Companies & Universities, Learning

Improving Learning Outcomes: The Power of Active Learning

Tired woman in front of computer

What is Active Learning?

When it comes to retaining new information, which methodology is best for learners: Active Learning or Passive Learning? –Remember those classes in high school when your teacher stood in front of the class and for an hour just talked at you while everyone furiously took notes that they would later memorize? That’s Passive Learning. Active Learning, on the other hand, requires students to interact and do meaningful tasks while thinking about what they are doing.

Unlike passive learners, active learners are more engaged, learn the material in less time, and learn more effectively.

Active Learning Engages Students More

Being engaged during the learning process is arguably one of the most important conditions for retaining information. When learning passively via media such as lectures or lengthy videos, the potential for the student’s mind to wander is high and only increases as time passes. But when students are learning actively, they are constantly engaged with the material–manipulating objects, answering questions, and getting immediate feedback. For example, Smartly learners are required to interact with the material an average of every 8.7 seconds. This high level of engagement is extremely effective, and one of the reasons why Smartly’s approval rating is consistently above 96%.


Active Learning is Faster

Because interaction is required when learning actively, time spent not listening, zoning out, or generally being distracted is reduced. Additionally, students experiencing Active Learning spend more time “learning by doing” and require less repetition in order to perform operations or demonstrate knowhow. These benefits mean that learning happens faster, and more time can be devoted to additional study or other productive efforts.

Greater Efficacy with Active Learning

When the desired learning outcome is for the student to retain the maximum amount of information taught and apply it in class, the workplace, or life, Active Learning proves to be much more effective than Passive Learning. In a study performed by Ruhl et al., researchers found that Active Learning was in fact more effective in terms of both short-term and long-term retention. In the short-term, students who learned actively were able to recall 35% more facts that those who learned passively. And, Active Learners on average performed 11% better than their Passive Learning counterparts when given a multiple choice test later in the learning process. [1]

When we consider that learning actively creates an educational environment that is more engaging, faster, and more effective than Passive Learning, it is clear that Active Learning is the better choice.


[1] Does Active Learning Work? A Review of the Research

[2] Active versus passive teaching styles: An empirical study of student learning outcomes

[3] Everyday attention and lecture retention: the effects of time, fidgeting, and mind wandering