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Tips for Active Blended Learning

Last updated on 27 February 2024
Would you like to increase your repertoire of teaching methods and techniques for active blended learning? On this page you will regularly find new didactic tips and practical methods that will help you and inspire you to get started!

The tips for active blended learning are provided by the VU Centre for Teaching & Learning (VU CTL). How, exactly? Find out in the VU EduNews & Stories article "Fifty times wiser: the 50th edition of Didactic Tips".

All tips by topic

  • Active Blended Learning

    Tip 2: A successful active learning assignment requires a safe learning climate
    Active learning in a group requires that students dare to speak up. If a student does not feel at ease or is afraid of reactions from fellow students, the student will not actively participate. And that excludes students. An unsafe climate can arise because it is unclear how students can discuss or deal with each other in a respectful way. This tip gives advice on how to improve this.

    Tip 3: How do you encourage students to do their self-study assignments?
    Subject matter in an academic environment is often so extensive and cognitively demanding that students have to study and practice intensively by themselves. Self-study is therefore an important concept in activating blended education. However, students do not always do the self-study. This tip gives advice on how to improve this.

    Tip 4: How do you prevent free-riding in group assignments?
    Do you want to encourage all students to make an active contribution to group assignments, and do you want to prevent free-riding? Read in this teaching tip how you can promote a successful group process! 

    Tip 5: How do you promote true interaction in the lecture hall?
    Sometimes, interaction during a lecture is limited to the lecturer asking rather unfocused questions such as: "Does anyone have an idea how this happened?" This often fails to result in the desired interaction. There is no response or mainly the students in the front row feel addressed. This teaching tip gives three practical pointers to bring interaction during your lectures to a higher level. 

    Tip 12: Alternative approaches to hybrid teaching
    Due to the high number of corona infections, the government has decided that no more than 75 students are allowed in a lecture hall for the weeks to come. With hybrid teaching, you simultaneously educate both students in the lecture hall and at home. In an earlier post, we described how you can arrange the allocation of the maximum of 75 students. But how to make optimal use of hybrid teaching? 

    Tip 19: How do you promote real learning during the lecture?
    One-way traffic during a lecture doesn’t promote learning. How do you ensure that your students really learn during your lecture? This new didactic tip offers four practical ways to stimulate the students' learning process. In a previous tip, we already gave three hints on how to promote interaction in the lecture hall. 

    Tip 23: What is the difference between blended, hybrid and online education?
    Blended learning, online learning and hybrid education - what's the difference? Not everyone understands these terms in the same way, and they are often used interchangeably. We explain how we use these terms at VU and how to avoid confusion.

    Tip 48: How to set up the classroom for active learning
    By rearranging the furniture in the classroom, you can encourage active learning and maximize the results of the learning activities. In rooms with individual tables and chairs, you can do more than you think. But what kinds of setups can you think of? And what can you do with them? Read about it in this tip!

  • Teaching tools and AI

    Tip 7: Deeper learning through clever use of the Discussion Board
    In a previous teaching tip we gave some general tips to promote that students do their self-study assignments. In this new tip, we explain why it is important that students always try to formulate their own answers or opinions before they read those of others. In preparation assignments where students are asked to share their answers, it can help to set the Canvas Discussion Board so that students only see fellow students' answers after they have submitted something themselves.

    Tip 27: How to make your Canvas course student friendly
    Would you like students to come to class better prepared? Make sure the information in your Canvas course is easy to find. These six tips will help you make your Canvas course student friendly. This will ensure that students find their way better and ask you fewer questions. Hundreds of VU students have already indicated that these tips do indeed lead to more clarity and less time wasted.

    Tip 31: Dealing with ChatGPT in education
    With ChatGPT, students can easily create a paper in no time: ChatGPT writes based on artificial intelligence (AI). The texts produced are often easy to read and get it right. How to deal with this threat? And does it also provide opportunities? Read how to use AI writers in education. 

    Tip 40: Design your course with ChatGPT in 5 steps
    Students already make use of ChatGPT, but how can it support you, a teacher, in your course design? Discover what generative AI is capable of, and how to get the right support.

    Tip 43: Stimulate deep reading and learning with Perusall and FbF Interactive Document
    The online tools Perusall and FeedbackFruits Interactive Document motivate students with social engagement and interaction, to read and study in depth, on time and with enthusiasm. How do you use these online tools effectively? 

