How Cayman Seagraves Flips His Real Estate Classes

We sat down with Cayman Seagraves, Assistant Professor of Finance at The University of Tulsa, to hear how he implements a combination of tools and strategies to flip his Real Estate Finance classes. There was far too much to cover in one blog post, and we've extracted some of the best bits to give inspiration to other educators who are considering flipping their classes.

1. To kick things off, how do you structure your class?

I teach a Real Estate Finance course. We begin with a review of financial theory. Students often need a refresher on these topics, even though they've encountered them in previous classes. It's crucial for them to solidify the foundations before delving into more complex DCF models and Excel spreadsheets. I organize the course into modules and use a flipped classroom format. Each module includes a quiz, which I jokingly call homework. Students have two attempts, with an hour per attempt.

2. So the quizzes are formative, helping them identify knowledge gaps and focus their efforts where needed?

Exactly. Originally, I planned in-class quizzes, but realized it would be time-consuming. So, I opted for timed quizzes to encourage preparation. They're open-notes and open-internet, but the time pressure ensures they study beforehand.

It's a balance. I aim to maintain a quiz-like feel while encouraging thorough preparation. 

Initially, I considered single-attempt quizzes, akin to in-class assessments. But I settled for two attempts to strike a balance. It offers students a chance to learn from mistakes while keeping the quiz format intact.

3. How do you flip your Real Estate Finance class?

Flipping the classroom has been a fantastic experience. It allows for more engaging in-class activities. I cover theory and lectures outside class, using tools like Blended Teaching. So students learn things like definitions and calculations at their own pace outside of the classroom, reserving in-class time for group work, discussions, and practical applications like working on an investment analysis project together, DCF modeling, or going onto LoopNet together to find, analyze and discuss a property.

4. Are there any standout in-class activities that the students have really enjoyed?

One notable instance was discussing a local property development post-tour, because of the flipped classroom aspect of the course I had 30-40 minutes of time in class just to talk about it; the building, the financials behind it, choices the owner and developer made. If I didn't use a flipped classroom approach, I'd likely not have had enough time to to discuss that with the class!

5. This is now your second semester flipping the classroom, and using Blended Teaching. How has your experience been so far?

There was a transition period as I got used to it. Delivering a lot of the content at home and reserving the classroom time for discussions and activities means that the class is very fluid. Where I have extra time during class, I've realized that I can talk about things that have been interesting to me recently, or things that have happened in Tulsa, or even a video or post from another professor or industry professional that I’ve seen on LinkedIn. Recently I pulled up a video I’d seen that shows the accuracy of interest rate predictions over the past 40 years, and we talked about it for 10 minutes as a class.

I also use Harvard Business Review case studies. We spent a lot of class time talking through these. Students discuss them together and then present on them.

We cover one on leasing decisions in commercial real estate, and because of the flipped classroom aspect I have time to invite a friend up to Tulsa from Houston who specializes in commercial leases. Students present to him on their decision on which tenants to accept into the retail shopping center in the case study, and my friend gives them feedback based on his real world experience working in commercial leasing in Houston.

6. Thank you for sharing your insights and experiences. It's inspiring to see educators like you pioneering innovative teaching methods.

Thank you. It's been a rewarding journey, and I intend to continue refining and integrating these methods. It's about continually striving for better educational practices. And thanks to platforms like Blended Teaching, the process becomes more manageable and enjoyable.