Making Active Learning Work: Taking an Intentional Approach to Active Learning in Fully or Partially Online First-Year Classes

Concurrent Session 6

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

While the impact of active learning is documented, there is an absence of research on these teaching and learning approaches in online first-year courses. This session will describe the intentional approach two instructors have taken to incorporate different forms of active learning in their online and blended first-year seminar courses.

Sponsored By


Stephanie M. Foote, Ph.D. is the Associate Vice President for Teaching, Learning, and Evidence-Based Practices at the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education and an Instructor at Stony Brook University. Prior to beginning this position, Dr. Foote served as the founding Director of the Master of Science in First-Year Studies, Professor of Education in the Department of First-Year and Transition Studies at Kennesaw State University. A recipient of the McGraw-Hill Excellence in Teaching First-Year Seminars and NODA Outstanding Research award. Dr. Foote's scholarship and consultative work span a variety of aspects of student development and transition, including: the role of first-year seminars and experiential pedagogy on student engagement in the early college experience; the community college transfer student transition; self-authorship development; engagement and learning in online environments; and high-impact educational practices.
Deborah Mixson-Brookshire, is a Professor of Management and Distance Learning Coordinator at Kennesaw State University. She has been an educator for over 18 years. Striving to create an innovative classroom experience for her students, she utilizes experiential education tools including distance learning to accomplish course outcomes. Deborah has published a variety of articles involving her experiential learning and distance learning research interest. Instructing and leading a variety of workshops, she is able to share her research and experiential pedagogical methods with others. She has also given international and national presentations sharing her passion for teaching and distance learning.

Extended Abstract

The impact of active learning is well documented (Ambrose et al., 2010; Bonwell and Eison, 1991); however most of the existing research and best practice literature focuses on the application of and outcomes associated with active learning in traditional or face-to-face courses. A handful of studies have examined the application of various forms of active learning in online upper-level courses (Amador and Mederer, 2013; MacKenzie and Ballard, 2015), but there is an absence of research on active learning in lower-level, and specifically first-year courses that are taught in fully or partially online formats. 

This session will describe the intentional approach two instructors have taken to incorporate different forms of active learning in their online and blended first-year seminar courses. Specifically, the presenters will begin by describing how they used research, including the Model of Online Student Learning and Engagement (Foote & Mixson-Brookshire, 2014), to identify specific active learning strategies and approaches they could use to transform and embed these strategies into their online and blended first-year seminars. Next, the presenters will describe the specific active learning strategies they adapted, including many that are generally used in face-to-face courses (e.g., exam wrappers, collaborative learning, warm ups, think-pair-share, and case studies). Following this, the presenters will will share the outcomes of these activities on student learning and engagement in their courses, and finally, they will discuss their “lessons learned” and key takeaways.

Participants will leave the session with strategies they can use to adapt and intentionally incorporate active learning strategies into their fully or partially online first-year courses across the various disciplines.