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Active Learning from a Distance

See the "Activity Descriptions" section below to learn more about each listed activity.

 

Learning Format

Face-to-Face

Online

HyFlex (synchronous)

Zoom

  • Case Studies
  • Demonstrations
  • Elaborative Interrogation
  • Kahoot!
  • Making Predictions
  • Muddiest Point
  • One Minute Paper
  • Opening Questions
  • Pause & Summarize
  • Plickers
  • Polling Questions
  • Quiz Review
  • Retrieval Practice
  • Self-Reference Questions and Prompts
  • Solving Problems
  • Student Presentations
  • Word Cloud
  • At Home Demo
  • Case Studies
  • Flipgrid
  • Muddiest Point
  • One Minute Paper
  • Pause & Summarize
  • Peer Review Using the Discussion Board
  • Practice and Application Using the Discussion Board
  • Practice Quizzes in Canvas
  • Quizlet
  • Real World Applications
  • Retrieval Practice
  • Self-Reference Questions and Prompts
  • Self Reflection
  • Student Podcast
  • Student Video Project
  • Video Quiz
  • Word Cloud
  • Case Studies
  • Demonstration
  • Elaborative Interrogation
  • Kahoot!
  • Making Predictions
  • Muddiest Point
  • One Minute Paper
  • Opening Questions
  • Pause & Summarize
  • Polling Questions
  • Quiz Review
  • Retrieval Practice
  • Self-Reference Questions and Prompts
  • Solving Problems
  • Student Presentations
  • Word Cloud
  • Breakout Rooms 
  • Case Studies
  • Chat Response
  • Demonstrations
  • Elaborative Interrogation
  • Kahoot!
  • Making Predictions
  • Muddiest Point
  • One Minute Paper
  • Pause & Summarize
  • Polling Questions
  • Retrieval Practice
  • Self-Reference Questions and Prompts
  • Student Presentations
  • Whiteboard
  • Word Cloud

 


Purpose

 

Brainstorming / Activating Prior Knowledge

  • Breakout Rooms
  • Chat Response
  • Making Predictions
  • One Minute Paper
  • Opening Questions
  • Plickers
  • Polling Questions
  • Real World Applications
  • Self-Reference Questions and Prompts
  • Whiteboard
  • Word Cloud

Exchange of Ideas / Collaboration

  • Breakout Rooms
  • Case Studies
  • Chat Response
  • Flipgrid
  • One Minute Paper
  • Peer Review Using the Discussion Board
  • Practice and Application Using the Discussion Board
  • Real World Applications
  • Student Presentations
  • Whiteboard

Practice and Application

  • At Home Demo
  • Breakout Rooms
  • Case Studies
  • Elaborative Interrogation
  • Flipgrid
  • Kahoot!
  • Making Predictions
  • Peer Review Using the Discussion Board
  • Plickers
  • Polling Questions
  • Practice and Application Using the Discussion Board
  • Practice Quizzes in Canvas
  • Real World Applications
  • Self-Reference Questions and Prompts
  • Solving Problems
  • Student Podcast
  • Student Presentations
  • Student Video Project
  • Video Quiz

Strengthening Memory

  • Breakout Rooms
  • Elaborative Interrogation
  • Kahoot!
  • Making Predictions
  • Opening Questions
  • Pause & Summarize
  • Plickers
  • Polling Questions
  • Practice Quizzes in Canvas
  • Quiz Review
  • Quizlet
  • Retrieval Practice
  • Self-Reference Questions and Prompts
  • Solving Problems
  • Video Quiz
  • Whiteboard

Self Reflection

  • Elaborative Interrogation
  • Muddiest Point
  • Opening Questions
  • Pause & Summarize
  • Polling Questions
  • Quiz Review
  • Retrieval Practice
  • Self Reflection
  • Whiteboard

Activity Descriptions

Activities are listed in alphabetical order.

  • At Home Demo
    Give students instructions for completing a demo at home, and ask them to report on their experiences either in a Canvas discussion or as a Canvas assignment submission.

  • Breakout Rooms
    When using Zoom, it is possible to break students up into small groups by assigning them to breakout rooms. Be sure to give students a clear prompt for discussion before sending them off. You may choose to pop in and out of the breakout rooms to join in on the small group discussions. After a few moments of breakout rooms, bring the students back to the main zoom room and, if the class size is small to medium, ask for volunteers to share some of the highlights of their discussions.
    Enabling breakout rooms in Zoom

  • Case Studies
    In class, you might consider assigning each student one of four or so short case studies and giving students 5 - 10 minutes to read and reflect on their cases. Then, taking turns for each case, ask students who studied a given case to share their thinking. For hyflex courses, students can be told ahead of time which case to study (or to be prepared to study). In the online environment, cases can be posted as individual threads within a discussion board, and students can be asked to post responses to a case of their choosing. Using Zoom, assign students to breakout rooms, with each focusing on one case study, before coming back to the larger group to review each case study as a class.

