How Your Students Can Have Equivalent Learning Experiences Whether They Are FaceToFace or Asynchronous.
Learning activities form the backbone of your course.
Active learning, in which students participate in the learning process by discussing, problemsolving, questioning, and interacting, combines focusing on how students learn with what students are learning. Thirty years of research has proven that active learning techniques significantly reduce students’ probability of failure while making classroom environments more inclusive. Active learning cuts the achievement gap in half while virtually eliminating the gender gap.^{[1]}
Passive learning, in which a student listens to an instructor lecture, lacks student involvement. Worse, years of passive learning actually trains students to be passive listeners and thwarts students’ initiative and agency. Passive learning is a “onesizefitsall approach”^{[2]} that reinforces archaic, hierarchical structures of education for a privileged few.
Decades of research also concludes that students learn concepts more deeply and have longer retention of core concepts when students engage in evidencebased practices, which can also help students incorporate these practices into their own learning strategies, providing a strong foundation for students’ academic success.
The following evidencebased learning strategies have consistently been found to be effective:
 retrieval practice,
 spaced practice,
 interleaved practice,
 and metacognitive reflection.
Active learning strategies work best when they rely on the use of these evidencebased practices, which can also help students incorporate these practices into their own learning strategies, providing a strong foundation for students’ academic success.
Retrieval Practice
Students (and many faculty) have the incorrect belief that students learn material more deeply by repeatedly reading texts or watching video recordings. While this seems plausible, what’s really happening is something called “fluency illusion.” When you read something many times, you become familiar with all of the words, the organization of the material on the page, etc. But, that does not necessarily mean that you have developed a deeper understanding of the concepts.
Longterm recall of concepts, though, is enhanced by practice retrieving information, not by repeated attempts at storing this information. While students can engage in retrieval practice on their own through the use of flash cards, creating written summaries of work they’ve recently read, or by explaining concepts to others, we can build retrieval practice into our course design through the use of:
 Regular use of lowstakes or nostakes practice quizzes
 Reading quizzes and knowledge checks
 Oneminute quizzes (also known as “muddiest point” or exit tickets)
 Mastery learning quizzing
 Polling software
 Using adaptive or personalized learning platforms that provide extensive retrieval practice activities
 Many other good examples of retrieval practice activities are provided at Retrievalpractice.org
Spaced Practice
Research shows that spacing study sessions over time is more effective than spending the same amount of time in a single long study session. Students do not, however, engage in spaced practice. We can assist them in doing so by designing our courses so that students engage with the course material multiple times per week. Giving students reading (or other assignments) before each class meeting, for example, is one way to encourage students to engage in spaced practice.
If students in your class engage in larger or more complex projects, you can encourage spaced practice by breaking the project into smaller discrete steps with spaced out deadlines. This type of scaffolding of projects offers several additional advantages by:
 Reducing cognitive load and anxiety for students my making each stage of the project more manageable,
 Allowing you (and perhaps other students) to provide feedback along the way, resulting in less time wasted in unproductive work and higher quality products,
 Reducing the possibility of (and the incentive for) academic dishonesty since you have worked with the student from the beginning to help shape the direction of the project.
Retrieval practice and spaced practice can both be implemented by using lowstakes quizzes in Blackboard, or any LMS. If you use question pools in Blackboard, for example, students can receive a different mix of questions each time they take each quiz. (To encourage students to use these to attain mastery with lowstakes quizzes, you may wish to consider allowing unlimited attempts and saving only the highest grade in the Blackboard Grade Center. Otherwise, the incentive to retake the quizzes for retrieval practice drops once they’ve achieved a high score).
Interleaved Practice
Most classes and textbooks are designed so that students learn a new concept or skill and then work through a variety of problems and applications on that specific topic. This type of practice is referred to as “blocked practice,” where the focus is on just that single application. Interleaved practice, on the other hand, involves providing students with practice activities in which they are faced with a variety of problems that involve different skills and concepts. A classic study of this is an experiment conducted by Rohrer and Taylor (2007). In this experiment:
 Students in the blocked practice group were shown a series of 4 videos that showed them how to compute the volume of a 3dimensional object (such as a sphere or a cube). Each video was followed immediately by a series of 4 questions administered to students that had them calculate the volume of that type of object. This provides an example of blocked practice.
 In the interleaved practice group, students watched all 4 videos before completing any of the application problems. Once they watched all 4, they were faced with the same set of 16 questions, but they were administered in random order.
