In this abridged extract from Top Hat’s Active Learning Course, we look at the role that technology has to play in introducing active learning at every stage of the student’s routine—before, during and after class.

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Agile professors need mechanisms to make sure students are actually doing the things for which they’re accountable, and to get insights into what’s going on. Technology allows active learning and agility to expand beyond the classroom.

By using active learning to derive insights into the impact learning activities have on your students’ mastery of course material, you have more influence before and after class than you would without these tools—and you’ll be able to create the right environment for your class and students.

Expanding the time and space for learning

With technology, active learning and agile teaching methods also extend beyond the classroom. Instructors no longer need to worry about cramming everything in during a lecture—they can have students work on problems or discuss ideas during class and move some content delivery to the learning management system or elsewhere. Educators have more influence before and after class than they would without tools to help them motivate, assess, and improve.

Active learning can be done across each segment of time (i.e. before, during or after class), especially when you have tools to help you take control over the entire learning journey of your students. Here are some examples of activities that can be assigned at different stages of a student’s learning journey:

Before class—Mini review quiz

Have students complete a short quiz on concepts discussed during the previous lecture and submit to you before the upcoming class. This will help them retain the lecture material and help you to quickly gauge their grasp of the material. If necessary, you can review it before diving into the next topic, or spend more time on a particular concept students struggled with.

During class—Peer review

Have students exchange drafts of their work and then come up with questions and comments for each other. Be clear about what the goals of the exercise are (for example, do you want to test a student’s understanding of a topic or see if they can apply something they learned to a real-life situation?) You can then have students input their comments into a classroom response discussion question to ensure that each student completed the work before leaving class

After class—Case study

At the close of lecture, provide students with a real world case to study (e.g. news article, video, etc.) Alternately, you can ask students to find their own case to examine. Have them analyze the case using guidelines you provide, and then have them present their findings to the class during the next lecture.

Throughout—Interactive course materials

Another way instructors are bringing active learning to their teaching practice is through the implementation of interactive or digital course materials. Unlike traditional course materials, interactive content can include multimedia elements, such as video, photo and audio components, as well as quizzes, embedded questions and assignments.

More and more students are avoiding buying traditional textbooks because they can’t justify the rising costs. Interactive content provides an alternative that satisfies two requirements: A kinder price point and a designed that engages the modern learner.

Instructors are also cottoning on to how user-friendly and customizable interactive course materials are. Whereas altering a traditional textbook would require a reprint, interactive texts can be updated on the fly.

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