Earn an A+ in Active Learning

Concurrent Session 6

Brief Abstract

This session will discuss the essential components of a successful active learning certificate program that resulted in redesigned courses with increased student engagement.


Dr. Redd is currently the Senior Director of eCampus at San Jose State University. Dr. Redd is an experienced teacher with specific expertise in teaching online. Dr. Redd is always looking at innovative ways to enhance the learning experience of students and to incorporate technology into the curriculum in meaningful ways.

Extended Abstract


Creating a new professional development program at the university level first required a review of relevant research to align the offering with the current trends and needs of the faculty population. With the university system putting an emphasis on student success and graduation, the professional development programs offered needed to align with these goals. The NMC Horizon Report: 2017 Higher Education Edition identified a long-term trend of deeper learning approaches, specifically promoting the adoption of engaging strategies that foster active learning experiences (Adams Becker et al., 2017).

“Active learning” a series of terms commonly used in education, but not often formally addressed through focused, long-term professional development opportunities. Active Learning as an instructional strategy allows for increased engagement and personalization to develop a welcoming and supportive learning environment. Thus, an active learning certificate program was developed that placed an emphasis on effective and engaging teaching strategies. The Active Learning Certificate Program was formalized and offered during the Spring 2017 semester at a large public university. The program was a collaborative effort between two departments: one that infuses technology into the curriculum and the other that focuses on the pedagogies incorporated.


Faculty members had to complete an application specifying a course they were teaching during Spring 2017 that the active learning strategies would get incorporated into. There were thirty faculty members accepted into the program from a wide-range of departments. There were two program facilitators and four instructional designers. Additional participants included guest speakers, who were campus-based experts on relevant topics.

Program Details

The Active Learning Certificate Program introduced participants to active learning strategies through workshops, hands-on activities, and resources. The program revolved around four main components. The first was workshops. Attendance was required at the kick-off session and any three of the other five workshops. Topics that the workshops covered included teaching practices designed to build a sense of community, strategies to enhance student participation, methods to encourage students’ reading for understanding, techniques to incorporate service learning and community engaged teaching, best practices for designing group work, and tips for enhancing student’s meta-cognitive strategies. Each workshop modeled active learning strategies while presenting the information in the workshop. The second component continued the development of a faculty learning community through the creation of a course in the learning management system. Discussion topics followed each workshop that required participants to post an original thought as well as reply to a peer. Additional, resources were posted, such as journal articles, pictures from the workshops, and weblinks. The course also included activities, such as mid-semester check-ins, syllabus reviews, and reflections. The third component was instructional design consultations. Participants met with instructional designers twice during the program: once at the beginning of the semester, and then a second time at the end of the semester. The fourth component was a lesson recording and reflection. During the semester, one lesson was selected, attended, and recorded by the instructional designer. The instructor was then provided with the recording and had to complete reflective activities based upon this.


Participants, through this program, explored teaching strategies and activities designed to enhance their students’ academic success by increasing their engagement with their courses. Various metrics were used to gather feedback and measure the incorporation of the active learning strategies discussed into the curriculum of the courses. Participants provided feedback to their assigned instructional designer. This was an iterative process that occurred twice during the semester with the goal for these instructional design teams to continue to “meet up” in the future to check in on the status of the implementation.

Written or video reflections on the class session recordings were provided by the participants. The preliminary data has indicated actions that will get implemented into the courses. This ranged from speech patterns to physical movements within the classrooms to implementation of new strategies. Having the opportunity to review a lesson without the pressure of a formal observation allowed for the participants to take an accurate view of their teaching methods and note areas that excelled and those that could be improved.

Discussion responses after the workshops indicate immediate implementation of the topics into the curriculum. Participants provided examples to one another and internalized the topics presented to their own class content and identified changes that plan to or did already make.

Since this project does not conclude until the end of the semester, feedback is still getting gathered from the participants. This information will get reviewed and displayed as part of this presentation.


Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Davis, A., Freeman, A., Hall Giesinger, C., and Ananthanarayanan, V. (2017). NMC Horizon Report: 2017 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.