The students who engaged in blocked practice initially had higher scores (89% vs. 60%), but when both groups of students were tested a week later, the students who had engaged in interleaved practice outperformed the students who had engaged in blocked practice (63% to 20%). (Note that the scores of those who had engaged in interleaved practice actually rose over time, while those who had engaged in only blocked practice dropped precipitously.) Many other studies find similar results. Interleaved practice is more challenging and requires more cognitive processing, but results in increased longterm recall. Blocked practice (the most common form of practice in most classes and textbooks) is effective in the short term, but results in substantially less longterm recall. This is likely to be an example of the benefits of facing students with what Bjork (1994) referred to as “desirable difficulties.” Longterm learning is enhanced when it requires a greater amount of cognitive processing. In the example described above, students in the blocked practice group simply had to plug numbers into a specific formula. In the interleaved practice group they had to also determine which formula applied. The additional processing increases the likelihood that information will be encoded into longterm memory.
It should be noted that a mix of blocked and interleaved practice is likely to be optimal. When students are initially learning a new concept, blocked practice is helpful in allowing students to develop an initial understanding of the topic. Shortly after, though, interleaved practice can be used to help students develop a deeper understanding and to encourage longterm recall or the concept.
There are several ways in which you can incorporate interleaved practice in your courses:
 If you are using module quizzes, the second and subsequent module quizzes can include some questions drawn from a random pool of previous module quiz questions.
 Longterm class projects will often involve the recall and application of concepts used earlier in the class.
 Comprehensive midterm and final exams also provide interleaved practice.
 Learning activities and assessments can be explicitly structured to include concepts from earlier segments of the course. For example, if you are teaching a course in comparative literature, you could ask students to compare and contrast the use of literary archetypes in two different forms of literature. A world history course that follows a chronological sequence might ask students to compare the causes of World War I and World War II.
Metacognitive Reflection
Many studies indicate that the act of reflecting on learning deepens learning and allows us to become more efficient in learning. There are many ways in which you can build reflection activities into your course:
 Blogs can be used for students to share their learning experiences with others.
 Journals can be used by students to discuss their learning experiences with their instructor.
 A lowstakes metacognitive discussion forum can be used to provide students to share reflections on their learning with their fellow students. An example of this is described in this podcast episode and this blog post: Metacognitive Cafe – Beyond Another Paper.
Instructional Strategies
Planning ahead, we can match classroombased activities to equivalent remote activities focused on evidencebased active learning so that sudden shifts in course modality will not interfere with the students’ mastery of the course content or the instructor’s confidence in their content delivery.
Use the Instructional Strategies Chart, below, to help determine how your students can have equivalent learning experiences whether they are facetoface or remote/asynchronous:
Instructional Strategies Chart
Whole Class Activities 
Classroom/Synchronous Strategy 
Asynchronous Strategy 
Interactive Lecture 
Instruction is delivered by the instructor lecturing to the class. This includes the instructor posing questions to the students and the students asking questions of the instructor. 
Brief MiniLecture Videos, Discussion forum, Student Lounge (ongoing discussion where students can ask other students questions), Knowledge Checks or embedded questions. 
Polling 
Polling can provide a useful active learning activity when classes are offered in a synchronous modality, especially when Eric Mazur’s twostage method of polling is used. In the first stage, students are initially asked to respond to a challenging question (typically a multiple choice or shortanswer question) individually. In the second stage, they are given an opportunity to discuss this response with another student (or a small group of students) before responding again to the same question. You may use the polling tool in Zoom or some other polling application. 
Knowledge Checks, Surveys, or Asynchronous Polling tools can be used to assess student understanding. 
Skeletal Outlines 
Provide students with a set of PPT, Google slides, or a document containing an outline of a lecture that can be completed by the students. This provides students with structure to help organize their notetaking. 
Provide students with a set of PPT, Google slides, or a document containing an outline of videos, readings, minilectures, or podcasts that can be completed by the students. This provides students with structure to help organize their notetaking. 
Fishbowl 
A small group (typically 4 to 5) are designated as presenters on the inside of the “fishbowl.” The students outside of the fishbowl take notes and provide questions and feedback to the presenters. Students prepare their presentations in advance. Groups rotate through this activity on a regular basis. 
Students create presentations individually or in small groups that are shared with the entire class. The class provide feedback through a discussion forum, through blog comments, or a shared document.

Brainstorming 
Students think about of all possible ideas on a particular topic and record those ideas on a document, whiteboard of Google Jamboard. 
