Dec 19 2018

How Universities Can Create Their Own Active-Learning Classrooms

Higher education pros share best practices for building flexible, tech-enabled environments.

Higher education institutions are moving away from traditional, lecture-style pedagogy toward an active-learning model, which emphasizes collaboration, flexible spaces and the use of technology to engage and interact. 

As educators evaluate their own campus needs for active-learning solutions, the following best practices can guide them toward the most effective implementations. 

MORE FROM EDTECH: Four steps to jumpstart your modern learning environment.

Create a Space That Encourages Flexibility

Early versions of active-learning classrooms encouraged students to collaborate by seating them at round tables. But these lacked the flexibility that is a hallmark of contemporary learning spaces, whose designs allow students and faculty to adapt the space to their needs. 

“Fixing [circular] tables to the floor is repeating the same thing you did in the old-style, theater lecture halls,” says Malcolm Brown, the director of learning initiatives for EDUCAUSE. “[Universities] adopt themselves to a certain learning style, but they can’t be universal if things are bolted down.”

Flexibility can come in the form of movable desks and chairs, but it also means giving students tools, such as interactive whiteboards, that they can use as they move around the room and interact

“It is important to have marker board space that is dedicated to each respective table so that students feel empowered to get up to do diagrams, to engage with one another, to map out what it is they are talking about, or sometimes there are just activities that require you to make lists,” says Christopher Brooks, research director for EDUCAUSE. 

Robust Internet Is Essential for Active Learning

Although active-learning environments do not require advanced classroom technologies, reliable networking on campus is essential to ensure students can fully participate in active-learning activities. 

“Active learning has to extend outside of the classroom,” says Top Hat CEO Mike Silagadze. “It’s not about just what happens during the lecture. It’s also about what happens before class and then after class.”

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