Learning activities

Voluntary and charity sector trainers often use quite interactive styles of training in their face-to-face sessions. For example, they ask participants to do role plays, or they encourage people to share their own experiences of a topic, or they play games that convey a serious point.

These types of activities can help learners to understand topics more deeply, keep them engaged and interested and help participants see connections between their own experiences and the topic under discussion. When trainers first take their training online they sometimes find it difficult to find ways of doing these kinds of activities, and then there is a danger that training becomes very one-directional, with the trainer just imparting lots of information to passive learners.

The Open University categorises the different types of activities that can help people learn under seven headings:

  1. Assimilative
  2. Finding and handling information
  3. Communicative
  4. Productive
  5. Experiential
  6. Interactive/adaptive
  7. Assessment

For example, learning activities that involve reading an article or watching a video can be described as ‘assimilative’ because the main thing the learner is doing is taking in and understanding information – assimilating it.

Learners are usually quite comfortable with this type of activity but they will often learn better if they are also encouraged to do things they might find more challenging, such as drawing a mind map to summarise some information (a productive activity), or finding examples of data that contradict a given viewpoint (a finding and handling information activity).

The activity about flipped classrooms that you just completed starts with some assimilative activity (watching the video) and then moves on to a productive activity (filling in the grid). If learners are encouraged to engage in a range of different types of activity, then their learning is likely to be more effective. There is good evidence that online courses with a lot of communicative activities have lower drop-out rates than those with a lot of assimilative activities (Rienties and Toetenel, 2016).

The flipped classroom

Exploring activity types