  • Chat Response
    If you are using Zoom, consider posing a question to students that they respond to by using the chat function. This will work best for small to medium-sized classes to keep the number of responses manageable. You might ask if anyone has an example to share, ask for brainstorming ideas, or opinions. Avoid questions that elicit a common answer (e.g., yes or no, a single correct answer, etc)- otherwise you will end up with students all posting the same response.

  • Demonstrations
    Performing a demonstration for students can be a powerful learning technique. To make the most of your demonstration, ask students to make predictions about what will happen, and ask students to provide explanations as the demonstration unfolds.

  • Elaborative Interrogation
    During lecture, get students to elaborate on their answers to questions by asking follow-up questions ("How does that relate to....?"; "Say more about that."; "Can you give us an example?"). Follow-up questions can be answered by the same student or other students.

  • Flipgrid
    Flipgrid is a really fun spin on the discussion board that uses video instead of text.
    How to add FlipGrid to Canvas

  • Kahoot!

    Kahoot! is polling software that turns the responding into a game. Students who answer correctly and more quickly earn higher scores, and accumulated scores for the top scoring students are displayed after each question.

  • Making Predictions
    Getting students to make predictions about what they are about to learn actually facilitates their learning of and memory for the material. This works best when students have at least some background knowledge to draw from. However, predictions can be made either based on what students have been learning in the course or simply on what they show up to the class already knowing about the world. The point is to get students to activate (think about) what they already know that can be related to the new material they are about to learn. And guess what- it works even when predictions are wrong! In class and online, you can give students ungraded pre-learning quizzes, but do be sure to emphasize that 1. yes, you really do want them to take the quiz before going through the learning material, 2. no, you don't expect them to know the answers, but 3. making predictions will help them learn the material better. You may also consider asking students to respond to a single question using polling software (great for hyflex courses and Zoom sessions), Plickers (see the description below), or by simply writing down the prediction (no need to turn it in).

  • Muddiest Point
    At the end of a lesson, ask students to reflect on what they have learned and to identify in writing one thing that is still unclear. For face-to-face classes, hyflex classes, and Zoom sessions, give students a moment to do this before class ends (while the lesson is still fresh in their minds), and ask them to later submit their responses to
    a Canvas assignment. Not only does this provide you with a sense of what concepts students are struggling with (and may warrant additional instruction), but it also encourages students to reflect on what they have learned and what they need to investigate further.

  • One Minute Paper
    Before a lesson begins, ask students to briefly write down everything they can think of in response to a given prompt. The purpose is to get students to brainstorm and/or to activate (bring to mind) what they already know about a topic (which facilitates learning and memory for the following lesson). For example, before introducing the topic of active learning, an instructor may ask students to write down their understanding of what active learning is. The one minute paper does not need to be collected. However, instructors could ask students to submit their responses to a Canvas assignment or discussion board.

  • Opening Questions
    This retrieval practice technique involves asking students at the beginning of a class session to recall material covered in a previous lesson or recently completed homework (from Small Teaching, James Lang, 2016).

  • Pause & Summarize
    This activity is ideal for breaking up a long lecture, but it can be modified for online readings and video lessons as well. Simply pause the lecture at a good stopping point and ask students to write down (or type) a summary of what they have just learned. It does not need to be turned in but could be submitted as a Canvas assignment. This activity allows students to practice remembering what they have just learned and engages them in self-reflection of what they have understood.

  • Peer Review Using the Discussion Board


  • Plickers
    Students holding up Plickers cards while instructor scans room
    Plickers are like clickers (student response systems), but the instructor is the only person who needs to have a device. Students hold up printed-off symbols that they can rotate to indicate an A, B, C, or D response, and the instructor uses the video camera on their smart phone or tablet to scan the room for the responses. Instructors can print off symbols for free and distribute to students to hang on to and reuse for the duration of the semester.

  • Polling Questions
    There is a plethora of polling software options that will allow you to pose questions to students during a class session (Mentimeter is a favorite since the free option allows for an unlimited audience size). You might ask students to make a prediction, practice retrieving from memory something they learned last week, get them to apply what they are learning during a lesson, or to share an opinion or how something relates to their own lives (which supports learning). Students use their smart phones or computers to respond to the question, and the instructor can display real-time charted responses. This works well for face-to-face courses, hyflex courses, and Zoom sessions.
    If you are looking for a more lively option, check out Kahoot!, which turns answering polling questions into a game.

