Active learning

student learning at home with laptop

Active learning is an approach to teaching and training that focuses on the learner. By centring the process on learners instead of teachers, learners are empowered and encouraged to take control of their learning.

Learners are encouraged to prepare for sessions in advance by reading or watching teaching material, then take part in activities or reflect on their practice during class sessions. Taking this approach allows learners to not only learn facts and figures, but also to prepare to put what they have learned into practice. This is especially useful during staff training, because it encourages staff to relate what they are learning to how they work. This should then lead to improvements following training sessions.

Active learning techniques have been successful at all levels of education. It is encouraged from primary school teaching right through to post-graduate qualifications. Queen's University have compiled a list of some of the benefits that come from active learning, including:

  • Improvements in topic knowledge and problem-solving skills compared to traditional learning;
  • greater enthusiasm for learning;
  • and the development of soft skills, including critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills.

Prince (2004) conducted a useful review of the use of Active Learning and found evidence of its effectiveness in various forms. This included the benefits of adding activity breaks to traditional lectures and the effectiveness of utilising collaborative and cooperative activities in addition to individual activities.


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A characteristic of technology that enables people with disabilities to use it. For example, accessible Websites can be navigated by people with visual, hearing, motor, or cognitive impairments. Accessible design also benefits people with older or slower software and hardware.


Official recognition awarded by an authority or body to recognise that certain standards have been achieved/met.

Active learning

A learner-centred model of learning that utilises activities in class sessions to enhance learning.


The theory and practice of teaching adult learners - see pedagogy.


The process used to judge, evaluate or appraise whether a system or a person meets a set of criteria or requirements.

Asynchronous Learning.

Learning that uses methods or technology that enables the exchange of information outwith the boundaries of time and space. Used when working across time zones or where people are unlikely to all be available at the same time. Discussion boards and email are examples of tools that can be utilised.


Information provided alongside a piece of work to identify the original creator or copyright owner.


The group of people that the learning has been designed to teach.

Audio lecture

A recording of either a live lecture or a scripted lecture that is then distributed online for learners to listen to.

Authoring Tool

Software tools used by developers and instructional designers to create e-learning materials.


A graphic or icon used to represent a person in an online environment. Intended to enable users to add a personal touch to their online presence.