Keith-Le, J. (2023). Does the Physical Active Learning Classroom Matter? Faculty Experiences Practicing Active Learning During an Era of Rapid Transformation in Higher Education. Unc Charlotte Electronic Theses And Dissertations.
Student-centered active learning strategies have been found to have a positive impact on student learning outcomes when compared to courses using traditional lecture methods in higher education. The practice of active learning is strongly linked to physical active learning classrooms (ALCs). Comprehensive studies show ALCs outperform traditional classroom settings in student satisfaction and student learning outcomes. The COVID-19 pandemic forced faculty practicing active learning in physical spaces into virtual learning environments for an extended period of time and the impact on active learning practice was unknown. The purpose of this exploratory descriptive case study was to understand the experiences of faculty learning community (FLC) members practicing active learning strategies in virtual learning environments to discover how teaching in virtual spaces for an extended period impacted the use of active learning strategies in physical classrooms. Results of semi-structured interviews conducted with 10 faculty members from the case study institution revealed three overarching themes about practicing active learning strategies in virtual learning environments (VLEs) and subsequent changes that emerged when participants returned to physical classrooms: (1) Working the Room (2) It’s Not in the Syllabus (3) Virtual In-Person Classrooms (VIPCs). Participants largely reported attempting to replicate what they were doing in physical ALCs in VLEs using digital tools. Participants described being in a constant cycle of learning about and trying out new digital tools that could help them practice active learning strategies online. Pressure from the institution to make supportive changes on-demand as needs were identified to "pivot" also led to a constant repetitive change cycle. Increased student access to laptops, the use of online digital tools, and the ability to leverage equitable access to technology in any type of classroom after faculty and students returned from VLEs to in-person classrooms presented participants with new ways to practice active learning strategies. Findings from this study show that these changes have created a new type of learning environment, the virtual in-person classroom (VIPC). The VIPC is the best of both worlds, it leverages the strengths of digital tools, online methods of communication, and remote engagement strategies used in VLEs and situates them in a physical learning environment that is friendly to practicing active learning strategies. Keywords: ALCs (active learning classrooms), FLC (faculty learning community), VIPC (virtual in-person classroom), VLEs (virtual learning environments), online learning.