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Active Learning Principles: Tips to Apply in Online Training

Are you looking for a way to turn corporate learners into active participants? Do you need to make your online training experience more engaging, collaborative and interactive? If so, then active learning may be the ideal strategy for your online training program. In this article, Christopher Pappas shares active learning principles and related activities that you can integrate into online training course design.

As its name implies, active learning centers on a learner’s active participation. The approach was made popular by Bonwell and Eison. According to the “Association for Study of Higher Education” report they published in 1991, learners must do more than merely listen to subject matter. They must be able to read, discuss and solve problems in order to synthesize the information. The most effective active learning tasks involve analysis, evaluation and other higher-order thinking processes. Essentially, the strategy focuses on absorbing knowledge by doing and then reflecting on the learner’s thought process.

How to apply active learning principles in online training

Douglas Barnes, a respected educator and researcher, suggested that all successful active learning experiences follow a set of core principles. Here are the six principles you should consider when designing active learning experiences for an online training program:

  1. Purpose: The online task must be relevant to the corporate learner, for example, it might give them knowledge they need to achieve a goal or fulfill a need. To incorporate a sense of purpose into your online training experiences stress the real world benefits and applications of your training program. You can also integrate online scenarios, eLearning games and simulations that give learners a firsthand sense of how they can transfer their knowledge into practice.
  2. Opportunity for reflection: Employees must be given time to reflect on what they’ve learned and its underlying significance. Break your online training course into smaller modules that give employees a break between each online training activity. That will also allow them to absorb and assimilate online content before moving onto the next online training activity. You can also ask them to discuss the subject matter in small groups in order to deepen their comprehension.
  3. Goal negotiation: Corporate learners must have some degree of control over their online training experience, particularly in terms of goals and how they achieve them. Meet with corporate learners to discuss their goals and figure out which course of action is best for them. In asynchronous online training environments, surveys, eLearning assessments and interviews can help you to negotiate goals.
  4. Critical and complex: Barnes suggested that active learning in online training must be both critical and complex. Corporate learners should be aware that there are different online training approaches that can help them to achieve a desired outcome. Likewise, they must be able to compare online training tasks with real life challenges and problems. A self-guided online training course, personalized learning paths and online training activities that tie into real world complexities are ideally suited to an active learning online training course.
  5. Situation-centric: The situation must be considered when creating online training tasks and activities. That may involve task analysis and skills assessments in order to determine what knowledge a corporate learner needs to carry out their job responsibilities. In short, every element of your online training program must be geared towards practical, real life situations that employees encounter regularly.
  6. Engagement: Corporate learners must be engaged in the online training process in order for it to be truly effective. Every activity, assessment, and task in your online training course must be relevant and relatable. Each component of your online training program should reflect its core goals and objectives. Otherwise, employees may not be able to see the value of participating.

Active learning online training activities

  1. Online group discussions: Use web conferencing tools to allow corporate learners to interact with geographically dispersed colleagues. Forums, blogs, and social media platforms are also ideal for online group discussions. To ensure that they stay on topic, assign a moderator who can occasionally pose a compelling question and guide online discussion in the right direction. Make sure that everyone has an opportunity to speak and that you foster a positive and supportive environment to help those who may be reluctant.
  2. Collaborative projects: Divide corporate learners into smaller groups and ask them to complete a virtual assignment, such as developing a tutorial for a work-related task. This builds collaboration, communication, and problem-solving skills, while allowing learners to benefit from the experience of their peers. Make sure that everyone is on the same page by providing detailed guidelines beforehand and clarifying expectations.
  3. Flipped training: Turn the tables on corporate learners by asking them to instruct their peers. Assign each employee a specific task or work topic and then allow them to develop a multimedia presentation or online activity that explores the ideas and concepts. For example, an employee can develop a slideshow that covers every step of a work-related process. That gives them an opportunity to build their skills and expand their comprehension, while offering peers a fresh take on the subject matter.

An active learning approach can make online training programs more interactive, engaging, and effective. It’s ideal for corporate eLearning initiatives because busy eLearning professionals can focus on the task at hand and fully immerse themselves in the online training experience.

Blended learning is a perfect pairing for your active learning strategy. Read 6 tips to find the right tech tools for your blended learning course to discover useful tools that you can use for blended training programs.




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