Students think about of all possible ideas on a particular topic and record those ideas on a wiki, shared document, or a Google Jamboard. 
Kahoot! Learning Games 
Instructors can create Kahoot! learning games at http://kahoot.com that can be played synchronously on students’ mobile devices to provide students with retrieval practice and provide feedback to students and the instructor about student learning. 
Instructors can create Kahoot! learning games at http://kahoot.com that can be played asynchronously on students’ mobile devices to provide students with retrieval practice and provide feedback to students and the instructor about student learning. 
Debate 
Divide students into groups based on a specific issue. Groups research and organize an argument for their position on the issue, taking notes on paper. Then groups engage in a debate over the issue. 
Using Groups tool in the LMS, divide students into groups based on a specific issue. Groups research and organize an argument for their position on the issue posting to Group Discussion Forum. Groups engage in a debate over the issue via Discussion forum or recorded Zoom session. 
Student Presentations 
Classroom/Synchronous Strategy 
Asynchronous Strategy 
Student Presentations 
Individual students complete a class assignment or project and present that to the class. 
Individual students create video presentations, upload them to a streaming video platform, and share links to the videos to the class. Flipgrid, VoiceThread, or similar tool may also be used for this purpose. Can substitute PowerPoint if presentation skill is not a course learning outcome. 
StudentCreated Media 
Students create blogs, wikis, podcasts, videos, or educational materials. Students share the URL in class and present their media. If these are posted publicly as open pedagogy projects, students can share these with families, friends, and potential employers, creating more intrinsic motivation. 
Students create blogs, wikis, podcasts, videos, or educational materials. Students share the URL in the LMS. If these are posted publicly as open pedagogy projects, students can share these with families, friends, and potential employers, creating more intrinsic motivation. 
RolePlaying 
Students are provided with a scenario and must roleplay or model the proper response to that situation. The Reacting to the Past scenarios provide a possible source for roleplay scenarios and resources. 
Students are provided with a scenario and respond to “What would you do if. . . “ questions either as an Assignment or Discussion. Twitter may be used for asynchronous roleplay activities in which each person is assigned to tweet comments from the perspective of the role they are assigned. 
Poster presentations 
Students setup poster presentations in the physical meeting space. Ideally, students are split into groups so that some are presenting while others are viewing them, unless the posters are selfexplanatory. Remotely, Zoom breakout rooms can be used as individual virtual presentation spaces. 
Students create virtual posters and share them in the LMS in a Discussion Forum or as a Blog Post. Flipgrid, VoiceThread, or a similar tool may also be used for this purpose. 
Peer Review 
Students share work with other students who review the work and provide comments via facetoface discussion or in writing. 
Students share work with other students who review the work and provide comments. Share via Messages, Groups, or Discussion forum in the LMS.

Small Group Activities 
Classroom/Synchronous Strategy 
Asynchronous Strategy 
Jigsaw Learning 
Content is divided into 4 or 5 topic groups. Each student is assigned to one of the groups. All members of the group meet to clarify their understanding of the assigned topic. New groups are formed that consist of one member from each of the original groups. Each member, in turn, presents their topic to this new group.  Individual students or small groups are assigned to specific topics from the course material and write individual blog posts or create a shared document explaining the topic, adding images and/or videos as appropriate. 
Group Work / Discussion 
Divide students into groups to work on a project or assignment and/or discuss a particular topic. Interaction is between the students and supervised by the instructor. Groups may also share their ideas with other groups. 
Using Groups tool in Bb, divide students into groups to work on a project or assignment and/or discuss a particular topic. Interaction is between the students and supervised by the instructor. Groups may also share their ideas with other groups. 
ThinkPairShare 
After a concept is taught, student are presented with a prompt asking for a response. Students reflect on the prompt and then pair up with another student to formulate a joint response. Students are asked to share their responses with the class. 
After reading and viewing course materials, students share summaries and discuss them in a Discussion Forum. 
Gallery Walk 
Instructor creates 45 questions and shares them with students on a doc, slides, whiteboard or poster. Students have 810 minutes to write down individual responses to the questions. Students divide into smaller groups and discuss their answers with one another. One person in each group records responses in a shared document. The instructor brings the groups back to together and leads a whole class discussion about the questions. 
Students answer 45 questions as they engage in the week’s content (mini lectures, readings, etc.). Students contribute responses in a shared doc by deadline A. By deadline B, students review all contributions. Students participate in an asynchronous conversation about the questions with assigned peers to summarize information. 
