Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Active Learning - Unleashing the Power of Scenarios and Activities

Strategies promoting activities that involve students in doing things and thinking about what they are doing are called Active Learning, proclaims a white paper by Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, an education-for-all movement that aspires to educate over 200 million children.

Active learning is not just for children. Active learning is a great way to achieve comprehension,  application and analysis- three key middle layers of Bloom's taxonomy - in adult learning. In this post, I give a few examples.

Let's deal with comprehension first. Imagine a set of questions the learner has to answer, based on the information provided. This is plain vanilla comprehension exercise as we know it. How do you make it an active learning exercise? Here is a trick. Engage the learning in finding the information required to arrive at answers. Now, the learner is not only comprehending information to answer questions, but also devising a way to look for that information, and hence, thinking about what he / she is doing. The finding exercise can be implemented in many ways. Learners could flip through pages, play a treasure hunt, use a search engine and so on.

Now let's look at application. What does the learner apply? Some answers could be: previous experience or simply the knowledge of relevant facts. Where does the learner apply them? In scenarios that represent real-world situations. You could construct scenarios where learner gets to apply experience or new facts to arrive at a solution.

Analysis is the next stage in Bloom's taxonomy. Here, the learner needs to discover underlying structural relationships between events, things, objects or other artifacts. Then, the learner needs to classify, analyze, compare or discover cause-effect relationships. How does active learning help here? Imagine a period of time during which certain events happen. When you present this in an interactive timeline, learners can not only discover the sequence of events, but also drill down to additional information, related events and thus discover cause-effect relationships.

Have you considered using active learning in your course materials? Any insights into what works, what doesn't? Examples? Online sources? Samples?


  1. Active learning is now the inevitable part of any online learning. Without the element of activity or engagement, the learning will suffer from a disease called Boredom. Again, creating active learning is always a challenge because we need to think in terms of engagement as well as learning outcomes.
    In one of my courses, I have incorporated a theory section, a scenario section, and a try-it section in a tab layout. The theory section includes all the relevant information that the learner needs to know prior to getting a hands-on experience in the scenario section. The theory section might also include activities to engage the learner. These might include interactivities similar to those in Raptivity. This way, we avoid theory to be diseased.
    In the try-it section the learner demonstrates his ability to solve questions related to the scenario.
    The idea of asking the learner to find the information is just fantastic.

  2. Some great examples of such active learning interactions are available at

  3. Admiring the time and effort you put into your blog and detailed information you offer!