Ask an Expert: Dr. Marina Kamenetskiy

This week, we had the opportunity to interview Dr. Marina Kamenetskiy, an expert in online instruction who has been teaching adult learners online since 2011 (full bio below).

For my readers who may not be familiar with the term, what does active learning entail in an online classroom?

Active learning is any activity that allows students to interact with the course content (learning material, assessment, etc.) instead of receiving information passively. When students are given the opportunity to solve real-world problems and use critical thinking, they learn more effectively. In many online courses in higher education especially, the learning content consists of a typical lecture and/or reading from a textbook, a quiz, and a discussion board. However, that alone is not enough to make learning complex concepts effective. Most often students do not see how what they are learning would apply to their jobs.

Most of my readers work in post-secondary and higher education settings. Why is active learning important for adult students? Does it work with different age groups?

Yes, active learning strategies can be used in any discipline, either online or in a physical classroom. Active learning is important to students because it allows them to use critical thinking skills. A skill that many employers want.

All of us are getting more comfortable with online technology. What online tools are available to support teachers who would like to incorporate active learning into their classroom?

Teachers can create simulations, scenarios, and case studies using simple tools such as Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. If they are looking to create games, they can find pre-made games online, or they can have students design the games themselves. For simulations, I like to use tools such as Rise 360 which is a part of the Articulate 360 suite. However, I have also created simulations using nothing but PowerPoint.

That is incredibly helpful. I admit that I hadn’t considered that I could create a simulation at home. Some of these are tools that appear rather intuitive. Can you provide an example of a time you added active learning to an online classroom? What did you learn from that experience?

I teach doctoral leadership courses, and I created a simulation for my students last year where they were able to solve a real-world organizational issue by pretending to be in the leadership role. The feedback that I received from students was positive, and they told me they really enjoyed the hands-on approach to learning how to manage diverse teams.

Excellent example, and I teach doctoral candidates as well, so that lesson plan sounds amazing. I may need to do a follow-up interview just to learn more! For doctoral students who may be reading and want to explore this as a capstone topic, does active learning have any related theories that online teachers should be aware of?

Yes, in the book chapter that I published last year I talked about several theories, but one that I mostly refer to is called Bloom’s Taxonomy. I strongly believe that active learning strategies should align with this framework as much as possible. Active learning strategies tend to align with the higher-order thinking in Bloom’s.

I would love to provide my readers with a link to your book chapter if that is available, and I will include it in your bio below when the blog comes out. You explained an example of how it is used in graduate level courses, how is active learning used at various degree levels?

Active learning strategies can be applied to any discipline and any degree level. Elementary and high school teachers can create simulations, case studies, and games to enhance student learning.

Eventually, active learning might have its own taxonomy, which would be exciting. A lot of websites promote Zoom video conferencing, with tools like virtual whiteboards, can you describe the role that video conferencing plays in active learning?

Video conferencing tools are beneficial to student learning, and teachers can utilize tools such as Zoom to connect with their students more and make their courses more interactive and collaborative. Teachers can place the students in breakout groups and have them complete a simulation or a case study. Again, students can learn more actively that way instead of hearing their teacher lecture for an hour.

I’ve noticed more presentations involve reaching out to the audience to provide their voice in the forms of raising hands or providing polls. In your experience, are polls effective ways to increase active learning? Are there best practices for how to poll your students?

Polls are a good way to break the monotony of a lecture or a presentation. This is where students get to participate and answer questions. Teachers can use polls as “knowledge checks”, after presenting for 10-15 minutes, for example. This will ensure that students are alert and paying attention, and also to make sure that they are understanding the material as intended. Presenting content in chunks helps increase student’s participation (they won’t get bored as easily and fall asleep).

Keeping students engaged in synchronous activities also helps you understand how meaningful the lesson plan is for the learners. Have you used nonverbal feedback where students can use icons to express their opinions? If not, how have you used visual images to enhance active learning?

Nonverbal feedback can be difficult, especially in an online learning environment. However, I have used visual and audio when using active learning techniques. I like to use dramatic music to set the scene, I like to use background sounds effects and images of real people to make the activities more realistic. For example, I recently wrote a scenario that demonstrated poor leadership style. I described a chef who worked in a restaurant kitchen and how she led her staff. For that scenario, I included actual sounds of a professional kitchen with a narration on top of it, so that it gives the listener a more immersive experience.

Nonverbal feedback might work better in discussion boards as a way for students to acknowledge strong peer posts. I love your example of a bustling kitchen sound helping to evoke more sensory engagement with a lesson plan.

Thank you so much for your marvelous insights and sharing your expertise with our readers.

Expert Bio:

Dr. Marina Kamenetskiy has been teaching adult learners online since 2011. She earned her Doctorate degree in Educational Leadership and Management and has taught online courses for various universities throughout the years. Some of the courses that she taught include, Organizational Development and Change, Dynamics of Management, and Women Empowered as Learners and Leaders. Dr. Kamenetskiy also has a Master’s degree in English: Technical Communication and has taught courses such as Technical Writing, Business Communication, and English Composition. Dr. Kamenetskiy also has experience in curriculum development and instructional design. She is passionate about the field of education and she always says that she is a lifelong learner. In her free time, Dr. Kamenetskiy likes to volunteer. Throughout the year, especially during the holidays, you can find her helping at a local food pantry or other nonprofits that help feed the homeless. Giving back to the community makes her feel connected and gives her a sense of fulfillment.

Her website:

Book Chapter: “Active Learning Strategies for Online College Classrooms”

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