    Tip 44: Perusall vs FeedbackFruits, which tool should I use?
    Thinking about creating an interactive document? There are two online tools available for that at VU Amsterdam: Perusall and FeedbackFruits. Which tool suits your situation best? Read our short comparison of a few notable characteristics of both tools in this tip.

    Tip 45: Teach your students to use ChatGPT as a personal teacher
    Most students already make use of ChatGPT, but how can you get students to use this tool as a personal interactive teacher - for hyper personalized tutoring? 

    Tip 51: 5 active learning activities to teach students to work with AI
    It is important for students to use AI responsibly and critically evaluate information for reliability. After all, learning to use artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming increasingly important for students. They will even use AI in their work and in the future. But how do you teach them to work with AI effectively? In this didactic tip, we share five active learning activities for that purpose.

  • Educational design

    Tip 1: Motivated students with constructive alignment
    Students are goal-oriented, critical thinkers and doers. Do you want them to participate with pleasure and motivation in activating forms of education? Then make sure your teaching is both coherent and rewarding. This is only possible when learning objectives, learning activities, and testing fit together seamlessly. In short: when there is constructive alignment. In the following simple steps, you can check to what extent your teaching meets this requirement and how you can improve it.

    Tip 6: Help students plan with a visually appealing overview
    If, as a teacher, you offer several online and offline assignments and active working methods during a course, some students may not be able to see the wood for the trees. Their planning becomes more difficult. This makes a course less effective. That is why you have to make sure that the learning activities are presented as clearly as possible: the student learning journey. This teaching tip gives three examples to make clear planners.

    Tip 18: How to efficiently deal with the flow of questions from students?
    Students can ask a lot of questions about the organization of your course. For example, that they cannot find the hand-in button in Canvas or that they have accidentally handed in the wrong document. Read some tips on how to keep this flow of questions under control in this didactic tip. 

    Tip 20: You have your knowledge clip, but now what?
    When people talk about blended learning, they often say: no more lectures, but knowledge clips. But if you have your knowledge clips, what then? Read in this tip what you can think about and what you can do.

    Tip 25: This is how to design a super course! - part 1
    Why do students find some courses so good that they leave a lasting impression even after graduation? While other courses hardly inspire and knowledge of them is quickly forgotten, despite the best intention and commitment of the instructor? Ken Bain discovered that all these super courses that make an impact share the same characteristics. This is what he writes about in his new book "Super Courses: The Future of Teaching and Learning". In this first part of this teaching tip, we will discuss the first five characteristics. 

    Tip 29: This is how to design a super course! - part 2
    Why do students find some courses so good that they leave a lasting impression even after graduation? While other courses hardly inspire, and the knowledge is quickly forgotten, despite the best intention and commitment of the teacher? In this didactic tip, we discuss the second set of four characteristics of super courses according to Ken Bain. 

    Tip 42: How to apply inner feedback for designing powerful courses
    Inner feedback means generating new knowledge and insight by comparing your existing knowledge to your own evolving ideas. This didactic tip describes how to stimulate this process among your students. We’ll give you 4 essential tips for successful implementation. 

    Tip 46: How to VU-proof your teaching? Use this checklist!
    When you assess your educational design, it is also important to evaluate if it is in line with the VU educational vision. Think about terms like activating blended education, constructive alignment and linking to social issues. To discover this and get started with areas for improvement, we’re sharing the checklist for VU-proof education! 

    Tip 52: Improve your students’ learning with a simple manual
    Even if students have successfully completed their prior education, they often do not automatically know how to learn best. How can you help them do that? Recent research shows that they can achieve better results if you, as a teacher, provide a simple manual about effective learning strategies. 

  • Testing and assessment

    Tip 8: Save time and improve your teaching by using a simplified grading scheme
    Many active blended learning courses require students to complete (partial) assignments during the run of the course. It is important for an optimal learning process that students receive feedback on these assignments and, in some cases, also an assessment in the form of a grade. But what if grading and giving feedback demands too much of your time as a teacher? 

    Tip 9: Save time and improve your teaching by showing students good examples
    In the tip above you learned about postponing grading, to improve active blended learning. In part two of the series we’re expanding on this by showing students high quality examples of finished assignments. 

    Tip 10: Save time and improve your teaching by not grading every single assignment
    Does giving feedback and grades cost you a lot of time as a teacher? When you apply active blended learning, your students often make several partial assignments. This didactic tip shows you how to save time and improve your teaching, by not grading every single assignment. 

