Teaching tools for active learning

A variety of websites that are full of useful ideas to increase engagement…

Ideas for teaching tools (synchronous, asynchronous, and distanced F2F teaching) when the goals include:

  • Engaging Content Learning + Supporting Communication Skills Development
  • Engaging + Checking Understanding
  • Monitoring/Assessing Understanding
  • Reflecting on Learning
  • Strengthening Understanding
  • Active Engagement + Planning for Future Learning Connections
  • Providing/Getting Feedback on Work in Progress


An additional post with more ideas, including :


More active learning activities, divided by group size:


Maximizing the Benefit of Discussion Boards

This is a great article with tips for setting up forums to be beneficial through all stages of Bloom’s model.


10 Tips for Effective Online Discussions


An idea to consider: 3CQ

3CQ, was developed by Jennifer Stewart-Mitchell, a K-12 teacher who frequently publishes curriculum ideas. Each student’s response must include a compliment, a comment, a connection (3C) and a question (Q).


Wrapping up EDUC 4151

This course focused on several topics:

  • Getting to know your learners
  • Developing interaction
  • Building community
  • Creating well-aligned assessments
  • Determining feasibility

As I have worked through this course, I have thought a lot about two of my courses.  Living Successfully with Hearing Loss, Levels 1 and 2.  The represent two very different stages for me.  I have taught Level 1 to eight groups across three semesters.  I have had time to think about the topics above, make changes, initiate new ideas, and make observations about what is happening and how it is progressing.

Level 2 is a new beast! It has yet to be taught online, but has a waiting list for April (2+ months away).  I am excited to offer it as an online course.  It will again combine synchronous and asynchronous components.  Having a blank slate to work with as I think about the topics of 4151 has been both freeing and nerve-wracking. 

A very exciting epiphany occurred while working on this final section of this course: assessments and feasibility.  The instructor (thank you, Joanne!) suggested a reorganization of the existing F2F course into thematic modules.  Thankfully my resistance was only momentary, and a complete shift took place in my head, and soon afterward, on paper.  I am excited about EDUC 4152 and watching this new offering come to life.  As I think about L2, I am grateful that I am the only instructor for these courses.  I will know my learners to some extent – I will have taught them previously.  I am even more mindful of the importance of developing interaction and building community, and I have some tips and strategies to improve these efforts.  The new organization of the course is inspiring, and I will soon be diving into creating the assessments and activities with a newfound rigor.  The SECTIONS model and feasibility assignment gave me confidence in the Moodle/Zoom tools that I plan to use.

What practical factors will I consider when creating this new online course?

1. I will embrace the course redesign and look at the topics and material in a new light.  I love the idea of each module having a theme, and I do believe this will give the students a framework for their past experiences and a foundation to build on each week.  It provides a course that has more meaningful organization for the students.  [In fact, I have also been thinking maybe Level 1 needs reorganization- one step/major renovation at a time though!!]

2. I will carefully align the learning objective, assessment, and activities.  I have understood the need for this.  However, I think the benefits for both myself and the students are clearer for me now.  The LOs have been developed for the course.  This guides the activity/module learning objectives.  Clear objectives make assessment easier.  The activities are the fun part! I will ensure I am using the best tools and technology so the activities are accessible and meaningful and the assessments also provide learning experience.

3.  I will increase my efforts and awareness of on engagement, interaction, and community.  I have always intuitively believed in the importance of these experiences in my courses.  This belief is now fortified with research and data from the course materials of 4151, in addition to the reports and testimonials from my students.

Instructor presence

Instructor presence is a very important component of developing online community. 

As the graphic above shows: social, cognitive, and teaching presence are all vital to a quality educational experience.

The tips below reflect the opportunity of developing presence using both asynchronous (Moodle) and synchronous (Zoom) course components. I believe it is easier to establish and maintain instructor presence when there is also a synchronous (via weekly Zoom meetings) format to the course. 

To provide and increase instructor presence:

  • Log on frequently
  • Allow notifications to know when students post
  • Post weekly reminders, updates, reminders
  • Show your passion for the subject matter.  Explicitly tell the students how you relate and connect with the material.  Messaging, facial expressions, and tone are important for this delivery.  When this is expressed appropriately- and also genuine- the students connect in a more meaningful way.
  • Provide an organized, focused, yet flexible format to the weekly zoom sessions
  • Be clear about expectations, and how quickly students can expect to hear back from you
  • Follow up and check in on students that you haven’t heard from (or if they miss a Zoom session)

Resources, tools, techniques:

  • Develop a good bio for Moodle that lets the students know who you are.  Summarize this during the first Zoom meeting.
  • Ensure you subscribe to forums, to get immediate updates when a student makes a post.  Quick responses are appreciated.   Participate in the discussion forums.
  • Post links to hard of hearing groups about relevant and timely news items.
  • Weekly email to announce when material is available (as it is released weekly), with a brief summary of the topics, activities that require student responses, and links for the Zoom meetings
  • While ensuring a variety of instructional methods, ensure a personal touch through instructor-made video clips, in addition to text-based materials, websites, and other web-based videos.
  • Virtual Zoom office hours, at a designated time, with a link on Moodle
  • Humour, humour, humour. Not only is this a strategy for dealing with hearing loss, it is a valuable tool for connecting with students and being present in an authentic way.

