Instructional Design

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Course Design

Instructional Design Unit

Office of Faculty Support and Development


Principle 3

Encourage Active Learning
  Students don’t learn just by sitting and listening or memorizing and spitting out answers. They have to reflect on the information, relate it to past experiences and apply it to their lives for it to really have an impact.

It is common in the traditional setting to have students write papers, participate in labs, or in some other way be engaged with the content. In most cases active learning takes place outside of the classroom with homework assignments.
“Learning is not a spectator sport.”
However, some instructors encourage active learning in the classroom as well. For example, one instructor has 1 minute papers where after a lecture, she will have students summarize what they’d heard, write about what they enjoyed the most and also what was the least clear to them. Other face to face alternatives for an active learning environment includes field trips, games, problem-solving, or library research projects.

Best Practices

You can easily carry over the traditional method of giving a writing assignment by using the Assignments tool in Vista. However, there are other options available as well. Creating an individual journal or blog for each student allows them to reflect on a regular basis on the information provided. Vista 4 has blogging and journaling capabilities built in.

Newer technologies now can enrich and expand opportunities for students to gather information. You can encourage students to do further research (beyond Google and Wikipedia) by providing links to helpful industry websites or up-to-date blogs so they can know the “hot issues” in the field. Another way to really provide guidance and promote information literacy is to provide library resources. SPSU has a Resources page for Distance Learners ( that can be linked to and they also have instructional handouts in PDF format that can be uploaded to your course.

  Active learning activities like presenting information and peer teaching has been shown to increase retention levels by as much as 90%. Tools such as Wimba Live Classroom can be used to provide the structure for students to give presentations in real time with audio and video.

Another way to have students interact with the content is by means of computer simulations or some sort of interactive tool like a clickable image map or crossword puzzle. provides simulations that you can use in your own courses. The items at USG Share are licensed under Creative Commons.

Student users become active learners using turnitin by:
  Writing peer reviews on papers
  Reading peer reviews written on their papers
  Participating in the discussion board
go to wimba tool