Reflection Activities 
Classroom/Synchronous Strategy 
Asynchronous Strategy 
KnowWantLearn Charts (KWL) 
Students complete a threecolumn chart in two phases. At the start of a class or unit, students list what the already know (K) and what they want (W) to know in the chart. The chart can be completed individually, in groups, or as a whole class. At the end of the lesson or unit, students list what they have learned. An alternative version, KLEW, has four columns: what I know (K), what I learned (L) and supported by evidence (E), and what else I want (W) to learn. Encourage peertopeer learning by having students answer one another’s questions 
Students add to a shared document that contains the KWL table. Specify how many contributions each student should make and by what deadline. Encourage peertopeer learning by having students answer one another’s questions. 
Application Cards 
At the end of a lesson or unit, students submit an idea for a realworld application of what they have just learned. Students can share ideas during a class discussion or on a discussion forum. 
Students submit ideas to a discussion forum or as comments on a video lecture. 
QuickWrite 
Pose a question or two on a slide or whiteboard and have students respond. Instructors may ask for some students to share a selection of responses or a summary of their responses with the whole class 
Pose a question or two in a discussion forum and have students respond. Instructors may follow up by sharing a selection of responses or a summary of their responses with the whole class. 
Muddiest Point 
Encourage students to identify any unclear or “muddy points” from the current course topic. Muddiest points can be added to a shared doc or whiteboard. 
Have students pose a question in a discussion forum or other shared space. 
What’s Missing? 
Present a list of ideas, terms, equations, or a rationale, omitting steps or concepts. Students respond with what is missing using chat, poll, or live discussion. 
Present a list of ideas, terms, equations, or a rationale, omitting steps or concepts. Students respond in the discussion forum with what is missing. Can also be done using a wiki or quiz. 
Concept Maps 
State a topic, domain, question or problem that the concept map will focus on. Have students brainstorm key concepts related to this prompt and list or organize them. Students then label the relationships between key concepts and the prompt and across key concepts, drawing a map. Students then reorganize to finalize the layout of the concept map (if there are hierarchical topics, the highest level should be at the top and examples and specific details at the bottom. This can be done in class or prior to class based on readings or other course content. 
State a topic, domain, question or problem that the concept map will focus on. Have students brainstorm key concepts related to this prompt and list or organize them. Students then label the relationships between key concepts and the prompt and across key concepts, drawing a map. Students then reorganize to finalize the layout of the concept map (if there are hierarchical topics, the highest level should be at the top and examples and specific details at the bottom. Online tools such as Miro, MindMeister, and MindMup help students create an image they can upload to an assignment dropbox. 
End of Semester Reflection 
At the end of the semester, students write a letter to themselves based on prompts provided by the instructor. Students selfaddress an envelope, and the instructor mails the reflections to students after a predetermined amount of time. 
Students submit their letters electronically to the instructor. The instructor emails the letters to students after a predetermined amount of time. 
Increasing Success for Any Learner
In addition to providing students with opportunities for the practices described above, there is also evidence that we can enhance student learning by incorporating these seven tips: ^{[3]}
1 Clear Lesson Goals. Stating what you want your students to know at the end of a specific lesson is 32% more effective than just setting high expectations. Clear lesson goals help you and your students to focus on what matters most (Simon & Taylor, 2009).
2 Show & Tell. Start with telling your students what you want them to learn, and then model what you want them to be able to do. Modeling and sharing what we want in an assignment helps to clarify what is needed to do well (Gooblar, 2015, 2016).
3 Use of Questions to Check for Understanding. Using questions to check for understanding, especially before moving on the next part of the lesson is a practice that allows the instructor to determine how well students are comprehending course material and what misconceptions they might have (Tofade, Elsner, & Haines, 2013). More in this article on Question Strategies.
4 Summarize New Learning in a Graphical Way. Graphic Organizers – concept maps, diagrams, timelines, charts, etc – help students organize ideas, represent relationships, and retain information. Research shows they help students better understand the material they are learning ( Narkawicz & Casteel, 2012; Weimer, 2009). Graphic Organizers can be used as a learning activity or an assessment – either summative or formative.
5 Provide Students with Regular Feedback. Provide consistent feedback from which students can learn and improve. This can be written or verbal feedback from you as the instructor, peer review, grading rubrics, or checklists. This Glover & Brown, 2006, article explains more.