    Tip 32: How many questions to include in a multiple choice test
    For tests with four-option multiple choice questions, as a teacher you are faced with the decision of how many questions to include. What to consider? And is a multiple-choice test with three or four options better? Discover the rule of thumb.

    Tip 33: This is how you combine open and closed questions in a test
    Tests with multiple-choice and open-ended questions are the best of both worlds. Multiple-choice questions provide a quick measurement of the breadth of the material, whereas open-ended questions measure a deeper understanding. But how to distribute them in the test? And how to deal with cut-off scores? 

    Tip 34: How to assess students in active blended learning
    When you think of active blended learning, the first thing that may come to mind is a thoughtful mix of activating face-to-face and online learning. But what about assessment? Which way of assessing fits best with activate blended learning? 

    Tip 35: Save time on assessment in active blended learning
    In active blended learning, you look for a good mix of activating face-to-face and online education and an optimal balance between formative and summative testing. But how do you set this up in an efficient and time-saving way? 

    Tip 36: How to develop a rubric
    A rubric is a useful tool to assess students' products and skills, for example when giving feedback or assessing an assignment or presentation. But how do you develop a rubric and what options should you consider?

    Tip 47: How to guide students with writing assignments?
    Writing stands as a crucial skill for your students, vital not only throughout their academic journey but also in their future professions. However, mastering this skill doesn't happen effortlessly. How can you effectively lead them on this writing journey? 

    Tip 53: How to harness the power of self-assessment
    Self-assessment on assignments is a powerful part of effective learning: it encourages deeper understanding and even personal growth. But you have to organize it right or it can result in superficiality or student avoidance. In this tip, we explore the benefits of self-assessment and how to best utilize it in your teaching practice!

  • (Peer) feedback

    Tip 11: How to get students to provide and process peer feedback better - part 1
    For an optimal learning process in active learning, it is important that students receive feedback on completed assignments. Peer feedback from fellow students can be part of this. But how do you ensure that students give qualitative feedback? 

    Tip 13: How to get students to provide and process peer feedback better - part 2
    How to deal with language mistakes? Or how do I communicate feedback in a good way? These may be questions on your students' minds when giving peer feedback. Giving and processing peer feedback is an academic skill that teaches students a lot. In a previous tip, we already provided some practical guidance. In this new tip you will read additional tips on how to teach your students to get better at giving and receiving peer feedback. 

    Tip 28: Constructive feedback? Ten tips!
    Feedback is an essential part of the learning process and a rich resource for your students' development. But constructive feedback is more than just showing what is right and wrong: for example, you give guiding suggestions or explain how your students can make improvements. What else do you pay attention to?

    Tip 37: Do’s and don’ts for effective peer feedback - part 1
    For effective peer feedback, you need a well thought out set-up. How do you ensure a time-saving process with high learning benefits for your students? In this tip, we share the first six essential do's and don'ts to make this happen. 

    Tip 38: Do’s and don’ts for effective peer feedback - part 2
    Effective peer feedback must be handled thoughtfully. How do you ensure an efficient process from which students learn a lot? We asked Danny Scholten, Education Research Fellow at VU CTL and peer feedback expert. In this tip, we share part two of essential do's and don'ts to make this happen. 

  • Engagement and motivation of students

    Tip 14: Strengthen the student's ownership of the learning process
    Would you like your students to be more involved? Try stimulating increased ownership of their own learning process. In this didactic tip, you will find four ways to do that. For example, by letting students make their own choices in the execution of assignments or by applying self-assessment. 

    Tip 15: How to strengthen your relationship with your students - part 1
    More engaged students? Expanding on the previous tip, this time you'll discover four other surprising ways to get students more involved. In this tip we’ll discuss Ines Lindner's integrated approach for her Mathematical Economics course. Because of the pandemic, she no longer gives lectures, but works with social hangouts, question sessions and a student board. 

    Tip 16: Active students through high expectations & a positive atmosphere
    High expectations, confidence and a positive atmosphere activate your students. And more active students learn better and are more engaged. In this tip, you get two suggestions and additional examples on how to create this atmosphere. 