Assessment and activity plan: a snippet

Living Successfully with Hearing Loss:  Module 2 of 12

MODULE: Family Dynamics

By the end of this module, students will be able to communicate more effectively in a family environment by demonstrating their skills in speechreading, behaving assertively, and brainstorming potential solutions to problems that occur within family situations.

Part 1: Developing Speechreading Skills

Learning Objective: By the end of this section, students will be able to:

a. distinguish between different categories of homophenous sounds

b. identify possible words based on visual cues

c. use visual and/or auditory cues and/or context to identify target words

Description of Activity:

To revisit the groups of homophenous sounds from L1, students will watch the instructor’s short review video posted on Moodle.  They will be asked to complete a brief matching exercise (through a quiz activity on Moodle).  This is a written/graphical representation of the sounds.

Also on Moodle, 10 video clips of the instructor saying words are provided in a Quiz activity.  Students will be asked to identify the words from a set of four possible words, by using the visual cues in the video clips. 

In the weekly Zoom session, the instructor will present a number of words, both with and without sound, and ask the students to make their best guess and share with classmates.  Guesses will be shared in real time via a shared word document to demonstrate that the majority of guesses are relying on the available lip shape.  For example, for the target word “mother”, bother and panther would be also be valid guesses, based on the visual homophenous group PBM and the salient visual cue provided by TH. 

Also on Zoom, the instructor will demonstrate that guesses are most accurate when there are sound, visual cues, and context through target words with a common context.  For example, more people will correctly guess “niece” if they are aware the current context is family.  A number of context cards (resource: cue cards with numerous words on a particular topic, e.g. topic: family.  Words: mother, father, brother, sister, uncle, nephew, niece) will be used. 

Once the instructor’s words have been guessed, students will be encouraged to take turns mouthing additional words they think of on the chosen topics.  This provides the opportunity to practice speechreading each other, in additional to the instructor.  Opportunities to share observations and reflections will be also encouraged. 

In summary, students will:

– watch videos on Moodle

– complete Moodle quizzes

– participate in live session, by verbalizing guesses and participating in discussions

Assessment Strategy:

Within the Moodle format, activity completion is tracked by the instructor.  Quizzes provide immediate feedback to the students, and the completion/score of the activity is recorded in the gradebook. 

Students are aware of the expectation and benefit of participation in the class zoom activities.  Not every student needs to give a response to every item, but the instructor notes interaction and participation after each zoom session.  These observations ultimately provide the basis for completion of the instructor-based course participation rubric at the end of term.  At the end of term, students are also asked to compare their speechreading abilities both before and after the course in a self-assessment document.   


This module occurs early in the course.  For this reason, this section begins with a review.  It progresses through identifying lip shapes, identifying lip shapes within words, choosing words from a closed set of options via video, and then words with and without supporting context in a live context.  Students have the opportunity to practice within the Moodle format and later in Zoom group class.  If students struggle, they are provided with a weekly “office hour” online time for individual attention.

In this early module, the concept of homophonous sounds are reviewed, checked, and the focus of the activities are words.  In later modules, the difficulty will be increased to include phrases, sentences, and conversations.  As well, more complex targets, skills, and required processing will be incorporated.

I believe it is important for people with hearing loss to make use of the visual speech cues available when people are speaking, to supplement whatever distorted auditory cues they are receiving.  Understanding what sounds look like other sounds is important: the homophenous groups like PBM and FV.  This helps them to think of alternatives and options when trying to understand what is being said.  They also need to understand that only 30-40% of speech sounds are visible.  Using what IS visible, in conjunction with what they hear and what they know about the context, is vital. 

The progression through the review, identifying sounds and words, and making live guesses is important.  Understanding why they have misunderstandings- possibly because they misinterpreted a lip shape within a word- is vital.  Making guesses on the spot, making the wrong guesses, is normal.  Incorrect guesses do not mean they are poor speechreaders.  Their brains are trying to make use of the information available at the time.  Learning that the more information they have is related to a greater chance of understanding more.  This leads to later aspects of this module.  Using assertive skills to reduce background noise (to get better auditory signal), to asking the speaker to face you (to get better visual cues), or to let you know what the topic of conversation is before launching into the details (to get the context), helps you to be a much more effective speechreader.  It is all connected.  This provides a strong link to the next learning objective in the module focused on assertive behaviour.          

