Engaging Students in Active Learning Asynchronously

Many classes with some (or all) students participating at a distance are adoptingasynchronous teaching methods to address challenges students encounter in participating remotely in live class meetings. While recordingclass meetings for later viewing offer opportunities for students to view material, they do not provide an engaging learning environment. Employing asynchronous teaching techniques can help your students become active learners in an environment that allows them to build connections with you and with each other.


  • Learning involves the active construction of meaning by the learner;therefore,activities that allow students to do things and think about what they are doing (so called active learning activities) are critical to facilitating students learning regardless of the modality of instruction.
  • When some students are remote and all students are facing challenges due to inequity, COVID-19, and general uncertainty, one of the most important things our courses can provide is opportunities for connection. Research has demonstrated that in online courses, creating this sense of community and belonging is critical to student persistence.

Use online discussions to build community & deepen learning

  • Asynchronous discussions can provide students opportunities for connection with you, their peers and with content by using images, videos, and Voice Thread, in addition to words. Discussions offer an opportunity for you to know all of your students and how they think.
  • Within discussions learners can actively synthesize new information with prior knowledge and experiences, then participate in creating new knowledge and coming to a deeper understanding of their own learning.

For more see the CELT Tip Sheet: Asynchronous Discussions, and ETS’s Class Discussions at a Distance

Use quizzes for timely engagement with course materials

  • Low stakes or no-stakes quizzes can help students discover what they know and what they don’t know, while providing instant feedback to the instructor about what their students are learning.A variety of studies have shown that reading quizzes in college courses can help improve the quality of class discussions and increase student exam grades.
  • Quizzesimprovestudent learning byprompting students to reflect on the material as they learn it and encouraging themto space their studying.This helps them integrate and build on priorcontent.
  • Quizzes can consist ofsimple multiple-choicequestions that target a variety of learning levels, or they can include more open-ended reflections. The type of questions you use may be guided by the content of the course, the class size, and to what extent you wish to use auto-graded question types.
    For more see: Writing and Revising Multiple Choice Questions (Teaching@Tufts Blog)
  • Canvas’s Quiz tool allows for easy integration with your course gradebook, or if you are already using a tool like Poll Everywhere, surveys can be set up so that students can participate asynchronously.

Use peer feedbackto foster learning & connections

  • In providing peer feedback, students gain a peer audience for the work they produce -while learning processes of self-regulation and self-assessment that increase their ability to judge their own work.
  • In receiving peer feedback, students gain multiple perspectives on their work and suggestions for improving it.
  • Peer feedback can be integrated into any formative assessment, such as homework assignments, written work, presentations, or student project drafts. Useful feedback tasks prompt students to ask questions of the work submitted to probe ideas or reflect back perspectives such as restating a peer’s thesis.
  • Guide peer feedback with training on how to provide useful feedback. This might include students comparing their feedback to an ‘exemplar’, guidance on productive ways to offer feedback, the application of rubrics or guiding questions, or instructor ‘feedback’ on the feedback they provide.
  • Students are often concerned about their ability (and that of their peers) to accurately assess work. Consider assigning any peer grading tasks to no-stakes (ungraded) or low-stakes assignments. You can assign multiple peer graders to each assignment, have graders use credit/no credit marking, and allow students to request a review of their grade.

Use groups to connect students in collaborative work

  • Groups encourage student participation, foster relationships and a sense of belonging in a class, and allow students to learn from each other while engaging in collaborative problem-solving Students can work remotely with their group using a variety of synchronous and asynchronous tools–from emails, discussions and chat spaces to social media or phone and video calls. Suggest ways for students to connect while still providing the flexibility to allow small groups of students to use the tools they are most comfortable with.
  • Introduce students to the purpose of the group work so that they will see the value in engaging with their peers.
  • Guide the formation of groups, starting with initial guidelines for engagement, an initial small task, or an opportunity to get to know each other (e.g., U Minnesota’s Surviving Group Projects).
  • Set regular check-ins with the group including assigning deadlines with deliverables or opportunities for groups to share progress with the rest of the class, along with a mid-semester process check-in to identify any structural problems early on.

See: Helping students work in groups remotely (CELT)

Technology Support for Asynchronous Active Learning