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Examples of active learning

An overview of active learning, why it's important, and some examples you can build into your own course design.
Group of students talking in a cafe with mobile devices and coffee

What is active learning?

As defined in the Active Learning article we looked at earlier, ‘active learning’ is an umbrella term for a variety of learning activities that prompt learners to engage meaningfully with learning material.
Active learning requires purposeful design and typically includes:
  • Early and ongoing practice applying key concepts.
  • Bitesize chunking of reading and/or listening/viewing tasks, followed by opportunities to consolidate learning.
  • Exercises with direct feedback (from tutor, peers or automated).
  • Discussion opportunities.
When designing short online courses, you should take time to reflect on the learner journey. Think about how you are introducing key concepts to your learners. How are you sequencing learning content? Are you offering ample opportunity for reflection and feedback?
Questions like these expand conversations beyond thinking only about how we teach and refocus them on how learners learn. They help educators to identify the best ways for learners to engage with content within online spaces.
Have a look at some examples of active learning, which can be used to build a cohesive narrative and learner journey. You can download a copy for future reference from the ‘Downloads’ area.

Active versus passive

Passive information

This requires the learner to absorb information in the form of readings, reviewing visual material, or watching/listening to multimedia (video, audio) and memorise it through revision. This type of information is used in a teacher-led model, for example where the learner attends lectures to be instructed in a passive manner.

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In online learning, this is done through reading, watching videos, and listening to audio content such as podcasts. In all of these cases, the learner engages more passively compared to the active learning examples we have discussed.

Active information

This puts the focus on the learners. It requires them to ‘do something’ and then spend time reflecting on those actions. In the examples of active learning, you can think of the verbs related to each activity in which the learner is engaged, instead of sitting back and merely absorbing.
Learners are co-creating, discussing, blogging, debating, and role-playing. Simply put, the learner is given some information and then they are asked to do something with that information, in a thoughtful and meaningful way.
By sequencing both active and passive learning and information, your short online course will be more engaging both for you the teacher, and for your learners. This makes the learning process much more beneficial and enjoyable for all involved!
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