Online Learning is an Opportunity to Adopt STEM Active Learning Methods, Study Shows

A research team from Imperial College, Harvard University, and the University of Pennsylvania believe that online teaching can improve students’ science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) active learning.

According to a press release of the Imperial College in London, a research paper published in Cell, a peer-reviewed scientific journal publishing research papers of a wide range of science disciplines, argues that new active learning tools in STEM can alter the long-term educational practice in-person or online, and improve the academic standards by engaging students and training them practically. 

The team behind the research paper, which was led by Dr. Stefano Sandrone and Dr. Gregory Scott, claims that active learning tools will teach students to prepare and present scientific posters, write an abstract, analyze experimental data, write reports, or participate in public activities, informs.

Regardless of the course types, levels, or class sizes, active learning enhances students’ performance compared to lectures, which are a passive form of teaching. New techniques aim to benefit students from low-income backgrounds and underrepresented minorities.

Lead researcher Dr. Stefano Sandrone, who is also the Senior Teaching Fellow from the Department of Brain Sciences at Imperial College, highlighted that STEM educators handled the transformation of classes into online experiences well, expressing his optimism about the integration of active learning online as a new method.

“We argue that educators should make a permanent shift to a teaching delivery, whether online or in-person, which puts active learning at its center. Integrating active learning can make the learning journey more authentic and more inspiring,” Neuroscientist Sandero added.

Co-lead researcher, the Academic Clinical Lecturer at Imperial College, Dr. Gregory Scott, added that educators’ in-person experience has a more significant impact than learning through slideshare.

“Focusing on active learning, for example via small group or case-based activities, can be more engaging for students and educators alike,” Dr. Scott claimed.

The researcher’s team praises active learning tools as a part of the best teaching approaches, such as incorporating them into traditional lectures by ensuring there are periods of audience interaction.

This method can be conducted by live polling and live problem solving with accurate data. Group-learning and laboratory exercises can be accomplished through virtual rooms in Teams, Zoom, or other online platforms.

According to the team, making sure the students understand the benefits and the actual use of active learning helps them integrate it into teaching. Active learning helps foster community, something which students might find harder to adapt to online education.

While online teaching is an alternative for education to not get stuck during the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the students in Germany claim they enjoy studying and attending classes remotely.

A study by German Center for University and Science Research (DZHW) has revealed that 86 percent of students did not face any problems while attending their classes online, whereas 78 percent of them said they had the technical equipment needed to attend lessons remotely.

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