If you weren’t at our encore performance of the Making Lectures Interactive workshop (hosted by the Faculty of Science & Engineering and the Research Enrichment Program) on July 12th, boy did you miss out!

“Thank you very much for such a productive session!”
~workshop participant

Together, with approximately 60-70 lecturers from all faculties, we explored:

  • roadblocks to active / productive student learning engagement
  • strategies to guide students from surface to deeper learning
  • how to use tools in the Echo360 Active Learning Platform (ALP) –such as Interactive Slides and Analytics – for this purpose
  • methods to redesign the structure and delivery of your lecture

The how and why of Making Lectures Interactive

Key Points

  1. Transform lecture design and delivery to work within cognitive load
  2. Use learning through confusion and learning through productive failure
  3. Apply deeper learning question and justify strategies

View Presentation | Self-enrol in the Learning Innovation Hub Events iLearn unit (OneID login required) and explore the 12th July ALP presentation via the new Echo360 ALP block.

View Summary | Download workshop handout (OneID login required).

1. Transform lecture design and delivery to work within cognitive load

The clarity and simplicity of both:

  • the task itself

Task Example:
“If yesterday was Tuesday, what day of the week is tomorrow?”

  • the way in which the task is presented

Presentation Examples:
– Epilepsy Test imagery (video)
– Ron Paas (University of Wollongong) example (video)

can determine whether learning content is deemed low or high cognitive load.

Cognitive Load: knowledge as input to sensory memory, processed by working memory, stored and retrieved from long-term memory

Participants quickly recognised that:

(i) small changes to the typical ‘death-by-powerpoint’ lecture slide content

(ii) interspersed short moderately challenging activities

can temper cognitive overload.

“Utilise interactive windows to chunk my lecture in manageable lengths to avoid cognitive overload.”
~workshop participant

2. Use learning through confusion and productive failure

Santi Caballe (Open University of Catalonia, Barcelona) has a very eloquent definition of engagement:

“attentiveness to something, and with that attentiveness accompanied by positive feeling.

When engaged, they read, they post, they react, they try, they question, they keep coming back.”

When we deliver domain knowledge and design learning activities, we have potential to engage students in this way. We also, however, have the potential to cause confusion.

How can you help students, themselves and their peers, to maintain balance around the zone of optimal confusion?

View the functional Zone of Optimal Confusion (ZOC) cycle (see above) – created using Loopy – an beware of the (highwaytothedanger)zoneofoptimalconfusion.

If confusion is not mediated by the students themselves (self-regulation), or through exchange with peers, or via tutor / teacher intervention, that confusion can turn into frustration and end in students giving up (see above).

Educational technologies, like the Echo360 Active Learning Platform, offer a range of tools (such as QandA or Interactive Slides) to pause, reflect and examine student learning progress and, most importantly, provide feedback at the point of confusion either in real-time or after the lecture.

Open up some lecture windows!

Our workshop participants also identified that working in this liminal, messy, sticky, uncertain space with students, forces lecturers – the experts – to release hold over current domain knowledge structures.

“Starting from confusion… we are so use[d] to wanting a structure and to be right and yet confusion and productive failure can help you to remember what you’re learning.”
~workshop participant

Lecturers can plan time and create space for student minds to ruminate on the new information and develop ways to help them make connections.

“The significance to students of being given the opportunity to pause, take stock and learn from their peers and not just the lecturer.”
~workshop participant

Design short chunks of content interspersed with engaging ‘interactive windows’.

3. Apply deeper learning question and justify strategies

In a nutshell, to guide students from surface to deeper learning we want to focus on the ways in which they can apply their knowledge to problems.

Here, we can draw from the Hewlett Foundation and Marc Chun’s work (Diving Into Deeper Learning – TEDx Talk) on transfer.

I describe transfer as:

drawing out from memory the material learned, digested and transformed at one point to apply it at (an)other point(s) in the future.

Transfer flows are encapsulated by Angus Macgyver and James Bond / 007 (see below):

  • (right) Q presents Bond / 007 with a tool which he then goes on to apply in a future (forward) situation
  • (left) Macgyver encounters an unforeseen problem and draws (backwards) on his past knowledge and experience to assess the tools available in the current situation to deliver a response.

The best way to encourage transfer is to design opportunities for students to apply real world, authentic, ‘wicked’ problems (vs. ‘tame’ problems, that have a pre-defined, pre-determined answer).

Bring the live real-time problems you encounter in your daily research, lab or clinical work into the lecture.

How can they, not only respond by indicating what their solution is, but explain why? The Echo360 ALP Interactive Slides give you the option to design in student ‘justification’ of submitted answers.

This is critical. Chris Rust (Oxford Brookes University), who presented at Macquarie last week, posed a provocative question:

If we want to measure student’s ability to analyse, are we really doing so if they can regurgitate something we have told them as the answer?

Explanation, justification, rationale, argument. This is essential.

For more information on:

  • the models used by lecturers at Macquarie to make their lectures interactive
  • the student and staff feedback from the live streaming and live lecture interactive slides pilot and experiments
  • evidence-based strategies


our workshop presentation and activities in the Active Learning Platform: self-enrol in the Learning Innovation Hub Events iLearn unit.

a summary of the workshop: download our handout (OneID login required).

When’s the next ALP workshop?
Find out via the Teche Events page!

Got questions?
Contact us: fohs.lds@mq.edu.au

Posted by Beverley Miles

Beverley is a Senior Learning Designer in the Academy of Continuing Professional Development in Education, Faculty of Arts. She is the founder of the Macquarie Undergraduate Research Internship (MURI), co-director of the Telemachus Ancient History Mentor Program (Tele's Angels), and member of the Archaeology of Death and Burial TV team led by A/Prof Ronika Power – bringing digital multimodal text types to assessment with Adobe Education.

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