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What is active learning and why should I consider it?
Active learning is a style of teaching derived from social theories of learning - the school of thought that says people learn best in social contexts. In its fundamental form, active learning encourages students to learn from each other in order to achieve more than they could independently. Educators can encourage students in this through various combinations of collaboration, direction, and support.
Another way of thinking about the value of active learning is to contrast it with passive types of learning. Think about students sitting in silence, listening to lectured information. Now consider a room full of students engaged in a lively discussion, sharing their ideas. While lectures certainly have a place in the dissemination of information, which scenario is likely to effect a better understanding of concepts?
How does a Learning Management System help to implement active learning strategies?
Because active learning is driven by social interaction, students need maximum access to class resources and each other. That’s where an LMS comes in - making sure that students can engage with each other’s ideas inside and outside of the classroom. The communicative platforms that an LMS provides - from forum-based discussions to face-to-face chat - increase active learning possibilities. In turn, this leads to greater opportunities for students to co-generate solutions and build new knowledge.
Popular eLearning-compatible active learning strategies
The go-to active learning activity for any educator is a class-based discussion. Encouraging students to build on each other’s ideas in a cooperative way is the first step in transitioning from passive to active learning. Working together also makes it far more difficult for students to take a back seat in class and avoid participating. But beyond class discussion, there is a whole world of active learning activities to explore. Take a look at the following strategies for some inspiration in your next active learning class.
1. Quick Writing
Quick writing uses prompts, time constraints, and free association to help students develop their ideas around a subject. Educators set out the terms of quick writing - for example, 3 minutes writing without stopping on what was learned from a reading - and students gain the opportunity to set down their thoughts and knowledge. Educators may then choose to share responses between students, but this isn’t necessary. The type of engagement required by quick writing assignments is still a great way of initiating active learning.
2. Case Studies
Introducing real-life scenarios into a classroom gives students a valuable opportunity to see how their skills might be applied in the real world. Active learning approaches to case studies can take a number of forms. One popular approach is to present the case study at the beginning of a class, or provide study resources via an LMS. The class is then divided into groups, and required to generate a response to the issue presented. In developing a response, students might need to conduct research, analyze scenarios, and apply theory. Additionally, groups might then be asked to present their responses to the rest of the class.
3. Game-based Learning
By now, most people are familiar with the gamification of education. Quizzes and other eLearning games are a fantastic way to efficiently test or top-up knowledge, as well as gauge student understanding. In his annual letter, Bill Gates recognized the continued growth of non-traditional learning formats across educational institutions. But game-based learning can also be a form of active learning, as students work together to solve puzzles and find answers.
Think-Pair-Share is a specific active learning approach that clearly separates and defines each core element of active learning. Educators first ask students to organize their thoughts around a topic - perhaps by using a quick writing exercise. Then students are arranged in small groups or pairs to help each other crystallize their ideas. Finally, those honed ideas are analyzed by the wider class. In this way, Think-pair-share is an organic method of active learning. It mimics the process of idea development often found in the workplace or other real-life scenarios.
Like think-pair-share, Jigsaw is an active learning strategy that clearly defines each stage of active learning. In this approach, students break into groups and divide content between group members. Students then take on the role of subject-matter-expert for their assigned section of content and present their take on the information with the rest of their group. Sometimes, educators may also encourage subject matter experts across groups to pool their knowledge, so that active learning is occurring across two levels of the class. For an example of how Jigsaws are implemented within a class, take a look at this Jigsaw lesson plan from Michigan State University.
If you're interested in incorporating active learning strategies into your eLearning experiences, but don't quite know where to start, we'd love help! Lambda Solutions specializes in helping organizations customize their eLearning platforms to get the most from their learning and development initiatives. To discover more about what we can do for you, contact us for details.
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Disclaimer: This article was contributed by guest blogger Joe Hitchcock. Joe is a content writer from Vancouver BC, interested in culture, education and fiction. The views and opinions expressed belong to the guest blogger alone, and do not necessarily reflect the official policies or opinions of Lambda Solutions.