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This module provides strategies that faculty can use to promote active student learning in an online environment. This module is part of the Best Practices in Online Teaching Course created by Penn State University World Campus as a guide for faculty who are new to teaching in an online environment.

What to do?

Perpetual Motion Machine, Created by Karl Leitzel, Penn State World Campus

Effective online instructors challenge their students’ thinking and foster active, constructive participation in learning.

How to do it?

  • Emphasize the importance of learning by playing an active role in the learning process, not from direct instruction or lecture as in a traditional classroom.
  • Provide opportunities for the students to critically critique and/or reflect upon certain course topics.
  • Encourage your students to use the Internet for researching on course topics; however, remind them to be critical about the information they will share with peers. (For more information, see Intellectual Property Guidelines module )
  • Encourage your students to be proactive in their learning by doing the following:
    • Regularly logging into course site
    • Submitting assignments on time
    • Completing quizzes within required timeframe
    • Reading messages posted and replying within required timeframe
    • Cooperating with teammates, etc.
  • Provide opportunities for your students to be actively involved in information seeking and problem solving.
  • Provide opportunities for your students to interact, to collaborate, or to review a peer’s work.
  • Encourage your students to participate in online discussions actively by:
    • Designing thought-provoking discussion questions: see Crafting Questions for Online Discussions from ITS
    • Encouraging students to respond to questions at a deeper level
    • Using discussion forums effectively by posting “messages that weave several strands of conversation into a summarization that may prompt people to pursue the topic further" (Berge, 1995)
    • Pointing out “opposing perspectives, different directions, or conflicting opinions" (Berge, 1995)
  • Use different discussion formats listed below to cultivate students’ critical thinking (MacKnight 2000, p40.):
    • Small group discussions
    • Buzz group: two people discussing for a short period of time
    • Case discussions using real-world problems for analysis and suggested solutions
    • Debating teams wherein students present ideas, defend positions, and argue against opposition’s reasoning
    • Jigsaw groups where subgroups discuss various parts of a topic and report to the others
    • Role play mocking real settings
  • For more information about facilitating online discussions, please see Ten Tips for Generating Engaged Online Discussions by Donna Reiss.
  • For more information about self-regulated learning components, please go to Encourage Students to Regulate Their Own Learning Module

Why do it?

“It is critical to understand the pedagogical potential of online learning for providing active and dynamic learning opportunities for learners. Faculty can employ strategies and activities that will engage students in ‘producing learning’ (Barr&Tagg, 1995) for active learning” (Vonderwell&Turner, 2005, p.66).

"Learning occurs in a social context through collaborating, negotiating, debating, peer reviewing, and mentoring; Collaboration requires a level of reflection that promotes knowledge construction and a deep understanding of the subject matter” (Grabinger&Dunlap, 2000).


Berge, Z.L. (1995). Facilitating Computer Conferencing: Recommendations From the Field. Educational Technology, 35(1) , 22-30.

Grabinger, R.S.&Dunlap, J.C. (2000). Rich environments for active learning: A definition. In Squires, D., Conole, G.&Jacobs, G. (Eds.). The changing face of learning technology (pp.8-38) . Cardiff, Wales, UK, University of Wales.

MacKnight, C.B. (2000). Teaching critical thinking through online discussions. EduCause Quarterly, 4 , 38-41

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

Questions & Answers

find the 15th term of the geometric sequince whose first is 18 and last term of 387
Jerwin Reply
I know this work
The given of f(x=x-2. then what is the value of this f(3) 5f(x+1)
virgelyn Reply
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how do they get the third part x = (32)5/4
kinnecy Reply
can someone help me with some logarithmic and exponential equations.
Jeffrey Reply
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it think it's written 20/(X-6)^2 so it's 20 divided by X-6 squared
I'm not sure why it wrote it the other way
I got X =-6
ok. so take the square root of both sides, now you have plus or minus the square root of 20= x-6
oops. ignore that.
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what is a good calculator for all algebra; would a Casio fx 260 work with all algebra equations? please name the cheapest, thanks.
Kevin Reply
a perfect square v²+2v+_
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Abdirahman Reply
algebra 2 Inequalities:If equation 2 = 0 it is an open set?
Kim Reply
or infinite solutions?
The answer is neither. The function, 2 = 0 cannot exist. Hence, the function is undefined.
Embra Reply
if |A| not equal to 0 and order of A is n prove that adj (adj A = |A|
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rolling four fair dice and getting an even number an all four dice
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Kristine 2*2*2=8
Bridget Reply
Differences Between Laspeyres and Paasche Indices
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No. 7x -4y is simplified from 4x + (3y + 3x) -7y
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how do you translate this in Algebraic Expressions
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Need to simplify the expresin. 3/7 (x+y)-1/7 (x-1)=
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. After 3 months on a diet, Lisa had lost 12% of her original weight. She lost 21 pounds. What was Lisa's original weight?
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types of nano material
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Yes, Nanotechnology has a very fast field of applications and their is always something new to do with it...
Himanshu Reply
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what is system testing
what is the application of nanotechnology?
In this morden time nanotechnology used in many field . 1-Electronics-manufacturad IC ,RAM,MRAM,solar panel etc 2-Helth and Medical-Nanomedicine,Drug Dilivery for cancer treatment etc 3- Atomobile -MEMS, Coating on car etc. and may other field for details you can check at Google
anybody can imagine what will be happen after 100 years from now in nano tech world
after 100 year this will be not nanotechnology maybe this technology name will be change . maybe aftet 100 year . we work on electron lable practically about its properties and behaviour by the different instruments
name doesn't matter , whatever it will be change... I'm taking about effect on circumstances of the microscopic world
how hard could it be to apply nanotechnology against viral infections such HIV or Ebola?
silver nanoparticles could handle the job?
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I'm interested in Nanotube
this technology will not going on for the long time , so I'm thinking about femtotechnology 10^-15
can nanotechnology change the direction of the face of the world
Prasenjit Reply
At high concentrations (>0.01 M), the relation between absorptivity coefficient and absorbance is no longer linear. This is due to the electrostatic interactions between the quantum dots in close proximity. If the concentration of the solution is high, another effect that is seen is the scattering of light from the large number of quantum dots. This assumption only works at low concentrations of the analyte. Presence of stray light.
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the Beer law works very well for dilute solutions but fails for very high concentrations. why?
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Source:  OpenStax, Best practices in online teaching. OpenStax CNX. Aug 28, 2007 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10453/1.2
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