Active Learning

The educational technology and digital learning wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Promoting active learning using ICTs

Karen Campbell, Memorial University of Newfoundland


Collaborative support, sharing, and communication among students and educators are necessary for success in active learning situations (Vonderwell & Turner, 2005). Instructors endeavour to deliver a full curriculum that may not leave time for students to develop an insightful understanding of the subject if there is no collaboration taking place (Pundak, Herscovitz, & Shacham, 2010). Pinheiro and Simões (2012) reported that active learning activities did not meet their potential for collaboration because students did not collaborate early and often enough. Instructors must be aware of the barriers that can inhibit collaboration and sharing in their classes or they risk reduced student motivation and initiative (Vonderwell & Turner, 2005). Collaborative groups require help with team skills, scheduling, audience engagement, and time management to be successful (Matveeva & Milter, 2010). Bodie and Powers (2010) recommend that educators, “identify the best way to prepare today’s students to become competent communicators” (p. 121). While the students built working relationships in the construction phase of Kao, Lin, and Sun’s (2008) study, close monitoring of the participants was necessary to assure appropriate sharing occured (Kao, Lin, & Sun, 2008).

Vonderwell and Turner (2005) found that teachers must offer feedback to their students in such a way that it fosters interaction between students and collaboration on the task at hand, “rather than giving the complete answer to a question requiring no further thought, which can itself be a barrier for active student learning” (p. 82). Van den Bergh and Ros (2014) found that educators in their study believed in giving feedback during active learning, but in practice found it difficult to critique students during the process.

Role of ICTs

Student collaboration and engagement are improved when a clicker classroom response system is introduced in an otherwise traditional, lectured based university level educational psychology course (Ioannou & Artino, 2010). This clicker class response system was found to encourage collaboration and encourage reluctant students to share in class. In 2014, a study of Nigerian students found that active learning techniques using clickers by second language learners resulted in better collaboration, oral communication, and knowledge development (Agbatogun, 2014). The students in Agbatogun’s study were able to demonstrate their understanding and communicate information to each other with less teacher intrusion than they did without clicker activity.

The use of wireless laptops with large groups of participants supports active learning as well as meaningful collaboration (Barak, Lipson, & Lerman, 2006). Dyson, Litchfield, Lawrence, Leijdekkers, and Raban, (2009) had similar findings, reporting that ICTs foster better interactivity in large lecture halls. Using mobile technology, active, educational experiences occur that can improve the learning experience of students in large lectures by permitting them to team up with the presenter, participate in class responses shown on the screen, and make learning interactive for the entire group (Barak et al., 2006). The Beyond Share program used in Kao, Lin and Sun’s (2008) study used a web environment to motivate student knowledge integration by sharing products with their classmates.

Matveeva and Milter (2010) reported that using ICTs to create an infomercial engaged the learners in active learning areas including learning how to work effectively together in a team. Multimedia tools, blogs and Web 2.0 tools provide learning experiences that help first year Bachelor of Management (with Multimedia) students acquire team skills (Neo, Neo, Kwok, Tan, Lai, & Zarina, 2012). Active learning was found to promote deeper learning when collaborative tools like wikis and forums were used (Pinheiro & Simões, 2012). CleverPHL is a capture and replay program used in Schroeder and Spannagels’ (2006) study to create and play back Java applications in a learner controlled setting. These ICTs offer learners the opportunity to team up in, “learning by observing and working with artifacts, sharing the process of producing rather than only presenting results" (p.245).

Through the use of an Internet based learning environment 34 Taiwanese students actively learned by reflecting on the quality of individual projects through sharing, peer evaluation, synthesizing knowledge, and developing a learning community (Kao, Lin, & Sun, 2008). In Yuqing, Xiaoshan and Jian’s (2010) study, the technology enhanced students active learning by improving their hands-on skills, critical thinking skills, collaboration skills, team skills, and creative skills.


Active learning using information and communication technology is often an asynchronous activity, which creates a barrier to collaboration (Schroeder & Spannagel, 2006). Activating learners is more difficult in electronic settings and distance situations than in traditional settings because the instructor is not with the student and the teaching and learning are not taking place at the same time (Drake, 2012). Educators must stay involved and engaged with distance students in order to remain effective and prevent communication breakdown (Vonderwell & Turner, 2005). “Proven strategies that engage learners and require them to cooperate, communicate, and collaborate with peers in problem-solving situations can benefit learners at all levels" (Pepper & Blackwell, 2012, p. 16).

