• In a traditional course, some activities ar
  • e synchronous, like listening to lectures or participatin
  • g in discussions, labs and small group work. Other activities might be asynchronous, like readings and homework assignments. Whether in person, online or remote, flexi
  • ble teaching strategies allow synchronous activities to become asynchronous while still remaining engaging and interactive. The learning and teaching strategies listed below aim to help you on this path to creating active learning, presence, and engagement in your remote or flexible course.

Content Strategies

It goes without saying that sharing knowledge in the form of reading, videos, podcasts, simulations, lab demos, etc. has value. The challenge is to help students care about, engage with, and question course content in productive ways. Students can benefit from your presence, enthusiasm, and engagement through direct instruction. To have the most impact, consider the sequence of your instruction in relation to students’ experience and prior knowledge.

Suggested Guidelines

  • Deliver or record your presentations in 15 minute “chapters” interspersed with activities. This is particularly important for challenging reading material or presentations. Here are some examples of what you might include in these recordings:
    • Demonstrate a procedure, project, or method of reasoning
    • Showcase examples of the kind of work you want students to produce
    • Explain abstract content with practical examples or case studies.
    • Show students a solved challenge and then give them a new, partially-solved problem to complete individually or in groups.
    • Present recorded field work, subject-expert interviews, or sample project work.
  • Focus on introducing, roadmapping, sparking curiosity, and integrating new material with previous topics and course activities.
  • Motivate students by displaying enthusiasm for and showing the relevance of the material to real-world applications and students’ current and future lives. Students learn and remember new material when it’s presented in relation to things they already know (or think they know) about.
  • Introduce a new topic by walking through its sequenced components and methods. Incremental learning should build toward increasing complexity. Ideally these steps will be learned in the same sequence in which they will be performed.
  • Early on students need the most help and rapid feedback, followed by prompts for independent inquiry instead of direct instruction

Note: Explore the wide range of available media and Open Educational Resources. Don’t reinvent the wheel, but make sure to address any differences between your perspective / knowledge and those presented in the external media.

Activity Ideas

Many of these are adapted from Todd Finley’s 53 ways to check for students’ understanding of course material. Students could:

  1. Use audio or video to record questions, interpretations, or to amplify the course material.
  2. Identify the theory or idea the material is advancing. Then identify an opposite theory and how that framework presents a different perspective.
  3. Create a concept map connecting the new material to topics already covered in class.
  4. List the three most interesting, controversial, or resonant ideas you found in the material and record/write a short rationale for your selection.
  5. List 10 key words from the material and write/record a summary based on these words.
  6. Write three substantive questions related to the content and share them with the class.
  7. Summarize the author / presenter’s position or objective. What are its assumptions/preconceptions?
  8. Identify the main point, and arguments / evidence for and against it?
  9. Choose three key words or concepts from the material and define them.
  10. Create a visual collage/video around the material’s themes, and briefly describe your choices.

Peer Learning Strategies

Students create more personalized learning experiences by engaging with each other. They often feel more comfortable asking questions and can gain deeper knowledge by explaining concepts. Peer-to-peer learning is very flexible — it can take place both synchronously and asynchronously.

Suggested Guidelines

  • Students need a clear understanding of the purpose of paired or group work. It can make students anxious or irritated, but is very effective when students feel that it’s relevant and useful.
  • Interactions in class are often skewed toward more confident students. You can assign roles or have students change roles to make sure all voices are heard.
  • Address grading anxiety by making peer work either low-stakes or let each student produce an artifact for assessment, not just a group grade.
  • Designate time within the weekly workload for students to discuss and collaborate on the group activity.

Activity Ideas

  1. Have students pair up and peer review each step in a multi-step project for feedback and help (“workshop” each incremental step).
    Pair or group students and have each address a different question or challenge. Answers can be shared in a Google doc or discussion thread. This can also be done in synchronous breakout rooms, with a shared worksheet that all groups follow and document their work in. This allows groups to see each other’s work.
  2. Pairs/small groups where each student peer teaches one concept, process, or method in their own words, and gets feedback from their peers. This can be done via Zoom or video recordings.
  3. Problem-, case-, or project-based activities that can be divided into clearly defined contribution roles and then workshopped/presented as a group. Grade each contribution individually to reduce anxiety. This can be done via Zoom or video recordings.
  4. Collaborative written reports where each student in a group contributes one topic. This is an “authentic” exercise since workplace writing is often team-produced.
  5. Have students post “One thing I understood well” and “One thing that’s still unclear” on a discussion forum, and then pick one student’s post where they can help on the topic. This lets them peer teach and highlights any topics that need to be reviewed by you.

Student Inquiry Strategies

Inquiry-based approaches let students discover knowledge rather than being presented with it. Discovery generates better learning retention, particularly when assisted by timely guidance (Halpern & Hakel 2003). Used across disciplines, this approach helps students learn to do scholarship rather than absorb it. The communication of findings is a key part of this process.

Suggested Guidelines

  • Inquiry learning is question-based rather than thesis-based. Spend time fostering good questions and projects. Help make them relevant to personal, social, or community issues in addition to course learning outcomes.
  • Students formulate new knowledge by associating it with and refining existing knowledge. Make sure you have a good benchmark understanding of what your students know, so you can give them appropriate challenges.
  • Give students inquiry / research projects before presenting a full explanatory framework. The students’ work will generate questions, making them want the explanations you present afterwards.
  • Inquiry is particularly effective when students can share their plans with other students for discussion and feedback.
  • Inquiry is most effective when students have a degree of control over their work. Try letting them choose the specific path or topic they pursue. Give them resources and guidelines instead of step-by-step directions.

Activity Ideas

  1. Have students formulate a question that takes them into their environment to document evidence (social, environmental, aesthetic, political). Field-based experiential inquiry lets students connect their work to a community rather than abstract values.
  2. Create a media literacy challenge for your course subject. Have students find good/bad media examples and create a process for evaluating them.
  3. Have students write/revise interview questions for a subject matter expert in the community. The interview can be created with audio, a recorded video meeting, or via email. This can also be an oral history interview.
  4. Structure a group project or experiment where each student suggests strategies, and have the group vote on the approach(es) taken. This provides a realistic experience of workplace constraints and collaboration.
  5. Use a Design Thinking model to research a particular problem (physical, social, environmental), collect data, and create a prototype solution. Have students or groups present conclusions for whole-class discussion.
  6. Have students find a historical artifact relevant to your course topic and do an analysis of it using a rubric.

This article was last updated on Nov 12, 2020 @ 3:51 pm.

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