Active Learning Strategies

Active Learning Strategies in Online Courses
Tell me, and I’ll listen. Show me, and I’ll understand. Involve me, and I’ll learn.
-----Teton Lakota Indians
Why active learning?
Dale’s cone of experience is a famous model that illustrates the increase of
retention when we are “doing” (active learning) as opposed to what is “hearing”,
“reading” or “seeing” (passive learning). It shows that presenting information
through verbal symbols and listening to spoken words are the least effective ways
for students to learn although it is a time efficient way to cover a lot of content.
When to use lectures in my Online Courses?
Does it mean that we should never use lectures in our teaching? The answer is
definitely no. Dale’s cone of experience does not mean that we should not value
reading and listening this kind of learning experiences. All of the approaches could
and should be used depending on the needs of the learners. When do you need to
use lectures? Ask yourself the following three questions:
(1) Can students find the information from the Internet? If the answer is yes, ask
them to do it.
(2) Can students understand the key point or draw the conclusion after reading
some information you gave to them? If the answer is yes, why bother recording a
(3) Is the knowledge/concept difficult for students to understand? If the answer is
yes, it might be better to use lectures.
Student concentration during presentations often declines after 15 minutes, so
even lecturing is the right way to go, it is important to keep your lectures short.
Break it down if it lasts more than 15 minutes.
What are the active learning strategies I can use in my online
1. Asking questions and letting students find answers
If students can find the information from Internet or the textbook, ask them to do it.
After that, requires them to submit a report to you individually or post it on a
discussion forum.
Short example of Socratic questioning
2. Summarizing or Drawing conclusions from given readings
Give some articles or readings and ask students to draw the conclusions or
summarize what they have learned from the readings.
3. Group presentations
Divide students into groups, give them topics, ask them work collaboratively on a
presentation about the given topic by YouTube.
4. Collaborative Groups
Post several key questions and ask students work collaboratively in Google docs or
One Drive and find the answers together.
Evaluating the Effects of Local Energy Resource Development
5. Scenario/Case studies
Provide your students a real life scenario and ask them find the solution(s). Or give
your students a case and ask them to analyze or evaluation the case based on the
knowledge they learned. Using real world issues that are relevant to course content
can engage students in their learning.
Plant Adaptions for Water Stress
Recycle or not? A case from New York City
6. Role-playing
Given a scenario and ask your students to play a role.
Sleeping Mountain Scenario
7. Simulation
Connecting Concepts: Natural Selection 3: Microevolution: Evolution in a Population
8. Debates
When the discussion topics can be easily divides into opposing views or Pro/Con
considerations, divide students into two groups and let them present arguments in
support of their positions.
9. Reflection
Ask students to reflect what they have learned from this lesson or this course. For
example, key takeaways, key concepts they have learned from this lesson, etc. How
does the knowledge learned from this lesson relevant to your personal/work
10. Giving a mysteries quiz
Give students a self-assessment quiz with mysteries questions and provide a video
explain the right answers and why after they finish the quiz.
11. Brainstorm Ideas
Brainstorm ideas can use used in online courses by asking students to post their
ideas in a discussion board.
12. Concept Mapping
Ask students to illustrate the connections that exist between terms or concepts
covered in your course material using a concept map.
13. Peer Review
Ask students to review each other’s paper and give suggestions to improve it.
Student Peer Review through a discussion board to develop an invasive species
Most of these active learning strategies require students to explore and find
the information or answers by themselves. If there is some important information
missed or they misunderstand some knowledge, provide a feedback video to clarify
it. Feedback is important and you need to let them know even all of them have done
a good job. Feedback does not necessary mean that you should give them the correct
answer. Sometimes it is better to just provide them some directions and ask them to
explore again until they find the correct answer.