    Tip 17: How to strengthen your relationship with your students - part 2
    Would you like your students to be more engaged? Building on two previous tips, this time you'll discover five more surprising ways to strengthen the connection with your students. For instance: build your teaching on real world problems and being more socially accessible. We discuss Jaap Boter his integrated approach for the Master's course Marketing. A program that consistently scores the highest on student satisfaction within VU.

    Tip 21: 10 characteristics of teachers who have impact on their students
    Every student has a teacher who they remember long after their graduation. A teacher who inspired them, made them think, or who believed in their abilities. But what made that teacher so good, and how do you make that impact as a teacher yourself? Ken Bain, an award-winning teacher and author, did a lot of research on this. He distilled ten characteristics of a good teacher. In this first part we share five of them. Which ones do you already possess? And which would you still like to work on? 

    Tip 22: A flying start: how to create optimal bonding among students? 4 tips from students
    Student well-being goes up when students have a good bond with their studies and fellow students. But how do you create good bonds? To find out, we talked to VU students from different faculties. Based on their experiences and opinions, 4 tips emerged to create optimal bonding.

    Tip 26: Four effective ways to give students a say in your education
    Students were asked for their opinions on their education much more frequently during the corona pandemic, and would like to continue doing so. But how best to organize effective student participation? Formal course evaluations are not the best answer, so what is? We asked students at VU and UvA.

    Tip 30: 10 characteristics of teachers who have impact on their students - part 2
    Every student has a teacher they remember long after their graduation. A teacher who inspired them, made them think, or who believed in their abilities. But what made that teacher so good, and how do you make that impact as a teacher yourself? Ken Bain, an award-winning teacher and author, did a lot of research on this. He distilled ten characteristics of a good teacher. In this second part we share the other five of them. 

    Tip 41: Stimulate the intrinsic motivation and autonomy of your students
    Intrinsic motivation leads to deep learning, better performance, and a more positive learning experience for students. How can you encourage this by weaving more autonomy into your teaching? 

  • Diversity and inclusion

    Tip 2: A successful active learning assignment requires a safe learning climate
    Active learning in a group requires that students dare to speak up. If a student does not feel at ease or is afraid of reactions from fellow students, the student will not actively participate. And that excludes students. An unsafe climate can arise because it is unclear how students can discuss or deal with each other in a respectful way. This tip gives advice on how to improve this.

    Tip 39: VU Pride tips & tricks – how to create an inclusive learning environment
    An inclusive learning environment is a key factor in academic success and a pillar of the VU Amsterdam principles. But how do you take gender and sexual diversity into account in your teaching?

    Tip 49: How to consider neurodivergent students in your teaching?
    Dyslexia, ADHD, or autism - some of your students are neurodivergent. As a result, some of them experience barriers that affect their studying progress. For inclusive education, it is important to take everyone's support needs into account. In this tip, we share 8 ways to consider this, so these students enjoy and succeed in your education.

    Tip 50: How do you deal with 'hot moments' during class?
    Between students with different perspectives, so-called 'hot moments' can arise. In these, feelings run so high that it can disrupt teaching and learning. Such moments are inevitable, and also an important part of inclusive and challenging education - hot moments can actually teach students a lot. How do you handle such situations? Read about it in this tip.

  • Tips from students

    Tip 22: A flying start: how to create optimal bonding among students? 4 tips from students
    Student well-being goes up when students have a good bond with their studies and fellow students. But how do you create good bonds? To find out, we talked to VU students from different faculties. Based on their experiences and opinions, 4 tips emerged to create optimal bonding.

    Tip 24: This is what students want to hold on to after COVID-19
    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam has focused on Active Blended Learning: activating learning activities supported by online opportunities where useful, is how students learn best. Many teachers and programs are therefore busy adding active blended learning activities to their teaching or adapting their entire curriculum accordingly. What do students want?

    Tip 26: Four effective ways to give students a say in your education
    Students were asked for their opinions on their education much more frequently during the corona pandemic, and would like to continue doing so. But how best to organize effective student participation? Formal course evaluations are not the best answer, so what is? We asked students at VU and UvA.

Overview

Top tip: considering neurodivergent students

Top tip: considering neurodivergent students

Dyslexia, ADHD, or autism - some of your students are neurodivergent. As a result, some of them experience barriers that affect their studying progress. For inclusive education, it is important to take everyone's support needs into account. In this tip, we share 8 ways to consider this, so these students enjoy and succeed in your education.

Read the full tip
Overhead view of students at tables in the atrium of the New University Building