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I wanted to explore the idea of active learning online this week, as it relates to the reading material on computer-aided student collaboration and teaching in ill structured environments with constructivist techniques.   This week I started my search with ‘learning sciences’ and ‘engagement’. I found a report from the ASHE about student engagement in online courses.  The introductory article offered definitions of online learning and engagement and introduced some of the issues related to them.  The introduction was fairly short, so I went on to read the third chapter in the report, which I found really useful and interesting.  I’ve annotated them together below.

Week 1 Annotation:


Student Engagement in Online Learning: What Works and Why. (2014). ASHE Higher Education Report, 40(6), 1–14.

Techniques for Student Engagement Online. (2014). ASHE Higher Education Report, 40(6), 37–66.


The Higher Education Report from the ASHE  was a new discovery for me.  They publish various reports, which they term ‘monographs’, covering a wide range of topics in the learning sciences.  The monograph I explored discussed student engagement online.  The report adopts a less granular view than other research in my search, opting for an introductory, macro perspective.  I read two chapters in the report. The first was a short introduction defining the terms ‘engagement’ and ‘online learning’. It discussed challenges facing the various stakeholders, as well as a summary of results from the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) – an instrument new to me as well.  The third chapter, titled Techniques for Student Engagement discussed Moore’s writings on engagement including Student-Student/Student-Content/Student-Teacher interactions.  The chapter discussed several practical applications of active learning in online environments, a short summary of instructional design theory and even a short section on technology integration.  It was a fairly wide-ranging piece.

Since the article wasn’t primary research, there is little to critique on research methodology except the short discussion of the NSSE data. However, the strength of the articles was in the clear summary of engagement as applied to online learning, informed by theory from the learning sciences. The third chapter covered numerous topics in a way that still felt coherent.  Besides description, the chapter offered practical ideas for actual assignments, and creative ways to use discussion boards and apply active learning online.  Chapter two, which I have not read yet, focuses more deeply on learning theory, and may be of interest to me as well.

I am interested in how to encourage active learning in both synchronous and asynchronous online environments.   Many of the modules I see from faculty are still based on the lecture-learner modality: video or one-way eLearning modules. This can be a result of the tools available to them, but I am really interested in pushing toward a more active environment integrating discussion, exploration and deeper learning into these online modules, both in modules I create and those from faculty I work with (I work in faculty development.)  These articles were useful to me because they effectively bridged the gap between theory and practice in a concise way.