Lessons from the Front Lines of Online and Blended Instruction

Active Learning Activities that Work Well in F2F and Hybrid Sessions

Concept Mapping:

A concept map is a visual tool that allows students to make connections between ideas and move from linear to more complex thinking.  One strategy is to have your students take notes during your posted online lectures and bring the notes to class. During the in-person sessions you can guide them in how make connections between the content and ideas. There online concept map templates so you don’t have to create your own. You can also have students use Post-It notes and the Post-It app that supports brainstorming, capturing, and sharing.

Chain Notes:

Chain notes is an activity in which students share note-taking in real time. The note chain is started by one student and continued by another until everyone in the course has had the opportunity to contribute to the notes in real time during the in-person session. You can have multiple questions running simultaneously in one in-person F2F or hybrid session. The note chains can be projected for the entire class to see as they are being developed for feedback from the instructor. The notes can be set-up using using a Google doc, Onedrive, Sharepoint or Padlet.  You can post the final note chain in iCollege so that students from your different F2F and hybrid classes can see and comment on the group notes.


Think-Pair-Share activities involve posing a question to students that they must consider alone and then discuss in a socially distanced way with a neighbor before settling on a final answer. This is a great way to motivate students and promote higher-level thinking.  Groups may be formed formally or informally. The “sharing” is followed up with a larger classroom discussion. Some think-pair-share activities can be short and used a formative assessment while others can be extended allowing students to return to their pair after the class discussion to revise and extend their initial responses.


This is a variation of think-pair-share that encourages students to problem-solve. You begin by posing a problem to the class. Next, have students individually identify a potential solution and then pair them up and have them decide on a joint solution or response. For complicated problems you can combine groups together to share their solutions before the groups then present to the class.

Group Reading Annotations:

When you give your students papers or chapters to read for class discussions have them annotate in real-time during class using the social e-reader Perusall.  This tool allows students to collectively annotate readings in threads, respond to each other’s comments, and interact.  In class, organize students into small groups to work on the readings and annotations. Consider giving each group a different part of the reading or a different question to explore. Have students share responses during class and project the annotations on the whiteboard for the entire class to comment on. Perusall is now integrated into iCollege. For instructor directions go here.  For student directions to share with your class go here.

Why Is It Wrong Quizzes:

Have your students take a real or practice quiz and not only answer the questions but explain why the wrong answers are wrong. Engage students in discussion of the answers. Learning about what is wrong and why speeds learning of the correct information. A variation of this is to have your students generate quiz/exam questions including the key. The key should include clear explanations of the correct and incorrect answers.

Writing Workshops:

Bring the writing work that usually occurs outside of class time into your in-person sessions. Scaffold large projects into smaller units and have students work on the different sections during class. Students can share, get feedback, and see they are making progress toward course assignments. For example, if you are having students write a paper have them develop an outline or annotated bibliography during the F2F class session and use TurnItIn PeerMark for peer review and feedback.

Discussion or Idea/Paper Topic Speed Dating:  

This is an active learning strategy in which students have mini “speed” discussions with peers. The great thing about this strategy is that it engages all students simultaneously.  For each round, students rotate to a different peer and discuss either a different topic or share their paper topic ideas.  It’s student-centered, kinesthetic, interactive, and attention-span friendly. It also helps students get to know each other and supports a positive class climate.


Sketching is a note-taking strategy where students use pictures to represent what they are learning in class. It has been demonstrated to be a great learning tool and useful for review as well and breaking down complicated topics into more workable units.  It also is founded in the principles of Universal Design for Learning as a way to represent content during learning. To use in your F2F and hybrid classes, have your students take notes on your posted lectures, then bring these notes to class along with a notebook and pen. First, work with the class to come up with shared symbols and pictures that represent class concepts and draw them on the whiteboard.  Then have the students convert their notes into sketchnotes using the designated symbols and pictures. Students can share notes with fellow classmates for discussion and review. Have student volunteers share their notes with the entire class using the docucam. There are lots of online resources to help instructors and students get started.