Active Learning

Active learning seems to be the new season's fashion in academia but many academics are left with questions which are largely unanswered.

I've curated some resources which I hope will stimulate a discussion and possibly inspire you to take the plunge.

How do we deliver active learning to our students?

Technology should facilitate the interaction but mustn't drive it. Here at Sussex we have regular Show and TEL sessions to share our practice.

Whilst purpose designed rooms undoubtedly facilitate active learning the lack of such space shouldn't form a barrier. I've been delivering flipped learning in standard seminar spaces.

Students can be active in other ways. For example we sent students on an audit assignment which provided them with the opportunity to situate their technical knowledge in a live situation as well as to develop a range of employability skills and we hope to partner with local businesses to expand this opportunity further  Students as professionals

A range of case studies are available on the Harvard active learning site.

What are the benefits for the students?

Whilst the jury's still out on whether active learning directly improves academic results studies seem to suggest that benefits accrue from student engagement and the closer interaction with academics who can guide learning and provide feedback to students mid task.

Learning in this way also encourages students to develop a range of other skills which are important for the workplace but are often not directly assessed e.g. team management, emotional intelligence.

A side effect is that students are more satisfied by what they perceive as a more personal approach.

What are the benefits for academics?

The key benefit is that the academic is able to observe and facilitate student learning which helps them to identify possible gaps in student knowledge or provide more structure where needed. 

They can also judge pace and difficulty of tasks more easily.

What are the drawbacks?

Ultimately an active model can be more costly for the university as students are no longer taught in large impersonal lecture theatres or at least lecture time is reduced.

This can have an effect on timetabling as teaching methods evolve and may ultimately result in a re-configuration of the estate.

Dedicated fit outs can vary greatly in cost and design so it is important to seek academia input at the design stage  Academics design classrooms

How can I find out more?

There are a number of conferences coming up which focus on active learning and I would encourage those of you who run active classrooms to share your experiences and those who are curious to participate as you plan your courses for the next academic year.

Active Learning Conference 2017

BAFA Accounting Education 2018 - Hilton Brighton Metropole 2-4 May 2018