Active learning improves student performance and increases enthusiasm for learning. But despite its known benefits, active learning can be challenging to implement for asynchronous online learners. The most popular active learning techniques—such as think-pair-share, audience polling, and game-based learning—center around students working together in a classroom setting. Software and apps commonly used for active learning, like Kahoot! and Poll Everywhere, are designed for use with a live audience and don’t always translate to the online environment.
[dropcap]A[/dropcap]ctive learning improves student performance and increases enthusiasm for learning. But despite its known benefits, active learning can be challenging to implement for asynchronous online learners. The most popular active learning techniques—such as think-pair-share, audience polling, and game-based learning—center around students working together in a classroom setting. Software and apps commonly used for active learning, like Kahoot! and Poll Everywhere, are designed for use with a live audience and don’t always translate to the online environment.
How do we accomplish active learning in online and blended courses where students are working asynchronously? How can active learning be incorporated into the course when students are “going to class” at different times of the day or are not located in proximity to one another? In this article, we’ll explore six free tools you can use to engage your online students in active learning.
Quizizz is a multiplayer trivia app that’s similar to Kahoot!, but allows your students to play along at their own pace while competing against one another. Quizizz incorporates elements of gamification by assigning points based on how accurately and how quickly students answer questions. Online learners can see each other’s progress as they move through the game, and we’ve found they like the sense of camaraderie and friendly competition. We post the top scorers to the course site each week, and students love getting recognition for their participation in the activities.
There’s no app to download, and Quizizz works on any device with a browser. Simply develop your quiz (Quizizz currently allows multiple choice and multiple select questions), then share the link with your students. You can even embed images in your questions, in case you want to ask students about a diagram or have them identify a location on a map.
Try Quizizz in any situation where you want students to self-assess their understanding of a topic. Use it at the end of a module to reinforce that week’s content, or as a review before an exam.
[caption id="attachment_58171" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Click image to enlarge.[/caption]
EdPuzzle and PlayPosit are two different products but achieve similar end-results. EdPuzzle and PlayPosit transform any video into an interactive lesson or assignment by embedding quiz questions and opportunities for reflection. Instead of assigning a reading or a video to your students and then sending them somewhere else in the course site to complete self-assessment questions, you can create one seamless lesson that better engages the students. Embedding the questions into the video helps to “chunk” the material and facilitate knowledge retention and requires your students to actively engage with the content before moving on.
You can use any video, so these tools don’t rely on you developing new content to create engaging lessons. It can be a screencast you’ve recorded, a YouTube video—anything you want. Both tools have robust built-in video libraries, with free content from Khan Academy, National Geographic, the History Channel, and more.
Once you’ve selected your video, use the software to insert questions for students to answer at any point of the video. You can also cut or only use certain sections of the video or record your own audio track. Once you’re done, finalize the video and share it with a link or embed it into your LMS.
Think about using Edpuzzle or PlayPosit as a way to simulate an in-class discussion that’s more engaging than just posting a topic on a discussion board. You could record yourself (or a guest expert) talking about a subject, pause for a reflection question, and then go back to the video where you debrief the question that was just posed to the students. Or keep it simple—upload your existing video lectures to one of these tools and add an open-ended question at the end to gather students’ muddiest points.
[caption id="attachment_58170" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Click image to enlarge.[/caption]
Flipgrid is an online platform that allows you to pose a question, topic, or prompt to your students, which they respond to via video. Students can chime in and respond to one another’s posts.
At its core, Flipgrid is a way to jazz up your discussion boards by adding video. But it’s also built around the idea of social learning and is designed to spark collaborative conversation. Flipgrid allows you to be incredibly creative in designing assignments that reach out and engage your students and allows your students to be equally creative as they craft their responses.
For example, have your students to record themselves demonstrating a skill, such as practicing a foreign language or playing an instrument. Ask students to debate a controversial topic or issue. Have a talent show or spirit week for your online students! By asking students to create something new, we can help them reach the highest levels of Bloom’s taxonomy.
Padlet is a virtual bulletin board designed to facilitate collaboration and discussion through multimedia.
It’s incredibly easy to create and edit Padlet boards. You choose the kind of Padlet you want to create, write a description or a set of instructions, and determine your settings (there are options for privacy and for moderating posts before they can be seen publicly).
Students don’t need to log in or sign up for Padlet; they just need your link to participate, or you can embed the Padlet into your LMS. Participants can post photos, videos, Word documents, and spreadsheets—almost any kind of file you can think of. Students also can comment on one another’s posts, which makes Padlet a useful tool for peer review and online discussions.
Padlet is great for “show and tell” type activities where you want students to provide examples or images that support their conclusions. Ask students to post a news article and comment on how it relates to what you’re discussing in class that week. Or use Padlet to host an online scavenger hunt—have students go out and look for links to specific websites or resources they’ll need as they move throughout your course.
AnswerGarden is designed as a minimalistic feedback tool. With AnswerGarden, you pose a question to your students, and the software turns their answers into a word cloud. The more times that an answer is given, the larger that response appears in the word cloud. And if a student agrees with someone else’s response, they can just click to make it bigger.
AnswerGarden is best for short responses, no more than 40 characters. And there aren’t a lot of bells and whistles, although you can embed Answer Garden into your LMS or export the results as an image.
AnswerGarden lets you quickly see what the most common questions or concerns were from your students. Use AnswerGarden for audience feedback or for brainstorming about a topic or project. Embed an AnswerGarden at the end of a lesson to gather students’ muddiest points, then address those topics with the whole class during the following week. If you’re hosting a guest lecturer, invite the students to submit questions ahead of time in AnswerGarden, then provide the most popular questions to the speaker so they can address them in the lesson.
[caption id="attachment_58169" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Click to enlarge.[/caption]
So, your challenge for the semester is to give one of these tools a try and provide a way for your online students to engage with the course material in a differ manner to boost interest and improve long-term retention.
Zara Risoldi Cochrane is an associate professor and Amy Pick is aprofessor at the Creighton University School of Pharmacy and Health Professions.