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Center for Innovation in Teaching & Research
Member, Texas Tech University System The Princeton Review - 373 Best Colleges, 2011 Edition

Section 5.3: Instructional Strategies

Instructional Strategies should be designed to produce a precise learning experience (Horton, p. 38). “Learning activities exercise basic skills, thought processes, attitudes, and behaviors” (p. 38). A simple act does not equate to a learning activity such as clicking a mouse or discussing personal matters in an online forum (Horton). Activities should “support learner progression through the content material and include real world experiences and active learning strategies” (O’Neil, Fisher, Newbold, 2004, p. 88). Students learn by reflecting, applying, synthesizing, constructing, discussing, evaluating, and applying. In addition, learning activities in and of themselves are inadequate to achieve learning objectives. According to Horton, to realize learning objectives, three distinct types of learning activities are required (p. 9):

  • Absorb – the learner absorbs knowledge by reading or watching
  • Do – the learner does practice or discovery activities to deepen learning
  • Connect – learners complete activities designed to connect what they are learning to their lives and work

Absorb Activities

Absorb activities primarily inform, yet they can inspire. They enable motivated learners to obtain crucial information required to advance learning in the classroom or workplace. Absorb activities require learners to read, listen, and watch. Such activities sound passive, but they are an active aspect of learning (Horton, p. 47).

Absorb activities are closest to pure information within the framework of the three types of activities (absorb, do, and connect). Learners must act to extract and comprehend knowledge from absorb activity information. While the learner appears physically passive, they are yet mentally active. Information must be “perceived, processed, consolidated, considered, and judged.” The content, actually the writer/designer of it, is in control. Learners “absorb knowledge offered by the content” (Horton, p. 47).

The following Absorb-type activities such as Presentations, Storytelling, and Readings have been established in the face-to-face classroom. The following are best practices for incorporating Absorb Presentation activities into the online classroom (Horton, p. 47-104; Ko and Rosson, 2004, pp. 48-57; University of Maryland University College, “Teaching/Learning Activities;” Illinois Online Network, “Instructional Strategies for Online Courses”):

Do Activities

Do activities transform information from Absorb activities into knowledge and skills (Horton, p. 105). Do activities require learners to discern, parse, decipher, examine, prove, synthesize, organize, debate, evaluate, condense, refine, and elaborate. Learners apply knowledge through Do activities (Horton).

The following Do-type activities are presented in this section (Horton, p. 105-166; University of Maryland University College, “Teaching/Learning Activities;” Illinois Online Network, “Instructional Strategies for Online Courses;” Carnegie Mellon, “Identify Appropriate Instructional Strategies”):

Connect Activities

Connect activities help students apply learning to new situations they will encounter in the workplace and in their personal lives. “Connect activities bridge gaps by tying together previously learned skills and knowledge” (Horton, p. 167). The learner will gain higher-level knowledge and skills through connect activities. To determine if an activity is a Connect-type, it must “link” to and require previous knowledge or cue application of learning. Reflection and ill-structured real world problems are common Connect-type activities.


The following Connect-type activities are presented in this section (Horton, p. 167-214; University of Maryland University College, “Teaching/Learning Activities;” Jonassen, 2011):