Active Learning in an Online Environment

The beginning of the semester is a great time to start implementing useful andragogy approaches such as active learning into your instruction.  Jason Bennett and Charlotte Russell Cox will be presenting information about active learning in an online environment at the upcoming faculty orientation.

Andragogy is a theory by Malcolm Knowles that is a foundation of adult education.  When teaching adults it is important to remember that they need to be engaged and interact with content instead of being passive learners.  Active learning focuses on the instruction and “activities involving students in doing things and thinking about what they are doing” (Bonwell and Eison, 1991).  There are several andragogy strategies that can be used to assist with adult learner engagement through active learning.  “Strategies such as case studies, role playing, simulations, and self-evaluation are most useful.  Instructors adopt a role of facilitator or resource rather than lecturer or grader” (

When an instructor is teaching in a blended or hybrid environment, it is critical to use active learning strategies to help students connect with the content.  In a blended/hybrid course, one of the most common active learning strategies is called “think-pair-share”.  According to Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching a think-pair-share active learning strategy encourages instructors to ask students a higher order thinking question then “ask students to think or write about an answer for one minute, then turn to a peer to discuss their responses for two minutes. Ask groups to share responses and follow up with instructor explanation” (

In an online teaching and learning environment providing student-to-student, student-to-instructor, and student-to-content interaction and engagement is an expectation (Online Certified Rubric 2.6-Interaction).  Therefore, using technology tools within Blackboard and free Web 2.0 tools will be an efficient way to provide engagement and integrate technology.  There are six categories that have been identified as areas in an online course where you can integrate active learning strategies and technology.  The categories and technology tools include:

1.  Synchronous/Asynchronous Virtual Meetings

Blackboard CollaborateA vir­tual meet­ing room and/or vir­tual space to record lec­tures inte­grat­ing into Black­board.
Web ExAn online meet­ing cen­ter similar to Blackboard Collaborate where you have your own “personal meeting room”.
Google HangoutHangout is integrated in Campbell’s Gmail where you can conduct a video call, phone call, or send a message.

2.  Lecture Capture/Flipped Classroom

TegrityA lec­ture cap­ture system integrated into Black­board.  “Tegrity records class time (blended) and course con­tent (online/blended) for stu­dents to watch live, or review on-demand.”
Jing-A free screen cap­ture (image or video) tool.

3.  Video Content

Blackboard Mashup (YouTube Video and Atomic Learning)A mashup is an integrated tool in Blackboard with pre-made videos that are easy to insert in courses.
Atomic Learning (Hoonuit)Atomic Learning/Hoonuit is another available mashup video tool.  Hoonuit creates videos to support “flexible learning opportunities for faculty, staff, and students alike with unlimited 24/7 access.”

4.  Presentation

Google Slides A presentation creator that is similar to Microsoft PowerPoint.  “Google Slides makes your ideas shine with a variety of presentation themes, hundreds of fonts, embedded video, animations, and more.”
VoiceThreadSimilar to an interactive discussion board and intuitive to use.  VoiceThread can be embedded into a Blackboard course and students can be engaged by commenting on slides/pages.
PiktochartA free infographic and presentation online tool.  There are several templates available in Piktochart that will allow your presentations to have a high quality of graphic design.

5.  Collaboration and Engagement

Campus Pack (Wiki, Blog, Journals, and Podcasts)-Cam­pus Pack is a col­lec­tion of tools that is inte­grated into Black­board to promote engagement and collaboration. The tools include:  Campus Pack wikis, blogs, journals, podcasts, and templates.
Google DocsGoogle Docs allows for col­lab­o­ra­tion and a work space that can be edited at the same time by stu­dents and instruc­tors within a Campbell Gmail account.
WordPress (Blog)-Word­Press is a fac­ulty and staff web­page ini­tia­tive.  Fac­ulty and staff can cre­ate a Word­Press page and gen­er­ate blogs for col­leagues and stu­dents to fol­low.

6.  Assessment

Google FormsGoogle Forms allows you to “whip up a quick poll, collect email addresses for a newsletter, create a pop quiz, and much more.”
Turnitin-Turnitin is an integrated tool within Blackboard. “Turnitin provides plagiarism prevention services, class management tools, and paperless digital grading products.”
QuizletA free online tool for instructors and students to use to create content review materials through “flashcards, learn, spell, test, match, gravity, and live.”

When planning to use active learning strategies (blended/hybrid or online) make sure your assessments are “authentic” and not simply true/false or multiple choice tests.  “An authentic assessment usually includes a task for students to perform and a rubric by which their performance on the task will be evaluated “ (  For example, if you assign students to create presentations during the semester make sure that you have a rubric to evaluate their presentation, content, and delivery.

Now that you know the basics about active learning…remember to explore and have fun!

Ref­er­ences and Addi­tional Resources

Bonwell, C. C., and Eison, J.A. (1991). Active learning: Creating excitement in the classroom. ASH#-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 1, Washington, D.C.: The George Washington University, School of Education and Human Development.
Blended Certified Rubric
Online Certified Rubric

Active Learning in an Online Environment
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