For the students to complete these activities, they need to access the Moodle shell, be able to navigate through the module, click links to watch videos, respond to the quiz items, attend the Zoom session, and participate to some degree during the video call.  Neither Moodle nor Zoom should present any technological challenges for this learning objective.  Before the course begins, students are given access to Moodle training, and I have offered to meet with them on Zoom if they have not used it before.  It should also be noted, in the first course module, I share my “student” Moodle screen during the Zoom call to ensure they know how to navigate the various sections and activities.  I also give a mini-lesson on Zoom, so everyone knows how to manipulate gallery view, speaker view, and muting your microphone!

The assessment of this learning objective includes participation in Moodle, through activity and quiz completion and, ideally, also through participation in the group exercises on Zoom.  Both the instructor-based participation rubric and the student self-assessment do not occur for each learning objective, but are cumulative.  The assessments purposefully include solitary and group activities.  While these activities are relatively simple, they provide the building blocks for additional skills that will be developed.  There are no specific ‘grades’ designated for this learning activity.  The plan is that this activity will whet their appetite for more practice and a greater appreciation of the processing they are doing and effort they are expending when they attempt to understand and participate in conversations.

Note: This course used to be called Speechreading.  Now it is called Living Successfully with Hearing Loss.  I initiated the change because people would register believing they were just coming to learn to lipread- that they would miraculously learn to understand everything that someone said just by watching their lips.  The title now more accurately reflects all the many skills involved in communicating more effectively with hearing loss.  Speechreading (not just lipreading), but using visual cues from the lips, face, and body, in conjunction with what you hear, and what you know about the person, situation, and topic is one skill that helps people to “live successfully”. 

Notes about alignment: As described by Inside Higher Ed (2018), “The end goal of better assessment is better learning. Using the assessment tool as a learning tool, rather than a “jump-through-the-hoop” activity or a measurement exercise, can enhance the learning experience. Growth and learning can occur through the assessment activity — rather than it just serving as a regurgitation or rehash of already learned material.”  The goal of participating in the ive speechreading activities is this type of authentic assessment, and it grows throughout the semester.  Design and use of grading rubrics provide clear guidelines about what constitutes quality work (Rochester Institute of Technology, 2018); I intend to make use of such tools. RIT (2018) also promotes providing feedback early and often and asking students to do the same, in conjunction with opportunities for self-reflection.  Students in Living Successfully with Hearing Loss are also encouraged to keep an ongoing reflection journal, and are given topics throughout the course to encourage entries.  Faculty Focus (n.d.) distinguishes between declarative and procedural objectives and promotes a variety of assessments.  This module section on speechreading contains both, and this is reflected in the assessments.  Authentic assessment, actively engaging students and having them demonstrate that they not only understand the concepts but can also apply them in real-life scenarios, is also valuable and present.

Below are the additional learning objectives that will be included in this module.  As per your offer, I did not describe the activity, assessment strategy, or rationale in this current document. 

Part 2: Promoting Assertive Behaviour

Learning Objective: By the end of this section, students will be able to:

a. compare and contrast passive, aggressive, and assertive behaviour

b. explain the benefits of using the recommended components of an assertive request: courtesy, direction, and explanation

c. make assertive requests of family members

Part 3: Navigating Challenges

Learning Objective: By the end of this section, students will be able to recommend solutions to family-related communication challenges.


Faculty Focus. (n.d.). Assessing Online Learning: Strategies, Challenges and Opportunities. A Magna Publication. Retrieved from https://s35691.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/images/AssessingOnlineLearning-OC.pdf

Inside Higher Ed. (2018, October 31). Q&A: Strategies for better assessments in online learning. Retrieved 2 January 2021, from https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/article/2018/10/31/qa-strategies-better-assessments-online-learning

Rochester Institute of Technology. (2018, July 17). On-Line Assessment. Retrieved 5 January 2021, from https://www.rit.edu/academicaffairs/outcomes/assessing-student-learning-outcomes-online-environment

Interactions in an online course

There are four types of interaction in an online course:

  1. between the student and other students
  2. between the student and instructor
  3. between the student and the content
  4. between the student and the technology

How can I ensure each of these is covered appropriately?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Between the student and other students:

  • introduction forum on Moodle
  • introduction opportunity in Zoom
  • Ice breaker, such as Same and Different:
This is a good way to learn information about other people.  Split your participants into groups of 3 or more and allocate them to breakout rooms.Ask each group to write down all the interesting things that they all have in common (ask them to avoid obvious things, such as all being men or women) and something unique to each participant. They will have 5 minutes for this task.  Use an online whiteboard or virtual sticky note.At the end of the 5 minutes, ask each group to share their list with the rest of the class via an online whiteboard.
Same and Different: an ice breaker

Between the student and instructor:

  • intake interview
  • online conversations in forum and journal posts
  • in-person conversations during Zoom classes and/or office hours

Between the student and the content:

  • poll early in course, to gage success with material
  • ask questions such as, What was the most interesting thing you learned this week? What would you like to understand better? What additional topics are important to you?
  • note regular quiz scores to gauge understanding

Between the student and the technology:

  • poll early in course, to gage success with material
  • regular check-ins to ask about issues
  • share screen during Zoom sessions to point out areas of Moodle to note