Step 4: Considering Alternative Modalities

Active Learning

So far we have been restructuring our course into modules based on the Course Learning Objectives (CLOs). This is called “Backwards Design” – planning with the end goal up front.

To ensure our course is responsive, we now must take a closer look at the learning activities our students are engaging in.

Some classroom activities translate easily to a remote environment. Discussions, for example, can occur in the physical classroom, in the virtual Zoom room, or asynchronously in a Discussion Forum. Other tools could be used for discussion, too, such as Flipgrid or Piazza. Some instructors use social media for teaching, and hold discussions in Google Meet, or via Twitter hashtags. We have several options available for discussions!

Classroom lectures, however, may be trickier to provide in a remote format if not all students can easily join your live session together. Some instructors assume that recording their classroom lecture and posting the recording in the digital classroom provides an equivalent learning experience for those watching it asynchronously – this assumption is false. In fact, watching a recording of a class a student did not attend in person – a passive experience – is a terrible way for students to try to learn. Recorded class time may be useful for the attendees to review specific sections of a lecture, but it is not a sufficient primary learning experience.

How, then, might we create an active learning experience in lieu of live lecture?

Here are a few suggestions:
  • Brief, topic-specific videos, created specifically to clarify or explain specific concepts, are a great alternative. You can create your own, find ones online on sites such as YouTube or TED, or use a series like Crash Course. Topic-specific websites often share videos, too, such as NOAA.
  • Journal articles can supplement, or replace, an assigned chapter and provide a different point-of-view.
  • Primary sources can help students experience a past event and develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
  • Museum tours, virtual labs, web cams – all can be ways for students to actively engage in acquiring learning.

Passive learning is familiar, comfortable, and often perceived as effective. However, studies have proven that even though students think they learn more in traditional lectures, they actually learn more through active learning activities.

This Active Learning V2.pdf compares passive and active learning activities – from the University of Oregon.

Activity: Alignment

Here are the handouts used in this section – start mapping your course:

Course Tools Survey Activity

Please fill out this survey about the tools you currently use and those you may be interested in learning more about:

Go to Section 2: Activities