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Keeping Online Learning Active

Active learning occurs when students are engaged with the course materials and/or each other using the CourseWeb tools using strategies that promote learning. Here are some guidelines to make your online activities more effective:

  1. Keep your students’ efforts directed toward the parts of an activity related to their learning, and limit extraneous tasks that do not help them meet your objectives.  For example, unless searching for web information is part of your course objectives for an assignment, identify relevant websites or documents and provide a list of these approved sites to students on Courseweb.  Another alternative is to work with a librarian to develop a LibGuide with the resources embedded directly into CourseWeb.  Doing so keeps students actively on task and lessens the possibility that they will locate or become distracted with irrelevant information.
  2. Perform frequent checks on understanding, especially right after new concepts are presented rather than waiting until the end of a lesson.  Ask students to guess the answer to a question while providing distractors or   common errors that students make.  Next, provide a short   explanation (video,             audio, or text) that explains the correct answer and why the common        distractors are incorrect. Having students check their understanding helps        redirect faulty learning while it is still fresh.
  1. When arranging students into online work groups, the first meeting among students should include decisions about group expectations, such as when those students will meet online, how long they should wait for an absent group member, and how the group should proceed if someone does not produce the work promised.  Ask students to post those expectations within their group folder or discussion area.  This way, students can be more productive and less concerned with behavior not conducive to the group’s progress.
  2. When assigning online lectures, prepare study questions to check students’ understanding.  The answers to the study questions should be based on the lectures.  After students submit the study questions, provide answers so that they can check their work.
  3. When you assign a multi-step assignment, have students post their work via the discussion board or wiki and provide a rubric. Using that rubric, have students provide feedback to at least two of their classmates.
  4. Use personal journals as a way of having students reflect each week to prompts that you provide about challenging situations or insightful reflection.  Only you and that student see the journal.  At the end of the semester ask students to prepare a growth commentary describing if and how they have changed as a result of the course.
  5. Make practice tests available using the same format as the upcoming exam. In a poll of 1800 Pitt students, this feature of CourseWeb was viewed as most helpful for their learning.