Active Learning Strategies for the Online Classroom


Active Learning Versus Passive Learning

The term active learning can be juxtaposed against the term passive learning. While a common example of the latter is a lecture given by a teacher, in the former, the instructor acts as more of a guide while the students are engaged in learning.

However, the online classroom presents its own unique set of challenges each school day. How do you keep things active when you aren't even in the same room with the people you are teaching?

Read on to learn some helpful strategies to employ to improve the abilities of your students.

Converting From In-School Learning to Online Learning

Let's get started, teachers!

Did you know you can have a flipped classroom online, just like you can have one for an in-school setting? For instance, you could allow your students to take turns being the teacher on the American Revolution, French Revolution, or a similar historical topic while you observe and act as more of a facilitator instead.

On the other hand, you could divide your students into online breakout rooms and allow them to work in small groups to devise ways to help the homeless population. When their sessions are completed, allow them to meet online in one large group to discuss their findings.

The idea of kinesthetic learning involves your students participating in physical activities, and for mathematics instruction, you can find many free online math manipulatives.

The idea of active reading can be incorporated online and involves searching for key vocabulary words, asking pertinent questions, and predicting what will happen in ensuing chapters.

Have math students keep interactive notebooks which include word problems to be solved throughout the school year.

Other Methodologies

Some additional techniques to be employed online include:

  • Action-based learning
  • Cooperative learning
  • Interactive learning
  • Inquiry-based learning
  • Learner-centered teaching
  • Project-based learning
  • Scenario questions
  • Virtual gallery walks


The technique known as think-pair-share can be employed in an online setting.

  • First, each student works alone to solve a problem, such as how to reduce automobile emissions which pollute the environment.
  • Second, students meet with a digital partner to further discuss the subject.
  • Third, students gather in one large group to discuss their findings.

Digital Escape Rooms

The concept of the virtual escape room has become increasingly popular in the learning industry. For example, Ann offers her students a series of clues, which give a corresponding series of respective numbers, and they must use these numbers to open a padlock to leave an imaginary room within one hour.

Online Brainstorming

Steve asks his students to think about the horrible problem of all the plastic and other pollutants which are clogging our oceans and harming the sea creatures. He requests they brainstorm online and devise as many ways as possible to resolve the issue. Steve tells his students for this exercise, money is no object, and no idea is too absurd or unrealistic either.

Then he has the students confer with one another online and allows them to rank the ideas from most likely to least likely to help with the pollution of our oceans.

Optional - Steve has the students write letters to politicians encouraging them to get involved with this clean-up process.

Online Debating

Mary divides her students into two distinct groups for an interesting online debate. She assigns Group A the position of supporting a $15 federal minimum wage, and she assigns Group B the position of leaving the federal minimum wage at $7.25 per hour (as of May 2021). Then she has the groups:

  • Step One - Research their positions
  • Step Two - Craft their arguments
  • Step Three - Present conflicting points of view
  • Step Four - Take a poll to find out each student's final position on the subject

Finally, Mary asks the students if this debate literally swayed anyone's opinion and caused them to change their mind.

In Conclusion

The idea of active learning as opposed to passive learning is that the former gets students more involved, while the latter commonly consists of an instructor's lecture.

From think-pair-share to digital escape rooms to online brainstorming to online debating, teachers can employ many strategies which will allow for students to increase learning in an online setting.

For even more relevant information and strategies, feel free to consult's Instructional Strategies for Teachers Course. You will find lessons such as the following in this course: is a flexible, comprehensive online learning platform used by people of all ages to take fun, engaging courses and improve their education. Use to homeschool, to prepare for a test, to earn transferable college credit, to research schools and degrees and to help you achieve your professional aspirations.

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