6 Be Flexible about How Long it Takes to Learn. Mastery Learning is based on the idea that students learn at different paces. Therefore, while the expectations and learning outcomes are the same, the time required to learn a concept varies among students (Klecker & Chapman, 2008). Students can achieve mastery at their own pace through activities such as lowstakes, mastery quizzing (retake until a specific score is achieved) and similar iterative assignments.
7 Teach Strategies, not Just Content. Students cannot do well in our courses without developing effective approaches to studying. What worked for them in high school will not work in college. However, our students may not know how else to approach developing knowledge and understanding about our content. Instruction in college should include exposing our students to different study strategies (Deslauriers, Harris, Lane, Wieman, 2012). Sharing strategies and talking about what works well with your students can help them tremendously.
Resources:
 Active Learning Spectrum University of Wyoming
 Agarwal, P. K., & Bain, P. M. (2019). Powerful teaching: Unleash the science of learning. John Wiley & Sons.
 Bjork, R. A. (1994a). Memory and metamemory considerations in the training of human beings. In J. Metcalfe and A. Shimamura (Eds.), Metacognition: Knowing about knowing (pp.185205). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
 Brown, P. C., Roediger III, H. L., & McDaniel, M. A. (2014). Make it Stick. Harvard University Press.
 Darby, F., & Lang, J. M. (2019). Small teaching online: Applying learning science in online classes. John Wiley & Sons.
 Deslauriers, L., McCarty, L. S., Miller, K., Callaghan, K., & Kestin, G. (2019). Measuring actual learning versus feeling of learning in response to being actively engaged in the classroom. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(39), 1925119257.
 Spacing. Retrievalpractice.org.
 The Learning Scientists
 Littlejohn, Judith (2017). “The Metacognitive Cafe Online Discussion Forum”. November 8.
 McGuire, S. Y. (2015). Teach students how to learn: Strategies you can incorporate into any course to improve student metacognition, study skills, and motivation. Stylus Publishing, LLC.
 McGuire, S. Y. (2018). Teach yourself how to learn: Strategies you can use to ace any course at any level. Stylus Publishing, LLC.
 Miller, M. D. (2014). Minds Online. Harvard University Press.
 Miller, Michelle (2019). “Retrieval Practice.” Tea for Teaching podcast, January 23.
 Retrievalpractice.org
 Rohrer, D., & Taylor, K. (2007). The shuffling of mathematics problems improves learning. Instructional Science, 35(6), 481498.
 Simon, Beth, and Jared Taylor (2009). “What is the Value of CourseSpecific Learning Goals?” Journal of College Science Teaching. November/December.
 Tomaswick, LeighAnn & Jennifer Marcinkiewicz (2018). Active Learning – Concept Maps. PDF.
Collaborative Learning Resources:
Collaborative learning involves the use of small groups of students who work together to solve a problem, complete a task, or to create a project. Collections of collaborative learning activities can be found at:
 Collaborative Learning – Stanford University Teaching Commons
 Collaborative Learning, Center for Teaching, Vanderbilt University
 Cynthia Brame and Rachel Biel, Group Work: Using Collaborative Learning Groups Effectively. Center for Teaching, Vanderbilt University
 Examples of Collaborative Learning or Group Work Activities – Center for Teaching Innovation, Cornell University
 Collaborative Learning Techniques – Bates College
 Dakin Burdick (2019). SmallGroup Discussions. Tea for Teaching Podcast. June 12. (See the show notes for more resources.)
All of the group activities described in these resources can take place synchronously using Zoom breakout rooms or asynchronously using Blackboard groups. If activities require both synchronous and asynchronous work for persistent teams, you may wish to create both groups and predefined breakout rooms for these groups so that students can work together both synchronously and asynchronously. Alternatively, students may also collaborate asynchronously using shared Google drive folders and Google apps.
[1] Brame, Cynthia J. Active Learning. Vanderbilt Center for Teaching and Learning.[2] ElkinsTanton, Lindy – Slate – “No Student Should Have to Sit Through a Zoom Lecture”. July 27, 2020.
[3] Adapted from University of NebraskaLincoln, Top 10 Evidencebased teaching strategies for those who care about student results.
Transforming the Teaching and Learning Environment 2021 – view or contribute to the Jamboard!
Do you have suggestions for additional equivalent learning experiences to add to the chart? If so, please submit them in the form below, or contact us:
Judith Littlejohn – jmlittlejohn@genesee.edu
John Kane – john.kane@oswego.edu