats using other apps, such as narration over imagery or animation, and then upload the result. In this way, Flip can serve as a student presentation tool, with each presentation conveniently appearing on the same page.
- Whiteboard. Another lesser-known feature is the ability to draw on a whiteboard while recording. This can be done in two ways. One, the student can choose a split screen so that their image appears on one side while they draw on a whiteboard on the other. Two, the student can have their video fill the entire screen and draw right over it.
- Video with images. Students can also post images to appear with their videos. Thus, the video might be a webcam recording of them talking about a topic, with images appearing next to them to illustrate their points. They can also post a large image filling the screen and then circle different elements in it while they speak to draw attention to those elements.
- Notes. One helpful feature is the ability to post sticky notes to the screen that appear next to the video while they are recording it, but do not appear within the video itself. These are notes that, like cue cards, the speaker can consult as they talk, allowing users to cover a number of topics without having to constantly fish for written notes.
- Screencasts. Both students and instructors can also make screencasts on Flip by recording their monitor while speaking. This is great for tutorials of a process. As videos can be downloaded from the site, those who would like to make screencasts videos without any editing can use Flip as a general-purpose screencasting tool.
- Audio. Users can also make audio-only recordings—perfect for creating podcasts. All these non-webcam options give students a variety of ways to make videos without showing their faces. This not only allows for greater creativity on projects but also gives students who do not feel comfortable showing their faces to others online a way to fulfill assignment requirements.
- Backgrounds. Flip allows users to blur their backgrounds or choose a background image—either one they upload or one from the system (the new fashion with Zoom and other videoconferencing platforms). This will appeal to both students and instructors who do not want their surroundings displayed in a video.
- Mixtape. This feature allows instructors to create and share a playlist of videos that have been posted in their topics. They can use it to highlight the best videos in a topic or past videos on a topic from former students to use as exemplars for their current projects.
Beyond video upgrades, Flip is constantly adding features that connect users to one another.
- GridPals allows educators to connect to one another through their profiles. Instructors simply indicate that they would like to link up with other educators, which allows them to see the profiles of other users who have indicated the same and send them an email request to connect. The recipient gets a message with the request, and only after they agree to it is their email address shared with the other person. Instructors can also indicate whether they want their own profile hidden, meaning that they can contact others but others cannot see their profile or contact them.
- Co-leads allows instructors to assign others as leads to a group or topics within a group. The co-lead has similar status as the instructor in that they can create videos, moderate discussion, and more. Instructors can also share a topic with a co-lead without the other person seeing the student postings for that topic. This allows the other person to duplicate the topic prompt for their own purposes.
- Discovery Library. Instructors need not create their grids from scratch. The Discovery Library feature allows them to search for topics that other instructors have publicly shared and simply copy these for their own use.
These upgrades make Flip an even more powerful tool for hosting student discussions and presentations.