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Active Learning: Where fearless teaching inspires fearless learning

Active learning technology helps instructors find new ways to teach and students discover new ways to learn

A few weeks ago, we wrote a blog titled, “Technology is Just a Tool,.” In it we took the position that all the technology in the world would not change outcomes in the classroom unless instructors and course designers look for ways to use it effectively.  Technology is just a tool, but it’s an important tool and creative instructors use it to engage and inspire their students to learn and grow.

We call these instructors “fearless faculty,” and we recently recognized fearless faculty members at 6 institutions around the world through our 2013 Active Learning Grants Awards. One interesting perspective about each of our 2013 grants recipients is that they all entered into the world of active learning at a different point.  And, if you look at the over 20 active learning case studies contained in our knowledge center, this is true in almost every case. For some institutions, there was a need to reach students beyond the four walls of the classroom through distance learning. For others, it was to stimulate engagement in large lecture courses.  In all cases though, it was less about the technology and all about achieving specific outcomes.  The technology obviously has to work. But, it has to be applied by these courageous, fearless faculty members.

As we prepare for Educause 2013 in Anaheim next month, we think it is very important to define each of the pieces of an active learning system. So, over the next few weeks look for posts on our blog that will define and describe each of the fundamental pieces of active learning technology. They include:


·         The ability to create and archive courses online so that lectures are available for students anytime and anywhere.

·         The ability to engage with students and increase participation during class time.

·         The ability to extend university or institution instruction beyond the four walls of the classroom and the boundaries of the campus through online courses and programs. Yes, we’re talking about distance learning and MOOCs.

·         The ability to flip the class so that students come to class ready to engage and participate.

·         The ability to understand how well students understand course content BEFORE testing through comprehensive learning analytics to help identify at-risk students.

What an exciting age in which we live.  In ten or twenty years we fully expect that flipped and blended classes will be the norm.  Everyone will be engaged in some form of online learning.  We will have forgotten that some brave person flipped a class for the very first time.

For now though, it’s all still all a little new.  It’s all a little unfamiliar. But it is a time to be fearless. It’s time to join our fearless faculty.

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