Active Learning Grants

Active Learning Grants

Application Deadline: Monday, February 26, 2024

Do you have an idea for a teaching strategy to enhance student learning? The Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education is pleased to offer instructional development grants of $1,500 for courses taught in the coming academic year. Offered through the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL), each grant will be awarded for the implementation of a teaching strategy that engages students more actively in learning. Bloomington campus full-time faculty are eligible for these awards. Team-taught courses are eligible to receive one grant for a total of $1,500.

Active Learning Grants will be awarded for course development plans that encourage greater student engagement and offer the opportunity for transformative learning experiences. Examples of active learning methods include, but are not limited to: using a student response system (clickers), using team-based or problem-based learning, introducing group work or small-group exercises, analyzing case studies, and employing peer review in class.


To apply, please submit the following:

  • a completed application form
  • a current course syllabus (unless you will be designing a new course)
  • a 100-word abstract of the project
  • a letter of support from your department chair or dean

All application materials, including recommendation letters, must be received by February 26, 2024, 11:59 pm to be considered. Submit all materials as one file via email to

Strong active learning project proposals will:

  • Address an identified instructional need or opportunity via creative active learning strategies.
  • Explain how students will be more engaged in disciplinary content.
  • Assess the impact of the project on undergraduate student learning. 
  • Incorporate reflection on the effectiveness of the innovation after implementation.
  • Involve a plan for sharing results of the project in the department or school.
  • Include a letter from the department chair or dean that endorses the project and certifies that the applicant will teach the course twice in the following three academic years.

As a part of the process of developing course innovations, grant recipients will be expected to:

  • Devote two weeks or more of full-time effort to their projects in the summer for a course to be taught twice in the next three years.
  • Deliver a short written report for web publication and/or an oral presentation—for interested faculty and staff—outlining the implementation and evaluation of the project within a calendar year of the fellowship period.

Please note: Funds will be distributed into a research account.

Virginia Hojas Carbonell
Spanish and Portuguese

Students in our Spanish language classes are asked to engage with the material prior to class, completing activities online in our homework platform, graded for completion. However, we still find the need to spend a big portion of our classes explicitly presenting the grammar they reviewed before class with those activities. With this PlayPosit project, students will watch grammar presentations and/or content videos that use the grammar in context in Spanish. They will then interact with the video content (using the Play Posit quizzing tools) to show understanding at specific points in the video before moving on to the next section. It is my hope that these videos will free up valuable class time that we can use to practice the language in context after a brief review of the grammar.

With this project, students will be exposed to the content that will be covered in class in a way that will require their full attention. In addition, it will develop their critical thinking skills as they are asked to infer rules based on examples given (in context) and make decisions based on what the watch. It is also my hope that this project will help students take more charge of their learning, helping them become self-regulated students who do not depend on all the information coming from their instructor.

Minjeong Kang

MSCH-H310 Honors seminar in power, inclusion, and organizational communication: In this new undergraduate honors seminar course, students will examine organizational communication as a dialogic vehicle for forging a decentralized, pluralistic, and inclusive organizational culture. Students will engage with current issues that many organizations face for problem-solving recommendations. Problem-based learning is an instructional method where relevant problems are introduced at the beginning of the instruction cycle and used to provide the context and motivation for learning. I plan to rely on the discussion as the core strategy for problem-based learning, with which understanding from assigned readings informs critical inquiries for students to explore, question, and evaluate each other’s approach to problem-solving. The problem-based teamwork and class discussion will follow the sequences of strategic communication intervention sequence. The sequence starts with core-problem identification; gaining insights from the readings and discussions; and brainstorming solutions/recommendations as informed by organizational communication and organizational psychology theories, and ends with providing a policy memo or executive summary with actionable recommendations.

Joe Packowski
Kelley School of Business

BUS-T-275 (Compass 2: The Candidate - Strategic Recruiting Preparedness)
BUS-T-276 (Honors Compass 2: The Candidate - Strategic Recruiting Preparedness)
This Active Learning Grant (ALG) will support the incorporation of multiple classroom assessment techniques (CAT’s) to foster an inclusive, welcoming, and participative environment where students prioritize learning over grading; specifically, strategic CAT’s will be deployed - including, but not limited to, pre/post quizzes, mid-semester student feedback, in-class polling, PlayPosit, CatchBox, and other creative in-class engagement activities. An emphasis will be on the three basic stages of memory processing: 1) Encoding - forming new memories 2) Storage - information maintenance and 3) Retrieval - gaining access to stored knowledge. Through these CAT’s, qualified/quantified data captured will be converted to insights to support evidence-based pedagogical enhancements to drive total stakeholder engagement and learning. Additionally, Packowski will leverage this ALG to further support the student’s awareness, demonstration, and future application of learnings aligned to the course goals to aid students in becoming more marketable, memorable, and differentiating with the competitive job search process and recruiting seasons. Lastly, Packowski will leverage Specifications Grading (Specs Grading) – a system that allows students to be in the driver’s seat of their education and invest in the course accordingly. Specs Grading has three primary goals: 1) restoring rigor 2) motivating students and 3) saving faculty time. The end goal of this ALG is to show the positive relationships within strategic course design, CAT’s, and Specs Grading – with students prioritizing learning over grading and applying their experiences sustainably - academically, personally, and professionally.

