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Active Learning

Successful online learners are active learners

  • What is active learning? — Active learning places the responsibility of organizing what is to be learned in the hands of you, the learner. Learning is an active process involving you in situations which compel you to read, speak, listen, think deeply, and write.  

There are many characteristics of active learners.  

  1. An active learner takes full responsibility for her/his own learning

  2. An active learner completes assignments before the deadline

  3. An active learner submits assignments that look neat and have been spell/grammar checked .  

    • Take time to produce a final product that looks good,  

    • a reflection of a caring attitude and pride in your work. 

  4. An active learner is attentive when doing course work on the computer.  

    • Do not allow distractions.  

    • Turn off the phone.  

    • Secure a quite place to work, especially during online testing.   

  5. Successful online students are active learners, take full responsibility for your own learning.  

What Kind of Learner Are You?

There are generally three kinds of learners. The following are the three major factors making up your learning style.  

  1. The three senses—auditory, visual and kinesthetic 

  2. the two reasoning types—deductive and inductive 

  3. the two environments—intrapersonal and interpersonal  

Here is a questionnaire that will help you identify your learning style.* 

The Three Senses: select one in each category.


  • I prefer to follow verbal instructions rather than written ones. 

  • I find it comfortable to add spoken numbers mentally.  

Kinesthetic—moving, touching, writing and doing

  • When I write things down, it clarifies my thoughts. 
  • I have to manipulate formulas in order to understand them. 
  • I like to draw pictures. 
  • I am good at using my hands. I enjoy lab classes. 

Visual—seeing, reading and visualizing  

  • I score high on tests that depend on reading comprehension. 

  • I can read formulas and understand them 

  • I prefer maps to verbal directions when I am trying to find a place.  


The Two Reasoning Types  


Deductive reasoning

  • I like to look at the big picture first, then get the details. 

  • When learning a new game, I like to know all the rules before playing. 

  • In an argument, I state my premises first, then draw conclusion 


Inductive reasoning 

  • I like to see some examples when first learning a new subject, before developing an overview. 

  • I prefer to learn the rules of a new game "as we go along".  


The Two Learning Environments  

Intrapersonal—working alone.

  • When solving word problems, I have to figure it out for myself. 

  • Doing school work with a group often wastes a lot of time.  


Interpersonal—working with others.  

  • Before making a decision, I usually discuss it with my family or friends. 

  • I like to do my homework with others.  


This assessment tool is easy to analyze. If you encounter problems arriving at an accurate analysis, review with your counselor or instructor.  

Active Learning in the Online Classroom

  • How do you practice active learning in an online classroom?  
  • Assess your learning style (see above).  
  • If you are primarily an auditory learner, as an online learner where the mode of delivery is visual, you will have to adapt your primary learning style to become more visual.

    • Read all instructions out loud.  
    • Recitation-in place of auditory learning - "Recitation is the single most effective method of learning" - hearing oneself say the words.  
    • Develop your kinesthetic skills, write key points down.  


  • The active online learner checks (logs-in) the course Web page frequently.  
  • The active online learner checks the course calendar regularly.  
  • The active online learner turns in assignments on time.  
  • The active online learner takes exams/quizzes during access periods.  
  • An active learner takes advantage of extra credit opportunities if offered.  
  • Online active learners are proactive. Complete and submit your work early.  
  • Online learning is collaborative. Create study groups using the chat room provided or email (WebCT users have an internal email system).  
  • Don't wait until the deadline to submit your work in case you do have a problem (technical or other).  
  • See Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) in Resources.  

* adapted from Donald Martin's , How to be a Successful Student, Marin Community College.  

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