Adjusting the Lens: Online Classes for Active Learning

Author: Shawn Orr Director, Center for Innovation & Teaching Excellence, Faculty in Communication Studies, Ashland University
Over 25 years as a college faculty member, I have taught thousands of undergraduate students in traditional classroom settings. I use active learning strategies to engage students and include them in the learning process.
Changing charts, card flipping, expert groups and clearest/muddiest points, group projects, polling and case studies are all tools I love to use every semester.
Online classes were born
My first online course was 15 years ago. It was a poor substitute for the face-to-face course. It was a lot reading, many tests and papers, and there were a lot more students who felt as isolated as me.
Thank goodness, though, that my online courses have improved exponentially with continued learning and support (some might even argue they are better than my face to face courses).
My online courses now include:
Engaging readings with point of context discussion questions
Group projects
Short lecture-cast videos with built in assessment quizzing
Interactive discussion boards with video
Audio recordings and asynchronous guest speakers
My greatest learning curve over the past 15 years was learning about best teaching practices in this modality. I also learned how to use active learning strategies to connect students in the online environment. It was amazing to see how many active learning activities could be modified for the online setting. Here are some of my favorite:
Strategy 1: Bingo
This is a favorite game I play in class, along with key term bingo, name card bingo and case study bingo. It’s what I call “office hour bingo” in my online classes. I send each student a customized bingo card that contains key terms from the chapter. I invite them to come along with their bingo card. They do this by logging in to our LMS and clicking the “office hours” link. I share a case study covering the week’s contents. Students use their bingo card terms to answer questions as we discuss the case. They or another student may use the term and they will mark it on their bingo card.
The first few students to win a bingo prize (usually a holiday pencil, candy, or candy) will be mailed to them. I will play the same bingo game during several synchronous office hours throughout the week so students can attend at different times. I also record the session so that students who are unable to attend can still participate. This is a great way to let students use your office hours.
Strategy 2: Lectures
In my online classes, I offer direct instruction via video lectures. Active learning is a way I use tools such as Kaltura quizzing, which stops the lecture every 5-8 minutes to ask a quick assessment or using “lecture log” worksheets that are related to the lectures.
They are filled out by students as they listen to the lecture (think study book). Students then complete several reflection/analysis questions at end. These will often be used as prompts for the discussion board post of the week. Students are actively learning the material and sharing their knowledge with peers. I have found that the more I engage on the discussion board (by providing direction, coaching or new ideas), the more my students will be engaged.
Strategy 3: Bongo Presentations
My class has a lot of students giving presentations. I wanted a tool that allowed online students to give presentations, have peers view and evaluate them, and get instant feedback–just as we would in class. Bongo, which is included in my Cengage MindTap course for free, does all of this and more. Students can either record their presentations in Bongo, or upload a presentation from their computer or phone to the Bongo app. They can give feedback to their peers by writing feedback. I can also upload a rubric.
The feedback is displayed at the point of context when the presenter enters to review it. You can also leave your feedback in the same manner. Then, I have students reflect on their learning by having them re-watch their presentations with peer feedback. Bongo also has a great feature: if you have group assignments in your course, Bongo allows students to enter their availability to work on a project. The computer matches students to groups based upon when they are free. It will also record all their online group meetings so that you can review their work and record the project in the same tool.
I hope you enjoy this g

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