Mind Flippin’ Stuff

As a member of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary board, this past week I had the privilege of attending a retreat regarding online education.  I had no idea going in what awaited me!

Aaron Sams lead the seminar, with encouragement and input from President Jerry O’Neill and Director of Development Mark Sampson.  Aaron recently joined the RPTS staff as Director of Admissions after a successful career of teaching high school chemistry in Colorado, where he won the 2009 Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching.  One of the innovative steps he and a colleague took, captured in a new book they have recently published, was the concept of “flipping your classroom.”  Rather than the traditional approach of having students come to class, listen to the teacher lecture, then go home to do their work, they have encouraged a reverse approach by making use of the explosion of  technology now available.  Why not have the students watch recorded lectures at home then come to the classroom and do the work where the teacher is available to help them?  So in essence students do the classwork at home and the homework at class!  I just bought the book and am eager to learn more.

However, our seminar was not on flipping classrooms per se.  Rather, with high energy and knowledge mixed with humor, Aaron educated us on the paradigmatic changes seminaries must consider regarding education.  As seminaries face such things as a new generation accustomed to having technology interwoven into their lives, students wanting and even expecting online options, helping train men who may not be able to move their families across the country, and mission fields with vast numbers asking for help in training pastors, it is vital that these institutions think through carefully their mission and how they will respond to these changes and demands.  The Lord has brought Aaron to us at just the right time as we have been wrestling with these issues for quite a while at RPTS.  It remains to be seen all the steps we will ultimately take, but we are glad we will be able to take them more knowledgeably.

To watch and hear Aaron explain flipping the classroom in his own words, watch the first video below.  The second one shows a local television report on the widespread attention this concept is attracting.


  1. Ang October 15, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    What a great idea! Duh….why didn’t we think of that sooner? I am going to try this with my Latin class. Thanks for the hint, Barry. I would love to hear how he ended up at RPTS.

    • Barry York October 15, 2012 at 8:57 pm #


      Aaron is also a student at RPTS. When President O’Neill learned of his interest in coming, he realized he had found the guy we were looking for. Glad this was helpful to you.

  2. Tim Bloedow October 15, 2012 at 3:15 pm #

    Great to hear RPTS is exploring options like this.

  3. timbloedow October 15, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

    I’m trying to figure out God’s direction to my life and 2 main options would be nouthetic counseling certification or coming under care for pastorate. I’d prefer to do RPTS with counselling stream, but can’t move from Ottawa, Ontario to Pittsburgh. 46 years old, working full time with family over here. I’ve been promoting College Plus and distance learning more broadly for the last couple of years.

    • Barry York October 15, 2012 at 9:00 pm #


      Though it is not in the plans for RPTS to offer a full program online, hopefully in the near future they will make known what they will be making available.

    • Haksik October 16, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

      Hi Tim,
      Your comment caught my eye because I am also from Ottawa 🙂 And I am currently studying at WTS. This classroom flippage is a very thought-provoking concept…
      Anyhow, I’m not sure if you’ve heard of CCEF (www.ccef.org). It is the “counseling branch” at Westminster. I have personally found CCEF’s teaching on “biblical counseling,” to use the common label, VERY solid in its approach to and application of Scripture in the context of counseling (i.e. speaking the truth in love…). At this moment, you can get a full online certificate from CCEF.
      Sorry Barry, don’t mean to deflect enrollment from RPTS! But wow, we Canadians can definitely use a boost in the number of mature believers who know how to counsel individuals from God’s Word. The lukewarm church in Ottawa especially is in great need of that for any significant growth and sanctification.
      All the best, Tim!

      • TimBloedow October 17, 2012 at 11:07 am #

        Thanks Haksik, It would be great to meet you. I have also looked at CCEF and saw that distance learning offering, and talked to a couple of people who highly recommend their program. It would be nice to be able to be “loyal” to the denom. and do RPTS, but if I pursue this direction, I’ll have to consider the CCEF option.

  4. sarmishtavenkatesh October 16, 2012 at 4:12 am #

    Barry, thanks for posting this. When we met Aaron at RPTS earlier this month, I didn’t know he was THIS big 🙂 He didn’t make himself known that way as well, which is to his eternal credit. We caught up with him and quickly realized that he’s a friend of Sal Khan ( Khan Academy fame ) who pioneers free online education for school kids. What’s interesting is that with increased tech. tools and depreciating value at schools such technologies are being more and more embraced by homeschooling parents and private/home schooling is becoming cheaper. I hope Aaron would look at extending this concept to Christian home-schoolers as well in the future..

    • timbloedow October 16, 2012 at 8:52 am #

      Interesting. We came across Khan Academy a couple of years ago – I think by recommendation from Dr. Gary North – and our son, who along with homeschooling, is dealing with chronic pain issues on a regular basis, has greatly benefited from his online academy – the learning style as well as the way he teaches concepts. Saxon Math is very popular among home schoolers, but our son got really bogged down at some point by their method of teaching math, and Khan’s approach opened math back up to him again.

  5. Aaron Sams October 18, 2012 at 9:21 am #

    Hi all. I am excited to serve and to share my gifts at RPTS to serve Christ’s Kingdom in the coming years. Feel free to contact me if you ever have any questions about Flipped Learning or about RPTS.


  1. Check out | HeadHeartHand Blog - October 16, 2012

    […] Mind-flippin’ stuff Barry York on “Flipping the Classroom” and other innovations that Seminaries are considering in the digital revolution. […]

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