Active Learning In Virtual Environment

Active Learning is about involving students in doing things and thinking about what they are doing.[1] When using active learning, students are engaged in more activities than just listening.[2] In other words, active learning describes a learning process in which a deep commitment with the training material is used to improve knowledge retention.[3] Active learning has many benefits. Active learning involves students in the learning process as it aims to promote interaction with the material being taught. This allows students to research the material themselves, which improves knowledge retention. Self-exploration improves students’ critical thinking and decision-making skills, as they need to learn how to evaluate what is important and what is not.[4] Active learning also boosts students’ motivation and performance since actively participating in the learning process helps to understand the discussed topics better, which improves the student’s ability to adapt knowledge to specific real-life situations.[5]

Active learning methods, such as debates and brainstorming, are helpful tools to embrace active learning in the learning process. During online debates, for example, students are broken out into two groups that research, develop, and present opposing viewpoints on a topic. This allows them to take responsibility for their performance, as they need not only to develop their logical reasoning skills to defend their position, but also to make decisions about how they will use what they are learning.[6] Brainstorming involves working together as a group and encourages creative thinking and risk taking in order to generate new ideas and solutions, no matter how unclear or ineffective.[7]

During the Covid-19 pandemic, online teaching has become a common form of education.[8] Both students and teachers needed to adjust to different types of virtual education, instead of regular classroom teaching.[9] Students must actively keep up with their studies which indicates the need for active learning.[10] Active learning in an online environment helps students to embrace knowledge through active learning methods.[11] When actively participating in the teaching process, students learn the discussed topic better because it’s more effective to participate than just passively listen.[12] Active learning methods make the learning process more meaningful and ensure deeper learning.[13]

In spring 2021, a group of students at Tallinn University conducted a research project titled Active Learning in Virtual Environment (ALIVE). Local and foreign students and lecturers, from different fields of learning took part in the research. 31 students answered the students’ questionnaire and 13 lecturers answered the lecturers’ questionnaire.

The study shows that the use of Active Learning methods makes students engage more actively during lectures. According to the students’ research results, Active Learning is interesting and develops social skills (74,2%). It helps remember things better (64,5%), makes students work harder, gives many different points of view towards the subjects and also active learning sometimes pushes limits in a good way, for example being out of the comfort zone, so the overall learning results are better. According to the lecturers’ research, information about Active Learning methods are easily found from the Internet and lecturers also ask for other lecturers’ advice. Some of the lecturers have completed training on Active Learning methods. However, some specific knowledge about the use of Active Learning, such as group size and preparation time is insufficient. According to the research results, Active Learning makes the teaching and learning process more interesting and it enhances students' attention and increases their engagement.

The project team created this wiki page for everyone who wants to know more about active learning, its methods and how to concretely apply it to online lectures. There exists a subcategorization for easy access to different active learning methods.


  Minute Paper
  Pro and Con Grid
  Peer Review
  The Muddiest Point
  Collaborative Note Taking
  Case Study
  Flipped Classroom
  What's Missing
  Mind Maps/Concept Maps
  The Jigsaw Technique
  Reflective Journals
  Thinking-Aloud Pair Problem Solving
  Team Learning
  Reciprocal Questioning
  Snowball Technique
  Kinesthetic Learning
  Role Playing


  1. C. Pappas. Active Learning In Online Training: What eLearning Professionals Should Know. -eLearning Industry, 2015. Available on: (28.5.2021)
  2. Active Learning In Online Training: What eLearning Professionals Should Know. -eLearning Industry, 2015.
  3. ibid
  4. ibid
  5. ibid
  6. N. Birch, S. Chang. Active Learning in the Online Environment. -University of Toronto, 2020. Available on: (31.5.2021)
  7. Active Learning in the Online Environment. -University of Toronto, 2020.
  8. I. Czaplinski, C. Devine, M. Sillence, A. Fielding, O. Gaede & C. Schrank. Active learning in the time of the pandemic: Report from the eye of the storm. -ASCILITE’s First Virtual Conference, 2020. Available on: (31.5.2021)
  9. Active learning in the time of the pandemic: Report from the eye of the storm. -ASCILITE’s First Virtual Conference, 2020.
  10. ibid
  11. ibid
  12. ibid
  13. ibid