Active Learning in Remote Learning Environments

Facilitating active learning in remote learning environments


As part of the Smart Restart plan, academic instruction for the Fall 2020 semester will consist of a mixture of both in-person and remote courses. Courses larger than 50 students will be taught using remote instruction methods. The resources presented here guide ways of adjusting these activities to meet the changes in a remote instruction environment. The following are a selection of commonly-used active learning approaches that should meet the majority of instructional needs.

Case Studies

The Case Studies approach has student teams review a written study of a real-world scenario containing a field-related problem or situation. Case studies usually include a brief history of the situation and present a dilemma the main character is facing. Team members apply course concepts to identify and evaluate alternative approaches to solving the problem.

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Minute Paper/Muddiest Point

The Minute Paper/Muddiest Point approaches have students write quick responses to a question to help instructors gain insight or understanding of content. Questions could include: “What was the most important thing you learned today?“; “What important question remains unanswered?”; or “What was the muddiest point in _______ ?

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Pro and Con Grid

The  Pro and Con Grid approach has students follow a decision-making process by reviewing an issue, creating a list of pro and con arguments, and making a decision based on the weight and analysis of those points. A review of students’ lists reveals the depth and breadth of their analyses, capacity for objectivity, and strength of their decision-making skills.

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Small-Group Discussions

The Small-Group Discussions approach provides students the opportunity to share ideas or opinions without having to address the entire class. A simple small-group discussion asks students to divide into groups and democratically discuss a prompt provided by the instructor. A member is selected to report the highlights from their discussion to the entire class. Small-group discussion structures include group member roles (note-taker, devil's advocate, expert, spokesperson), turn-taking rules for speaking, and team or individual discussion question worksheets.

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The Think/Pair/Share approach poses a question, asks students to reflect on the question, and has them share their ideas with others. Think has students reflect before speaking to organize their thoughts. Pair and Share ask students to compare and contrast their thoughts with others and rehearse their responses before sharing with the whole class.

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