Course Planning for an Active Learning Classroom

Using the space and technology effectively will require changes in your course, and you probably won't get it right the first time. Often it is not an easy, seamless conversion to teach effectively in an ALC. It takes time, support, and experience to truly consider your curriculum and how to redesign it to effectively teach and maximize student learning in an ALC. Creating and preparing course material (lectures and in-class activities) for the semester in advance will make the transition to this teaching style less stressful.

Rather than starting with the material that you want to cover during the semester, begin planning your course with your desired outcomes in mind.

Key questions to ask

  • What do I want my students to know and be able to do as a result of this class?
  • What are the assignments that would allow me to see that my students have achieved the outcome?
  • What do I have to do in and out of class to prepare students to achieve the goals?
  • How can I use the space and technology to help achieve learning objectives?

Planning activities

Finding a balance between the length of an activity for a potentially complex concept and achieving learning outcomes can be challenging. The length of the activity should be proportional to the length of the class itself. In general, this teaching style is better suited to longer classes. Longer activities or ones that require interaction between teams (e.g., commenting on others' solutions) will also be more successful in a class with more instructors or TAs or other kinds of infrastructure support.

"I never lecture more than 10 minutes at a time."

- Sehoya Cotner, Associate Professor, Biology (UMTC)

Activities that work in an ALC are ones that:

  • support the lecture
  • can be completed relatively quickly
  • provide detailed written instructions with time limits clearly indicated
  • require students to work together and be accountable to each other (i.e., cannot easily be completed by an individual)
  • are able to be broken down so that students can work on pieces and then integrate them
  • require students to take different perspectives or come up with alternative approaches
  • take slower students into account in estimating length of time
  • use technologies to enhance the activity rather than complicate it or add no value