Active Learning across Modalities: A Model for Interdisciplinary Faculty Development

Concurrent Session 4
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Brief Abstract

The University of Central Florida’s Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning and Center for Distributed Learning collaborated to offer a blended semester-long Course Innovation Project about active learning across modalities for faculty. In addition to receiving the materials from this project, participants will engage in activities which model active learning.


Corrinne Stull is an Instructional Designer at the University of Central Florida’s Center for Distributed Learning (CDL). Corrinne holds a B.A. in Digital Media with a focus on Web Design and previously worked in web development. Her interest in combining technology and education to design and create online learning experiences led her to pursue an M.A. in Instructional Design & Technology, focusing on Instructional Systems. In her current role, Corrinne specializes in personalized adaptive learning software and strategies. Other research interests include online course accessibility, active learning strategies, quality in online courses, and the use of OER materials. Additionally, Corrinne is the coordinator of CDL's Faculty Seminars in Online Teaching, standalone seminars offered periodically for collegial dialogue around best practices in online teaching.
In the summer of 2011, Aimee joined the Instructional Design team at CDL. She graduated with a Doctor of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in Instructional Design and Technology from the University of Cincinnati in 2011. Her research interests include quality online course design, textbook affordability, online discussion strategies, and technology and gender. Dr. deNoyelles has published in several journals including Computers & Education, Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, and Journal of Special Education Technology.
James (Jim) is the Program Coordinator of UCF's Affordable Instructional Materials (AIM) initiative and an instructional designer on UCF's Personalized Adaptive Learning (PAL) team. He manages UCF's Pressbooks network and runs a multi-institutional Realizeit (adaptive learning) workgroup. A good portion of his day-to-day duties involves collaborating with faculty and other supporting entities around campus to bring open and/or adaptive projects to fruition.

Additional Authors

Anna C. Turner, M.A. is an Instructional Specialist at the Karen L. Smith Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Central Florida. Her faculty development specialties include active learning pedagogies and the science of learning, including instructional technologies, mixed-modalities, and active learning spaces. Ms. Turner has been leading faculty development cohorts on active learning at UCF since 2013, and she currently consults on multiple initiatives at UCF involving research-based practices and active learning, including active learning classrooms. Her background is in sociology and communication, and her research interests include instructional technology, learning spaces, and open educational resources. She is currently working on the development of a faculty training program for active learning classrooms at the university.

Extended Abstract

In Spring of 2018, the University of Central Florida’s Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning and Center for Distributed Learning collaborated to offer the university’s first Course Innovation Project focused on online and blended learning. This collaboration was proposed because of observed faculty need on campus. Although faculty get credentialed to teach online at UCF by engaging in an interdisciplinary development program, and have access to an instructional designer and other support services, there are limited opportunities for further engagement with interdisciplinary colleagues after they have received the credential. On the other hand, faculty who teach face-to-face courses can regularly engage in faculty development cohorts with an interdisciplinary group of colleagues every semester. However, we have seen an increase in faculty proposing to transform online or blended courses in these cohorts, especially offerings aimed at engaging students in active learning. To address this issue, the Faculty Center and Center for Distributed Learning collaborated to offer a blended four-session, semester-long Course Innovation Project for faculty who teach using the university’s learning management system.

To frame their Course Innovation Project, developers from both centers used a generative approach to active learning (Fiorella & Mayer, 2015). They also combined two frameworks (Bonwell & Eison, 1991; Grabinger & Dunlap, 1995) and the science of learning (Boyd, 2015), to identify five guiding characteristics for active learning across modalities: higher-order thinking, collaborative learning, affective learning, metacognitive learning, and struggle, challenge and risk-taking. During the semester, participating faculty redesigned one major assignment or an entire week within their selected course, and they engaged in activities on a range of topics related to active learning, such as active-learning pedagogies, cognitive psychology, open educational resources, transparency, and peer review. Four guiding questions were used to frame the faculty experience: (1) How can I facilitate active learning across modalities? (2) What strategies can I use to implement active learning across modalities? (3) How does my active learning project impact students and other stakeholders? (4) What are my next steps in implementing active learning in my course/modality?

In addition to sharing our framework for the Course Innovation Project, we have three goals for this session: 1) Participants will engage in a conversation with colleagues about the complexities of active learning, including modality contexts, and they will leave with a more concrete definition of active learning. 2) Participants will contemplate the five active learning characteristics, including how the characteristics enable faculty to design rich active learning experiences. 3) Participants will leave with a framework for implementing an interdisciplinary Course Innovation Project, and they will reflect on aspects that will work on their own campuses.

This session comprises three sections in which participants will engage with each of our outcomes. In the first section (15 minutes), we’ll engage in a think-pair-share activity about active learning across modalities, and the presenters will debrief with some misconceptions about learning and a concrete definition for active learning that works across modalities. In the second section (10 minutes), we’ll share the five characteristics, including the research in which they are grounded. Participants will contemplate one of the five characteristics during this interactive lecture, and they will identify one way in which their characteristic can help enrich student experiences. Finally, in the last section (15 minutes), participants will be asked to reflect on their own academic contexts during an overview presentation of the project. During this presentation, we will include best practices and lessons learned. For instance, we found that changing up the room configuration and faculty pairings helped to energize the activities. Engaging in activities such as the Tuning protocol helped faculty to actively listen and learn from each other, regardless of their grasp of the discipline.

Participants will be given access to open-licensed lesson plans, session PowerPoints, and an online component. We will end with questions from the audience (5 minutes).

Bonwell, C. C., & Eison, J. A. (1991). Active learning: Creating excitement in the classroom (Report No. 1). ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report. Washington, D.C.: The George Washington University, School of Education and Human Development.

Boyd, L. [Tedx Talks]. (2015, December 15). After watching this, your brain will not be the same [Video file]. Retrieved from

Fiorella, L., & Mayer, R. E. (2015). Learning as a generative activity: Eight learning strategies that promote understanding. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Grabinger, R. S., & Dunlap, J. C. (1995). Rich environments for active learning: A definition. Research in Learning Technology, 3(2), 5-34.