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Can You Have Active Learning in an Asynchronous Classroom?

When setting up an asynchronous classroom, you can provide opportunities for active learning with the right tools.

December 19, 2022

In a world where online learning is constantly evolving and improving, asynchronous classrooms are becoming more widespread and beneficial for students and their professors. However, to get the fullest benefits from any course, it is imperative for active learning to take place. 

On the surface, it may seem like synchronous classrooms would be more conducive to active learning and that asynchronous classrooms would challenge this way of teaching. Still, professors have a unique opportunity to promote more independent and active learning through this method. 

Here’s what you need to know.

Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Classrooms

While the classroom environment does play a significant role in the scope of assignments presented to students and how they respond, it does not have to limit the assignment types. For example, in synchronous learning, students have a firm time commitment to meet with their class and instructor, whether in person or online. 

In theory, this gives more time for the instructor to directly engage students in active learning, particularly with discussions and group-focused work. If it is a hybrid or blended classroom, in-person meetings also lend themselves to labs and other hands-on activities. 

When in an asynchronous classroom, students can learn on their own schedule and do not necessarily need to be in the online classroom simultaneously with their classmates or instructor. Flexible scheduling is one of the most significant benefits of asynchronous learning. It allows students who may not otherwise be able to attend scheduled classes to participate in your course. 

However, since students often learn on their own time when professors or classmates are not immediately available, instructors must carefully consider their overall approach to ensure students remain engaged and that active learning assignments support their goals. 

What Is Active Learning, and Why Is It Important? 

Active learning is a process that focuses on the student's actual learning. At its core, it allows students to develop autonomy and control their education. Allowing students to play the primary role in their education prepares them for learning in all areas of life, even outside of school. 

Active learning is not about the specific information they receive, but how they use it to connect with prior knowledge to build on their understanding. Rather than telling your students what they need to know, you are presenting them with opportunities to gather, synthesize, organize, and demonstrate that information in a way that allows them to understand and turn new information into practical knowledge.

Examples of Active Learning

To engage students and promote active learning, professors must use instructional strategies that encourage active participation. The purpose is to engage the student's higher-order thinking skills as they assimilate and articulate the knowledge they are accumulating. 

Instructors who use active learning strategies want to move beyond passively transmitting facts and ideas to let the student gain the information independently. Instructional strategies that work well in an asynchronous classroom include: 

  • Varied writing assignments based on pre-recorded lectures or assigned reading 
  • Research and synthesis 
  • Student presentations
  • Virtual labs or simulation programs 
  • Online discussions through message boards (remember to monitor conversations and respond accordingly)
  • Brainstorming sessions 
  • Responding to case studies 
  • Problem-solving tasks
  • Reflection-based activities 

Essentially, these activities require the students to discover information for themselves or to organize and present it to others to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the material. 

Tips for Encouraging Active Learning

While there are many ways to promote active learning through specific assignments, you can also encourage active learning through indirect methods. Consider how these strategies may help you be an effective online teacher and help your students thrive:

  • Create learning outcomes based on the knowledge and skills you want your students to gain from your course and still possess in the future 
  • Nurture your students' motivation with clearly written instructions, guidelines, and accessible resources
  • Be flexible and willing to adapt your course or assignments when needed to reflect the evolving needs of your students 
  • Maximize your online classroom tools to streamline your course 
  • Focus their attention by explaining the purpose of the activity or experience 
  • During your pre-recorded lectures, encourage students to pause and catch up on their notes or identify key information to review 
  • Before completing a demonstration or presenting results, encourage students to predict the outcome
  • Offer self-assessments in the form of a checklist of ideas or a quick ungraded quiz that allows students to determine their understanding of the subject matter 
  • Give specific feedback and offer guidance or activities for students to reflect on feedback 
  • Encourage students to request peer assistance and feedback (this helps the students on both the receiving and giving end of the input to expand or demonstrate their knowledge)
  • Offer your students choices for how they will interact with the material or show what they have learned, thereby allowing them to exercise their autonomy 
  • Ask students throughout the course for feedback about the course materials and instructional strategies (this gives you an idea if your course meets expectations)

Create an Environment Where Students Thrive 

When setting up your asynchronous classroom, you can provide opportunities for active learning if you have a program that provides you and your students with the tools and support to succeed. Classavo offers a complete and inclusive teaching platform that maximizes instructor and student engagement. 

With interactive textbooks, discussion boards, live polling, and more unique tools to engage students and monitor your class, you can create a dynamic, interactive learning environment that supports active learning in an asynchronous classroom. You can use data-driven analytics to monitor student engagement and adjust your coursework or expectations to increase student responsiveness and engagement. Classavo is free for professors, so contact us today to learn more or to request a demo. 

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