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Active Learning Classrooms (ALCs)

The idea of the active learning classroom is to create a student-centred and technology-rich space designed to facilitate learning activities and work in groups. We offer two such rooms, one on the Ringerike campus and one in Porsgrunn.

Click on CC for English subtitles.

What is an active learning classroom?

An ALC places students at the heart of the teaching process and is thus better suited to working in groups than to lecturing. “Gathering in groups around a single ‘work station’ enables students to work together to a much greater extent than they would in a standard classroom. Overall, the students become much more active.” (Lars-André Tokheim, USN TNM)

It isn’t the digital tools in an ALC that determine the levels of student active learning, but its physical design. The tables are easily moved around and can be combined to facilitate group work sessions. Each table or group of tables is equipped with a screen so that everyone can share their screen display with those sitting at the other tables. 
An ALC offers opportunities for conversations and dialogic teaching. “The shared screen concept concentrates the students focus by preventing them from disappearing inside their individual computer screens. Keeping them from their own computers creates a free space and an opportunity for dialogue.” (Petter Bjellås, USN HIU)


Teaching in an ALC

While an ALC offers students an arena for active learning, it can be set up in a number of different ways. The following suggestions explain some of the specific things that you can do and why. Click on each activity to read more about what is actually happening in the classroom and a short pedagogical explanation.

 

Before class: The students read about the lesson's theme in canvas. They watch a video.

After class: The students read the different solutions on Padlet and comment. They maybe also share their solutions with the class.

The idea of dedicating a class period to student active learning by organising the relevant lecture as a video (or other resource) session prior to the period is called ‘flipped learning’. Read more about flipped learning here. This method also lends itself very effectively to digital teaching.

This is how other USN teachers use ALCs

The following are some examples, provided by four teachers from three faculties (HS, TNM and HIU) at USN about how they use ALCs as part of their teaching.

Click on CC for English translation.

Sabine Gehring (USN HS) has a story about a refresher seminar held in an ALC. “We started working in groups on different subjects. Then after a time the groups switched subjects, enabling all the groups to work with all the subjects. Then they came together to write on each subject in a single, shared document.”  All the groups can write in the same document by using a co-authoring software package. The Padlet tool was ideal for this. It is easy to use and we have access to the Padlet software licence via USN. Read about how you can use Padlet in Canvas.


Lars-André Tokheim (TNM) is attempting to add activities that encourage collaboration among his students. “On a couple of occasions I’ve used the ALC to hand out a process flow diagram, together with a sheet containing questions, and have asked each group to answer the questions together. In my view this has worked very well in that a relatively high proportion of students have been activated towards learning in this way. My impression is that the students think it’s fun to share the answers they’ve arrived at with others. They’ve indicated that they would very much like to experience more of this type of teaching.”


Petter Bjellås (USN HIU) has used the ALC for problem solving. The students prepared for the group exercises either during his lecture or in advance at home. “The name ALC implies that use of the classroom requires that the students come prepared. Studying the teaching materials beforehand makes it easier for them to apply active learning in an ALC (as in all other situations), and enables them to participate without being reliant on their individual PCs. In this way the ALC promotes effective collaborative study.” (Petter Bjellås, HIU)

‘To do’ list and tips for teaching in an ALC

  • Organise student active learning by making use of a variety of activities and, by all means, group work. Remember that students have certain expectations about active learning, or at least a sense of anticipation that an ALC will offer them something different from a lecture.
  • Don’t talk for too long at once. A maximum of ten minutes is a good rule of thumb. The ALC setting is poorly suited to long presentations or lectures. Use the time for active learning. 
  • As a teacher, be aware of your new role. In an ALC, the teacher is no longer a lecturer, but a facilitator. You should not use an ALC for monologues. You should be going around the classroom helping each group to work on their learning exercises.
  • Devote your time to creating a learning environment that enables your students to feel secure about sharing and working together.
  • Make the best use of the time spent in the ALC. You should prepare the students for what is about to happen, and always have a ‘before, during and after’ teaching strategy in mind. 
  • Remember to use a ‘clip mic’ (or similar) microphone so that the entire class can hear you clearly from wherever you may be in the classroom.
  • Turn off microphones while group work is being carried out. This will reduce background noise. Only use it when the students are sharing discussions in plenum.

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