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Center for Innovative Learning: Active Learning in Online Lectures

Online Lecture Engagement

What Is Active Learning? Is It Different Online?

We talk a great deal about Active Learning when we talk about Student-Centered Learning. But what is active learning in the context of teaching? At its simplest, active learning requires all students to engage with learning. So instead of passively listening to lecture, students actively think about and work with the materials. This definition stands regardless of how we're delivering our content - whether we are in the classroom, teaching at two campuses simultaneously, or even fully online!

How Can I Implement It Without a Total Overhaul? 

As the instructor, it can sound like you need to reinvent the whole class to incorporate these strategies. Don’t worry – active learning strategies can be used in a class with any level of implementation!  

Thanks to the folks at University of Michigan who developed this graphic, we can see there are small changes on the left that scale up to the most complex commitments to the right. You can start anywhere on this spectrum, regardless of how you're delivering the content, and these changes can have a big impact on student learning. Each of these strategies can be built on like a ladder, adding one or two rungs every semester until your course is at the level you want. 

Learn More About Active Learning Activities 

Two great resources on Active Learning from other institutions are the Center of Educational Innovation at the University of Minnesota and the Teaching Commons at Stanford University. Both of these resources provide information on both the “why” of active learning activities, as well as great resources on the “how”, including detailed activities to implement that span the whole spectrum of the graphic above. If you’d prefer videos, University of Georgia has some excellent overview videos on several types of active learning activities. 

If you’re looking for a more scholarly approach to using active learning in the Pharmacy classroom, An Active-Learning Strategies Primer for Achieving Ability-Based Educational Outcomes from American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education will give you more ideas to consider.