Designing student learning activities #
In online delivery, it is possible to provide engaging opportunities through
active learning strategies. These include:
- Collaborative Group Projects
- Breakout discussions
Active learning and student engagement activities are possible in both synchronous and asynchronous environments. There are numerous benefits of using active learning activities to engage students:
- Motivates students to be engaged learners
- Increases content knowledge, critical thinking and recall of course content
- Allows for inclusion of different learning needs
- Gets students involved in higher order thinking such as analysis, synthesis, creative thinking, adaptability, problem-solving, etc.
To facilitate your thinking about active learning and student engagement:
- Connecting and Interacting with Your Students Online
Facilitating Discussions #
- Start by creating shared norms for participation and setting the stage and tone of the class discussion.
- Allow students to suggest / contribute to the ground rules for online discussions.
- Provide prompts or goals that encourage discussion to guide learning.
- Whether in a text discussion forum or a live break out, be sure to monitor activity and provide feedback.
- Create group discussions for large classes.
- Ask students to relate the main topic of the week to their own experience as a starting point.
- Ask students to find an example related of the topic in the media and share a response.
- Post a fact, quote, or question, and ask students to apply a theory or explain that particular example.
- Invite your
to participate on class discussion boards as a resource or host online drop-in sessions.
- Learn more about Creating and Managing Discussions. [guide]
- Read more about Engaging Students in an Online Environment.
- For small groups of students, consider a synchronous real time discussion in a Zoom call as an alternative.
- Contact U of T libraries for instructor support for online teaching and assignment design.
Collaborative Group Projects #
- Group projects facilitate authentic learning experiences and generation of sharable digital resources.
- The digital environment provides an opportunity for students to gain valuable transferable skills.
- Create a course wiki by having class participants build an online repository of course documents where instructors and students can post relevant documents, tips, news, etc.
- Provide a problem scenario to solve related to the topic of the course. The output could be a digital design document, policy recommendation or lab protocol, depending on the subject matter.
- Move a case study activity to the online environment; include a video or web site as a prompt.
- Create a wiki by adding a course page. [guide]
- Create group work areas for collaborative project activities using the
UT Advanced Group Tool. [guide]
- Create Project Groups in Quercus. [guide]
- Use Zoom for the class to share project work and answer questions. [guide]
- Online synchronous presentations provide an opportunity for students to develop oral communication skills in the online environment.
- Digital presentations help student develop new visual communication skills.
- Students (individuals or groups) record a voice-over presentation to be shared with the whole class by posting to discussion forum.
- Consider presentation options including PowerPoint, video or infographic to explain a key concept to their peers.
- Have students write a short text assignment and share it for peer feedback using the Quercus peer feedback tool.
- Create a wiki by adding a course page and allowing students editing rights to share their project or presentation work. [guide]
- Use the discussion forum to share group work. [guide]
- Use the peer review tool to allow students to share give each other feedback on project work. [guide]
- For video sharing limit file size in Quercus to 500 MB or use an alternate video streaming options.
Breakout Discussions #
- Holding a live webinar session offers real-time connection between instructor and student as well as student-to-student interaction.
- A live webinar session can provide a social community experience.
- There may be a need for recordings or alternatives for students with logistical challenges related to time zone or bandwidth.
- Provide the opportunity for text chat since not all students are comfortable sharing using a mic and/or webcam.
- Group discussion can be set up for use as asynchronous breakout rooms.
- Using Zoom or MS Teams, assign students to small groups where the students can work collaboratively to solve a problem, discuss and debate topic points, or prepare a presentation. [guide]
- Divide students into groups in discussion forums. [guide]
- Invite students to take various roles such as leading the discussion, prompting their peers, or preparing summary notes.
- Use breakout function in Zoom for synchronous breakout groups. [guide]
- Use the discussion forum for asynchronous breakout groups. [guide]
Developed collaboratively by the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation
and Online Learning Strategies – Information Technology Services
at the University of Toronto (April 14, 2020).