Extending active classroom activities to online students

Awardees: Greg Aimo and Rebecca Nesson (DCE)

Summary: Awardees developed methods for online students to participate in active learning exercises designed for the traditional classroom.

Greg Aimo and Rebecca Nesson, online education specialists from Harvard’s Division of Continuing Education, examined the integration of online students into active learning activities through real-time live participation and attempted to reproduce the active learning benefits of in-class activities for students who are viewing and interacting with course materials outside of class time.

The goal of this project was to improve the online student experience of classroom active learning activities without requiring faculty to design and deliver a fully online experience in conjunction with residential courses. The team used dedicated in-room hosts to act as the “hands” and “voice” for online students and allow online students to remotely control an in-room camera broadcasting live lectures.

“Zoom in the Room” gives online students greater control to participate in the classroom. Awardees researched various types of equipment, including wider panoramic lens and camera stabilizers, to improve the visual experience for online students. Ultimately, a video capture tool for threaded discussions was most helpful for students to participate synchronously online.

The team encountered difficulty finding ways for online students and residential students to participants equally during in-class activities, particularly in courses such as chemistry in which online students don’t have access to a lab facility and materials. However, specialized camera equipment that allows remote students to take turns manipulating the camera to view different angles of an object they want to examine helps to bridge some of this gap. Moving forward, the team plans to continue to build classroom communities and promote active learning.