  • Practice and Application Using the Discussion Board


  • Practice Quizzes in Canvas
    Quizzing students on what they already know helps them engage in retrieval practice (recalling from memory), which is a powerful way to keep new learning in students' memories for the long haul. Both graded and practice quizzes will accomplish this. Whenever possible, allow students to retake quizzes (by utilizing question banks), which increases the amount of retrieval practice they engage in.

  • Quiz Review
    The class session after students have taken a multiple-choice quiz, review the quiz and the correct answers together in class. Ask students to share what they think the correct answers are and, very importantly, why those are the correct answers. Don't do this work for your students or else it defeats the purposes of getting students to practice retrieving what they have learned and to self reflect on what they have learned and their understanding.

  • Quizlet
    This cool application allows you to create flashcards for your students to use. You could even embed them within a page in Canvas, perhaps just after a lesson.

  • Real World Applications
    Ask students to think or to find real world applications (newspaper articles, photos) of what they are learning about in the course and to share them via a Canvas assignment or a discussion board or a world cloud through AnswerGarden (see description). Learning is greatly facilitated when material is personally relevant to students' lives and relates to what they already know. 

  • Retrieval Practice

    This "activity" is more of a general one with endless ways to implement. Retrieval practice is the act of trying to remember from memory something that has been learned. It is one of the most simple yet most powerful and most researched learning techniques. Instructors can engage students in retrieval practice in many different ways- the simplest being to ask students a question that gets them to remember something they have already learned. Students can respond verbally, in writing, via polling software, or by completing a practice quiz. Retrieval practice also promotes self-reflection because students become aware of what they can and can't remember without the help of a textbook or their notes.

  • Self-Reference Questions and Prompts
    Research shows that students better learn and remember new material when they can relate it to themselves and their own lives. While lecturing, make examples more personal ("your car", "your respiratory system") and pose questions that get students to relate the course material to their own lives. Ask them to think about times when they have observed course concepts in their own lives or in the world around them. Online, have students respond to discussion prompts that ask them to come up with an example of a course concept from their own lives.

  • Self Reflection
    Students gain so much by reflecting on what they have learned as well as how successful their study methods have been. This can be completed as a Canvas assignment submission or as a Canvas discussion post (although, consider giving students the option to submit their reflection to you privately if they choose).


  • Solving Problems
    During class time, present students with problems to solve. Be sure to give students some time to work on the problems independently before demonstrating to them how to correctly solve them. You may even consider asking students to share their answers using polling software. As you solve each problem as a class, ask students to share how to complete each step.

  • Student Podcast
    Instead of a written report, ask students to create a podcast. They can share this in a Canvas discussion post or as a Canvas assignment submission.

  • Student Presentations
    Ask students to give a presentation to the rest of the class. The presentation might be based on a specific topic or perhaps you allow students to select any topic relevant to the course. Students learn so much when they have to teach others, and viewing a student presentation exposes the rest of the class to a different approach to the material. If you have too many students for each to give a presentation, make it optional for extra credit.

  • Student Video Project
    Ask students to record a video of their work, of their performance, or of a lesson they created around a course topic. They can share this in a Canvas discussion post or as a Canvas assignment submission.


  • Video Quiz
    You can use Kaltura software to embed quiz questions within a video lesson.
    Kaltura Video Quiz. This guide will show you how to turn an existing video lesson into a video quiz by embedding questions into the video.
    Kaltura's Interactive Video Quiz Canvas Gradebook User Guide. This guide will show you how to create a video quiz assignment in Canvas after you have already created your video quiz.
  • Whiteboard
    Zoom has a whiteboard tool that the presenter can enable and allow students to write, type, draw, and stamp with icons like hearts and stars. Ask students to brainstorm ideas, reflect at the end of a session on what they learned, recall at the beginning of a session what they have learned previously, and more.

  • Word Cloud
    A word cloud is a display of words, often in a cloud-shaped formation, submitted by students in response to a prompt. Words that are submitted with higher frequency appear in larger font so that the most common responses are the largest. Word cloud activities are great for brainstorming and getting students to activate existing knowledge of a topic. They work best for responses of one to just a few words.
    AnswerGarden, like the popular Wordle, generates word clouds, but unlike Wordle, students can submit their responses directly from their devices. You can provide a link to students to a webpage to enter in their responses OR, even better, you can embed the webpage and current word cloud in a Canvas page. Mentimeter is another application option.
Last Updated: 5/27/21