2.4 Where and when to apply active learning activities
Active learning activities are typically conducted in a face-to-face classroom setting (Bonwell & Eison, 1991) where students collaborate, discuss, and share their ideas with their peers and instructors who are physically present. They can also be held in an online environment via any software providing synchronous teleconferencing, such as Blackboard Collaborate, Zoom, Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, WebEx, among others.
In synchronous online environments, students and instructors meet live in a virtual space. Activities such as group discussion or think-pair-share can be conducted very much like a face-to-face classroom setting. Asynchronous collaborative tools such as Google Docs can also make learning effective by allowing students to brainstorm as they discuss in this online learning environment. Instructors may also find these tools useful in a hybrid learning environment or physically distanced classrooms. Students can work with their peers using, for instance, Blackboard’s breakout group feature and collaboratively share their work and ideas. Instructors can also solicit students’ feedback and get them to reflect on their learning via online polling. Applying active learning activities to fully asynchronous online environments may not be as straightforward. Asynchronous online classes do not require students and instructors to meet live at any scheduled times. They work independently on their own time. Instead of having a live discussion, students post to discussion boards and submit any assignments online within a given timeframe. While incorporating active learning activities in an asynchronous learning mode can be a challenge, it is still possible. A live discussion group can be replaced with a smaller group that shares their ideas on an online discussion board. Students can participate in exercises and discussions using wiki or blogs. Swift (2018) stated that clear organization is an essential component in a successful asynchronous course. For example, instructors should have a checklist of items that students should complete i.e., reading assignments, watching a video lecture, and working on group exercises. Swift (2018) also noted that by setting deadlines that each student requires to contact other group members helps increase timely participation by students.
As stated above, it is recommended that students be introduced to the concept of active learning from the very beginning of the semester. The students need to understand the value of the activities and how they relate to their learning goals (Tharayil et al., 2018). Instructors can apply active learning strategies at practically any point in the semester. However, for these prompt(s) to be effective, they should be implemented after a topic has been taught or in the midway mark of the semester to provide adequate scaffolding. Students should have sufficient prior knowledge of the activity’s subject. Foundational materials (i.e., lessons, notes, videos, homework, quizzes, tests, study guides) to which to refer and provide feedback in these tasks are required.
By Thitima Srivatanakul