“Active Learning is good as long as it does not take additional time”!!! – Prashant Mutyala


This is one of the things I learned from the conversations I had with the students in the past two years of teaching at UW. Earlier while planning learning activities, I never thought of this aspect so much but now it has become one of the major factors.

I usually supervise day long labs for final year Undergrad students. They are committed to stay from morning 10.30 AM to evening 6 PM on those days. Earlier the practical sessions were preceded with a quiz session which I found was not very productive in upgrading the knowledge of the students. Therefore I designed some activities to make the learning more fun and productive too. Ofcourse, that took more time than the usual straight lectures. The students who were really interested to learn liked the new method but the neutral students were not that much happy. The formative feedback showed some 60% students supporting the new pattern and many of them pointed out that ‘Active Learning is good as long as it does not take additional time’.

Soon I came up with a new pattern. The activities were distributed in such a way that the students now used to spend time in them after starting their experiments, typically when waiting for the equipment to reach some steady state or when the equipment is collecting results. In other words the activities now were ‘not taking additional time’. As a result the end-feedback showed 90% of class support to the new pattern.

It seems that the new generation students (who grew up alongside netbooks, iphone and tablet pcs)  prefer everything (including learning) to be not only productive but also fast. I wish enhancing the learning process was as simple as  installing an additional RAM in a computer. Students now are not looking just for active learning methods but they are looking for time-efficient active learning methods and that adds a challenge for the teachers while planning learning activities.


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