4 Learning activities

Choosing Learning Activities

Learning activities are an important part of every lesson, as they allow students to engage with the material and apply their learning to various contexts. As we highlighted in the previous chapter, one of the strategies that designers use is to align learning activities directly with assessments using backwards design. Thinking about where you would like your students to be, and what types of activities might help them build the skills and knowledge they need to get there is an important design task.

A learning activity can take many forms, from reading a textbook, searching online for articles, watching a video interview, or participating in an interactive simulation.  The following are some examples of learning activities.

  • Icebreaker
  • Case Studies
  • Debates
  • Social Media
  • Role play
  • Problems
  • Graphic Organizers
  • Quizzes
  • Games
  • Think-Pair-Share
  • Short-write
  • Webquests
  • Simulations
  • Discussions
  • Survey
  • Interviews
  • Field Trip
  • Community
  • Experiments
  • Creation


Check out the TRU Open Learning Media page for activity ideas and see below about the Remix, Reuse, Reshare  – Learning Activities Repository. 

Remix, Reuse, Reshare – An Open Resource of Learning Activities

Photo by Bruce Mars on Unsplash

The REMIX, REUSE, RESHARE website  is a collection or repository  of promising learning activity designs that may be used or adapted and reshared!

This resource is an extensive bank of activities  providing instructions that you can adapt to your own discipline and context.

It is searchable by field category, as well as tags. Activities are assigned fields according to the type of interaction in the activity, structure, discipline, learning taxonomy, activity type and creative commons license. Each comes with a brief description, as well as the full text of the activity.

You are invited to search the resource and use whatever you find most useful. Also, you can contribute your own successful learning activities and comment on those you reuse, adapt or explore! If you use or adapt a resource, please reshare your version.

We hope you  will find this online resource useful for your teaching and/or design practice!

Learning Activities

Kwantlen Polytechnic University has also created a resource  to support you with:
(1) identifying and reflecting on your course’s learning outcomes, (
2) connecting the learning outcomes to a diverse set of learning activities (formative assessment), and
(3) translating traditional face-to-face learning activities to alternative activities that may be delivered online.

The starting point for this process is Bloom’s Taxonomy, which identifies levels of learning goals, moving from basic competencies (remembering content) to more advance competencies (creating knowledge). Bloom’s Taxonomy can help you to reflect on your course learning outcomes and focus on what you would like your students to be able to do by the end of the course.

The next stage is to connect your learning outcomes to diverse learning activities that you can either demonstrate yourself or develop as participatory activities for you students. We identify some activities that instructors commonly use when teaching face-to-face, and how these might be translated for asynchronous online delivery.

Here is a great resource developed by KPU which provides a table of learning outcomes, corresponding activities for F2F and also online.

Learning activities

Online Learning Strategies

For a more applied view of how students develop online learning strategies, read Roper’s (2007) article How Students Develop Online Learning Skills. Roper highlights seven strategies of successful online learners. The Illinois Online Network has also developed a portrait of What Makes a Successful Online Student that you may find interesting.

For an examination of Kolb’s learning approach in relation to online learning, read Richmond and Cumming’s (2005) article Implementing Kolb’s Learning Styles into Online Distance Education.  This article investigates Kolb’s Experiential Learning theory, evaluates learning style research in online environments and how student learning styles can be considered in an online course.

Pedagogical Theories/Models

Various pedagogical theories/models have defined distance education curriculum development over the years.

Dr. Terry Anderson, in a 2010 CIDER session, “Three Generations of Distance Education Pedagogy,” talks about the challenges and opportunity afforded by the behavioral/cognitive, constructivist and connectivist models, with a focus on the development of connectivism! Click for SlideShare of presentation.

Collaborative Problem-Based Learning

In a problem-based approach, small groups work together to solve challenging, open-ended problems. This collaboration is facilitated by the instructor, whether online or face to face.

Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash

In Authentic Activity as a Model for Web-Based Learning  – Reeves, Herrington and Oliver (2002) identify the following ten characteristics of authentic activities:

  1. Authentic activities have real-world relevance
    Activities match as nearly as possible the real-world tasks of professionals in practice rather than decontextualized or classroom-based tasks.
  2. Authentic activities are ill-defined, requiring students to define the tasks and sub-tasks needed to complete the activity
    Problems inherent in the activities are ill-defined and open to multiple interpretations rather than easily solved by the application of existing algorithms. Learners must identify their own unique tasks and sub-tasks in order to complete the major task.
  3. .Authentic activities comprise complex tasks to be investigated by students over a sustained period of time
    Activities are completed in days, weeks and months rather than minutes or hours. They require significant investment of time and intellectual resources.
  4. Authentic activities provide the opportunity for students to examine the task from different perspectives, using a variety of resourcesThe task affords learners the opportunity to examine the problem from a variety of theoretical and practical perspectives, rather than requiring a single perspective that learners must imitate to be successful. The use of a variety of resources rather than a limited number of preselected references requires students to detect relevant from irrelevant information.
  5. Authentic activities provide the opportunity to collaborate
    Collaboration is integral to the task, both within the course and the real world, rather than achievable by an individual learner.
  6. .Authentic activities provide the opportunity to reflect and involve students’ beliefs and values
    Activities require and enable learners to make choices and reflect on their learning both individually and socially.
  7. Authentic activities can be integrated and applied across different subject areas and extend beyond domain-specific outcomes
    Activities encourage interdisciplinary perspectives and enable learners to play diverse roles and build expertise that is applicable beyond a single well-defined field or domain.
  8. . Authentic activities are seamlessly integrated with assessment
    Assessment of learning is seamlessly integrated with the major activity in a manner that reflects real world assessment, rather than separate artificial assessment tasks that are removed from the nature of the tasks inherent in completing the activity.
  9. Authentic activities create polished products valuable in their own right rather than as preparation for something else
    Activities culminate in the creation of a whole product rather than an exercise or sub-step in preparation for something else.
  10. Authentic activities allow competing solutions and diversity of outcomes Activities allow a range and diversity of outcomes open to multiple solutions of an original nature, rather than a single correct response obtained by the application of predefined rules and procedures (p.3).

Additional Information

An interesting articles about problem-based learning that you may find helpful:

Savery, J. (2006).  Overview of Problem-based Learning: Definitions and Distinctions. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning. Vol 1, Issue 1, Article 3.

You can also find a lot of additional resources about problem based learning on the Problem-Based Learning Initiative website.

Dr. Peter Hsu has also developed seven modules about collaborative problem-based learning for online course developers. You may want to take the time to view these modules in preparation for developing your online course!

Up Next

In the next chapter, you can use the learning outcomes to decide which aspects need to be achieved synchronously and asynchronously. We will provide specific suggestions as to which tools and strategies to use when sharing content.