Active Learning Strategies and Discussion Tools
by Mengran Tao
Strategy 1: Polling
Launching a poll is a great tool to begin a discussion. If you use it in the middle of a lesson, it can also provide a moment for reflection. A poll can be great to start a discussion and can help teachers estimate what their class understands, and what they need to spend more time on.
- Platform with Polling features
Tips for using polling feature:
- Create questions that students can answer individually and anonymously, or as a pair or small group.
- Project the answers as they roll in using presentation technology.
- Strike a balance between asking questions and other lecture activities—asking too many can be distracting.
Strategy 2: Creating Real-Time Connections Online
Group brainstorming and projects may be a fantastic method to get students to collaborate on course subjects, engage in more open-ended discussions, and develop and demonstrate their comprehension of content more effectively than individualized research papers or traditional class discussion boards. When we teach courses entirely online or in a hybrid of the physical classroom and online instruction, we may face challenges in developing spaces for students to interact meaningfully with one another. However, there are various resources available to educators that go beyond text-based discussion boards and video lectures to incorporate elements of active and collaborative learning. These platforms range from synchronous brainstorming places to platforms that students and teachers may visit at any time to create material as their schedules allow (Salovaara, M, I. & Gould, E., August 4, 2020). Examples include but are not limited to:
- Miro – Think, draw, and design on a whiteboard together
- Creatly – Design and plan together
- ConceptBoard – Think together and draw on a whiteboard
Dotstorming- real-time or asynchronous brainstorming and decision-making
What can you do if you want online students to communicate with one another yet only interact with their devices? You should take advantage of this! There are online collaboration tools that offer pre-made yet configurable templates for interactive projects, games, and quizzes that can be accessed from any device. They will assist you in increasing student involvement in class and increasing social interaction while studying online (Grineva, S. April 29, 2021). Examples include but are not limited to:
Seesaw – Do interactive assignments and group projects
- Kahoot! – Implement playful learning
- Pear Deck – Implement playful learning
Strategy 3: Fostering Community in Your Course
The connection students feel with each other and with their instructors is critical for student success. Making connections is more complex now that students are learning in virtual courses and modified settings (November 3, 2020). In a traditional classroom, there are some pretty standard practices that most teachers use to build the desired culture. In shifting to online learning, these strategies rarely transfer perfectly. In my years of teaching virtually, I found that community culture can be built in the online setting, but it requires different strategies based on trust, respect, and responsibility (May 1, 2020). Community is more than participation; it requires moving from participation to engagement, involvement, and action. Establishing a community helps a group of learners bond and work well together. There are several strategies we can use to promote community in an online course (The K. Patricia Cross Academy, 2021).
In many ways, asynchronous video communication can combine the best of in-person and text discussions. Similar to text-based communication, video messages are recorded and allow for high levels of flexibility and participation. Once video messages are shared, students can watch and/or respond to them immediately or when it is convenient. At the same time, they contain the fidelity and communication cues that help make in-person communication powerful (February 3, 2021). Examples include but are not limited to:
Flipgrid – Get video feedback from your students
- Nearpod-Make interesting lessons with online discussions
- InsertLearning – Review texts together and complement them with multimedia
For many years, the primary way used by educators to connect with students and engage them in online courses has been text-based asynchronous discussions (e.g., discussion boards). Although text-based asynchronous discussions have inherent limitations, they are an essential type for classroom participation. These discussions allow teachers and students to interact and discuss at convenient times and locations. They can also assist introverted or second language learners to participate in the classroom by giving them time to respond before thinking, resulting in rich discussions. However, asynchronous text conversations can become formulaic when used in a non-innovative manner, causing people to believe that the discussion is just busy. They may experience a loss of immediate and social presence at times, and they may feel detached and dispersed for days or even weeks. Therefore, effective innovation can make text-based asynchronous discussions more exciting. (August 24, 2020). Examples include but are not limited to:
- Kialo-create classroom debate
Collaborative Collecting & Sharing
Gathering and managing relevant information is a crucial starting point in collaborating on an online course plan or a lesson. Students can collect images for group art projects or share articles for study in class, learning how to collaborate with digital archives. In any case, content curation tools will assist you in collecting and sharing textual and visual information. Their advantages for eLearning cooperation are obvious (April 29, 2021). Examples include but are not limited to:
Padlet – Gather web content
- Wakelet – Gather web content and bookmark everything
Discussion in online classes can enhance students learning and facilitate social interaction(An, Shin, & Lim, 2009; Andresen, 2009; Hew & Cheung, 2013; Hrastinski, 2008), as well as create opportunities to enhance students learning through collaboration(Palmer, Holt, & Bray, 2008; Hew & Cheung, 2013). Through collaborative knowledge-building processes, each student becomes reflective, thinks critically, and understands concepts better than if she or he were studying alone (Hew & Cheung, 2013). As a result, it is imperative for instructors to fully use discussion and understand how to use various digital tools to generate multiple forms of discussion in order to improve student engagement in online courses.