Active Learning Strategies for Computer Information Systems Education in Online Courses

Article excerpt


Active learning strategies have been established as effective methods to increase student interaction and knowledge retention in the traditional classroom environment. Recently, growth has been seen in the popularity of online learning due to the independence and convenience associated with the medium. We chose to investigate methods for integrating active learning methods into Computer Information Systems (CIS) online classes, and identify methods that apply to the technical nature of CIS, and can be extended to other technical areas such as accounting and digital media. The goal of this paper is to create a model of disciplinary active learning best practices that can be used to increase effectiveness in online CIS (technical area) classrooms. Active learning strategies in traditional classrooms will be compared to similar strategies in online classrooms. Also, criteria will be established for measuring the success of active learning in this environment.


This research investigates methods for integrating active learning strategies into Computer Information Systems (CIS) online classes. Methods are identified that are specifically well-suited for the technical focus of CIS as a discipline. These methods can be extended to other technical business disciplines such as accounting and digital media, although it should be noted that each discipline may attract students with distinct learning styles (Jones, Reichard, & Mokhtari, 2003).

Best practices in active learning for online CIS courses are identified, and methods for measurement of success of these methods are also discussed, based on a review of effective measurement research. Online learning and course delivery have grown substantially in the past five years, changing at an accelerated pace (Allen & Needham, 2007). A substantial amount of research has shown that there are no significant differences between the success of learning delivery in traditional and online classrooms (Twigg, 2003). The active learning strategies that may be applied in a traditional classroom environment may also be applied to the online classroom, as long as consideration is provided for the multiple learning styles of participants in both environments (Phillips, 2005).

Traditional Active Learning Methods

Current methods in higher education are evolving away from static lecture based classrooms to a learning environment where students actively engage in the learning process (Strage, 2008). In the future, the position of the classroom as the defacto center of learning may change; with online education becoming a larger percentage of the total student population, lecture based instruction is not always the best solution. In a study that surveyed college students, 32.7% of respondents stated that the ideal professor employs a wide variety of active learning strategies (Strage).

Active learning is typically defined as an instructional technique that requires that students be actively engaged in the learning process (Prince, 2004). Several strategies exist for creating an active learning classroom including: in class writing assignments, case studies, clickers, debates or discussions, individual or group projects, visual instruction and podcasting (Austin & Mescia, 2001). Cost, individual learning styles, instructor skill sets and technology support are critical to deciding which strategies to implement (Phillips, 2005).

One minute papers are an example of quick in class writing assignments that require active participation from the students (Stead, 2005). Giving students one minute to respond to a review questions dealing with the days material shows instructors how well students grasped the material. A one minute paper asking students to list questions still existing actively engages the student, in addition to empowering the student to take a more active role in their education (Stead).

Case studies typically are written with a brief overview of a specific situation, set in a context for a problematic situation and list major decisions that need to be made (Kreber, 2001). …