4.2.2 In-class technology for active learning

In-class learning technology

Active learning in class

Whilst most of the Handbook relates to online activities, there are clear opportunities for developing active learning within the lecture environment. Use of learning technologies allows for increased interaction in large group teaching, ways to influence the direction of a teaching session, in-class identification of knowledge gaps and collaboration within small groups.

Many of the approaches here will work well within traditional lecture environments, but also complement learning designs that utilise the online space for activities and knowledge-transfer, freeing up the face-to-face time for synchronous interaction and learning. See the previous pages on Blended Learning Design and the Flipped Classroom model.

Case study

The webinar recording below shows how the use of in-class polling has supported active learning.

E-Learning Case Study

Webinar: Facilitating active learning

Use of podcasts, voting and videos.
Glenn Hurst, Chemistry
Watch Webinar

Session design with in-class polling

The video below (available to UoY users) is a capture of Professor Simon Lancaster’s lunchtime workshop on using ResponseWare in-class polling to stimulate learning through peer instruction activities. One of the significant points is to generate questions in class that force students to think, rather than just recall facts (blog post for this session).

Watch Video: Simon Lancaster ResponseWare Lunch and Learn (York Users Only)

The following three session activities utilise TurningPoint ResponseWare where students can respond to questions via their personal mobile device or laptop.

Peer instruction

Peer instruction (Mazur, 1997) is a model for stimulating discussion and learning in face-to-face teaching sessions. The method can be used to challenge students preconceptions through asking them to justify their response to questions with their peers. This can result in a change of thinking, but is supported by the use of pre- and post- discussion polling to show to the lecturer if students have understood an underlying principle. The lecturer can then target subsequent content, perhaps spending more time on aspects the cohort has found difficult, rather than having to guess what students are understanding.

Crowd-sourcing answers

Not all questions can be answered with a multiple-choice response. Text-based responses can be gathered either through a shared Google Doc (works well with certain tasks in small groups) or the ResponseWare app (good for groups larger than 10; responses presented as a word cloud). This approach may be useful to collect ideas from the group which can then be used to stimulate further discussion or generate a collective response to a case study situation.

Modelling decision-making situations

Requiring a more structured approach to planning a teaching session, TurningPoint’s Conditional Branching tool can be used to create a simulation exercise for which all in the cohort are contributing to. Subsequent questions appear based on the majority of responses to a multiple-choice question.

Such activities that may utilise this approach include patient diagnosis, problem solving, applying procedures or exploring consequences to decisions made earlier on in a case study. Combine the questioning phase with peer discussion prior to answering a question to enable a collective ownership of the response, rather than majority guesswork.

Case studies

The two videos below show how in-class polling has been applied at York with both small and large group teaching.

E-Learning Case Study

Show & Tell: ResponseWare

In-class polling to engage students in lectures.
Emma Rand, Biology and Joe Fagan, Education
Watch Presentation (Large Groups)
Watch Presentation (Small Groups)

Guides for in-class polling

Collaborative documents

Utilising Google Docs, Sheets and Forms, you can create engaging in-class activities that require students to create and contribute content to shared spaces. Sheets and Forms can be used to gather data from a cohort in real time, then with the Sheet shared to all involved, the data analysed collectively or in small groups. One of the motivational factors here is that the data comes from the cohort and is owned by them, rather than originating from an abstracted source.

Google Docs can be used within smaller groups either to collect ideas or to complete templates which enable the students to demonstrate their understanding and learning to the lecturer. The lecturer would set up the Google Docs in advance and share with the cohort, allocating a document per group. The lecturer can view the Docs during the session and bring these up on the projection screen if required. The video below explains this process further (tablets are not essential, students can now use any mobile device with a browser or the Google Docs App):