Promoting Active Learning in Remote Classrooms

Most of us have long incorporated active learning techniques as a way to engage students with course content. In business communication, these strategies may include breaking students into groups to work on short exercises; creating team-based writing assignments; forming discussion groups to consider business-related issues while bolstering social and communication skills; and asking students to reflect upon their learning processes.

However, active learning in remote learning situations may require adjustments. Below are some techniques to help instructors encourage engaged learning during the pandemic.

Minute papers. At the end of class, ask students to answer the questions, What was the most important thing you learned today? and What questions do you have that are still unanswered? This works especially well toward the end of a live Zoom session or on a discussion board. Having students reflect on the day’s activities reinforces what they know and reminds them of what they still need to learn. In addition, if students know they will be expected to write this quick response, they may even pay more attention during the session.

Collaborative notetaking. In groups of two or three, students rotate through the primary notetaking role during class lectures in a Google doc created for that purpose, later sharing the notes among the team or with the entire class. This tactic encourages active listening.

Group work. Group work can be arranged in several ways. Groups of four or five can answer questions the instructor poses about a specific lesson using Zoom breakout rooms or other apps the groups choose themselves. Similarly, instructors can ask students to work individually on a project while in groups, allowing students to connect, chat, or ask questions at the peer level.

Online group work can also be a method for students to develop critical thinking skills. This is particularly relevant to the business communication classroom, where discussing ethics is timely and relevant. (Check out newsworthy topics under the BizComBuzz tab News You Can Use.)

Break up lectures with activities. In either videotaped or live sessions, instructors introduce topics during lectures followed by any of a number of active learning techniques such as the following:

  • Polling using iClicker, Poll Everywhere, or Zoom polling
  • Low-stakes quizzes to help check understanding and reinforce concepts via embedding a quiz in a Panopto video or Kaltura Quizzes
  • Peer learning, especially peer editing with guided questions for a specific assignment to reinforce the importance of editing in either a synchronous or asynchronous class session

Incorporating one or several of these strategies will help your students feel more connected to you and the course material.

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