Active learning commonly makes use of online discussion forums that permit users to respond freely in an unorganized manner, which may undermine the value of the discussion (Li, Dong, & Huang, 2009). When using an ICT, teachers must successfully involve students in higher-level thinking so that the technology-enabled learning environment is not only being viewed as a “fun” element (Shieh, 2012). Dyson et al., (2009) recommended investigating mobile learning to ensure that technology was not used for technology’s sake, but that in fact, it added value to the student experience. “An over-emphasis on techniques rather than outcomes renders active learning bound to means and not to ends" (Drake, 2012, p. 83). The BeyondShare program combines structure and competition, so students participate in an active learning purpose beyond simply using the Internet (Kao, Lin, & Sun, 2008).

Works cited

Agbatogun, A. O. (2014). Developing learners’ second language communicative competence through active learning: Clickers or communicative approach? Educational Technology & Society, 17 (2), 257-269.

Barak, M., Lipson, A., & Lerman, S. (2006). Wireless laptops as means for promoting active learning in large lecture halls. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 38, 245-263.

Bodie, G. D., & Powers, W. G.-H. (2006). Chunking, priming and active learning: Toward an innovative and blended approach to teaching communication-related skills. Interactive Learning Environments, 14 (2), 119-135.

Drake, J. R. (2012). A critical analysis of active learning and an alternative pedagogical framework for introductory information systems courses. Journal of Information Technology Education: Innovations in Practice, 11, 39-52.

Dyson, L., Litchfield, A., Lawrence, E., Raban, R., & Leijdekkers, P. (2009). Advancing the m-learning research agenda for active, experiential learning: Four case studies. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 25 (2), 250-267.

Ioannou, A., & Artino, A. R. (2010). Using a classroom response system to support active learning in an educational psychology course: A case study. International Journal of Instructional Media, 37 (3), 315-326.

Li, Y., Dong, M., & Huang, R. (2009). Toward a Semantic Forum for Active Collaborative Learning.Educational Technology & Society, 12 (4), 71–86.

Kao, G. Y.-M., Lin, S. S., & & Sun, C.-T. (2008). Beyond sharing: Engaging students in cooperative and competitive active learning. Educational Technology & Society, 11 (3), 82-96.

Matveeva, A. V., & Milter, R. G. (2010). An implementation of active learning: Assessing the effectiveness of the team infomercial assignment. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 47 (2), 201-213.

Neo, T.-K., Neo, M., Kwok, W.-J., Tan, Y.-J., Lai, C.-H., & Zarina , C. (2012). MICE 2.0: Designing multimedia content to foster active learning in a malaysian classroom. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 28 (5), 857-880.

Pepper, K., & Blackwell, S. &. (2012). Transfer of active learning strategies from the teacher education classroom to preK-12th grade classrooms. Current Issues in Education, 15 (3), 1-23.

Pinheiro, M. M., & Simões, D. (2012) Constructing knowledge: An experience of active and collaborative learning in ict classrooms. The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 11 (4), 382-389.

Pundak, D., Herscovitz, O., & Shacham, M. (2010). Attitudes of face-to-face and e-learning instructors toward 'active learning'. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning.

Schroeder, U., & Spannagel, C. (2006). Supporting the active learning process. International Journal on E-Learning, 5 (2), 245-264.

Shieh, R. S. (2012). The impact of technology-enabled active learning (TEAL) implementation on student learning and teachers’ teaching in a high school context. Computers & Education, 59, 206-214.

Van den Bergh, L., & Ros, A. &. (2014). Improving teacher feedback during active learning: Effects of a professional development program. American Educational Research Journal, 51 (4), 772-809.

Vonderwell, S., & Turner, S. (2005). Active learning and preservice teachers' experiences in an online course: A case study. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 13 (1), 65-84.

Yuqing, C., Xiaoshan, P., & Jian, S. (2010). National undergraduate electronic design contest: A vehicle for enhancing active learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 41 (4), 660-664.