Teaching Tip: Engaging Learners in Active Learning Online

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The PLC (Professional Learning Community) will be providing the teaching tip of the week throughout the academic year in support of their goal of interdisciplinary collegiality.

Effective online instruction depends on online courses being cooperative/ collaborative involving (active) learning and a strong instructor presence (Dixson 2010). The idea of “active learning” is a direct descendent of constructivism. Succinctly stated “Active participation strengthens learning” (Harasim, et al. 1997, 29). Common active learning strategies can be translated to the online environment using both the synchronous and asynchronous tools available on Blackboard. Here is one example of how to conduct active learning via Blackboard learning tools.

Jigsaw (Home Group-Expert Group):
• Assign students to a Home Group.
• Number off the students in each group (the number of students in each Home Group depends on the number of topics/chunks of information you want to cover in this activity). If you are using Blackboard groups, the students are listed under the group link in list so they already have a number.
• Instruct students to note the number that they are listed in their Home Group – this is their Expert Group.
• Instruct students to find the thread for their Expert Group on the whole group discussion board. Each of these threads are assigned a portion of the topic, reading, etc.
• Each Expert Group will review their assigned topic and brainstorm ways in which to present their understanding of the topic to their Home Group. They are instructed to use the designated discussion thread to communicate and exchange ideas.
• Each Expert Group will create a way to present the information about their topic to their Home Group. This can be done through a PowerPoint, Prezi, visual.ly, Glogster, etc.
• Each student will then go back to their Home Group’s discussion board and post the information from their Expert Group.
• You can ask students to individually synthesize all of the information from each Expert Group in a summary posting.

~Amber L Brown, amber.brown@uta.edu, Assistant Professor, Curriculum & Instruction, College of Education and Health Professions

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