Teaching & Learning Tips

A collection of tips and tools designed to aid in transitioning instruction online.

Benefits of Active Learning

Sep 15, 2020
Active Learning

What is Active Learning?  This short video provides definitions and highlights the benefits of active learning. It also offers a great example of how embed quiz questions can add an active learning activity to any video.


Following are some ways to incorporate active learning into your face-to-face or online course. You may also be interested in these hands on activities to explore more opportunities to implement active learning within your course.

Beginning of class

  • Use groups: Have students form groups (pairs or trios) at the beginning of class and give them time to discuss material, solve a problem, or raise a question to be discussed during the class.
  • Brainstorm: Pose an open-ended question to the class at the beginning of a lecture and ask students to brainstorm. Share students' ideas on the board or using a Google doc. Refer to these ideas later in the lecture. You can combine or group related ideas and provide major conclusions, or allow students to do this.
  • Post problems: Ask students to raise questions they may have at the start of the hour, and share these questions with the class. Alternatively, you can invite students to e-mail questions to you about readings ahead of time. These questions can be assembled and distributed at the beginning of the period. As you lecture, indicate any questions that are being addressed.

Middle of class

  • Pause: Divide your lecture into two 20-minute (or three 15-minute) periods of lecturing followed by a two-minute pause where students can work in pairs to compare and rework their notes. Students might also use a pause to answer a question or solve a problem with a partner. This is a good time for students to address any questions posed earlier and posted on the board.
  • Student experts: Have students become experts on key points throughout the semester. Students can be responsible for a small part of a lecture where their “key point” is featured.
  • Take a vote: Make a statement based on the lecture content and ask students for a show of hands if they agree, disagree, or don't know. A discussion of why may follow.

End of class

  • Assign a one-minute paper: At the end of the lecture, students can be asked to write a one-minute paper summarizing the main points of the lecture, the most important point of the lecture, or perhaps the most unclear point. You can collect these and use them as a guide to how well information was presented and what information needs clarification.

Hold a discussion: Periodically cut your lecture short. Use the last 20-25 minutes of class time for informal discussion