Erin Cooperman,
Applied Health Science

Jared Allsop
Department of Health & Wellness Design
SPH-Y 565 Social Psychology of Recreational Therapy
This course is a recently revised and updated course, first offered during the Fall 2021 semester. It is an online course. The IU RT MS program is a distance learning program, and all courses are online. After implementing this course, I quickly learned that after two years of a global pandemic, traditional online classes do not cut it. Students are tired of long online lectures. They feel isolated and lonely going through our program. In a recent survey of the IU RT MS students, they identified that they wanted to feel more like a cohort and wanted more face-to-face interactions with the RT faculty.  This project will incorporate active learning into the course through a case study approach, in order to help increase student engagement and develop a connection with their peers.

Katie Metz
Department of Accounting
BUS-A 271 Global Business Analysis: Financial Reporting is a core introductory level accounting elective. In this project, I propose addressing instructional opportunities through active learning strategies in two ways: (1) framing course content to address specific areas of the world where students express the most interest, and (2) developing a problem-based learning approach to foster an immersive skill development experience.

Sibel Crum
Department of Central Eurasian Studies
Online Microlearning for Active Learner Involvement
An online microlearning strategy will be used when engaging L2 learners with life topics that are proven to accelerate the L2 acquisition. Selected STEM topics will be introduced in small chunks to reduce the cognitive overload, and three types of online interaction will be used: student-to-student, student-to-content, and student-to-teacher. All the bite-size designed active learning opportunities (discussions, debates, interactive videos, peer readings, and role plays) will encourage learners to use higher order skills, such as visualization, problem solving, and critical (analytical) thinking in a short modular format.

Robert Dobler
Department of Folklore & Ethnomusicology
FOLK-F141: Urban Legend  is offered every Fall by the Department of Folklore & Ethnomusicology and focuses on urban legends—narratives told about shocking, creepy, gross, or humorous events that may or may not have actually occurred—as folk expressions central to the formation and maintenance of social and cultural identity. I would like to implement a computer mapping component to this course that would take students from basic content analysis into a richer understanding of the multiple ways legends function in the specific backdrops of social life and local history at the IU campus, Bloomington, and the surrounding area. 

Jennifer Terrell, Senior Lecturer, and Chase McCoy, Lecturer

Informatics Department

Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering

Project: Online Collaborative Whiteboarding in Face-to-Face Instruction

Class: INFO I-202 Introduction to Social Informatics

A return to in-person instruction offers Info-I202: Introduction to Social Informatics an opportunity to improve upon our in-person active learning sections through the use of Miro, an online collaborative whiteboard tool. Our pilot use of Miro within the context of remote learning during the spring 2021 semester has yielded promising results for fostering active student engagement in ways that provide students with “hands-on” activities to engage with theoretical content. In this project, we will examine the use of Miro within the face-to-face classroom environment because this tool has affordances that allow for exercises and activities that are difficult to facilitate using existing technology (such as smart whiteboards) in face-to-face classrooms. This type of whiteboarding can offer infinite space in which to construct boards, can be easily duplicated, reproduced, preserved for future reference, and distributed to students. This tool will help us continue to iterate on active learning course design. We are hopeful that utilizing Miro will improve some of the course’s historical problems with student engagement in face-to-face discussion sections.


Paul Coates, Core Lecturer

Department of Spanish and Portuguese

Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies

Project: Alternative Avenues of Assessment to Increase Participation, Motivation, and Student Buy-in

Class: HISP S-250 Hutton Honors College section

The intent of this project is to develop and implement alternative avenues of assessment that do not include high-stakes evaluations in order to increase participation, motivation, and student buy-in. The traditional exams will be replaced with in-class quizzes that are of a communicative nature, allowing students the freedom to showcase what they know without being bound by too much context, which will also challenge them to think more critically about how to respond to various situations without the pressure of a high-stakes grade. Similarly, in place of the traditional essay, there will be shorter written assignments that are applied to real-life tasks (such as writing a cover letter for a job), coupled with structured peer review, where most effective.

Revision Clinics: Active-Learning Strategies for Teaching Revision

Dana Cattani and Miranda Yaggi-Rodak

This project will make visible the underlying principles of revision: clarity, coherence, and conciseness. A sequence of increasingly-complex activities will require students not only to talk and debate with peers but also to get out of their seats and engage their senses. The activities will bridge the high-tech and the low-tech, drawing on resources from GoogleDocs, Grammarly, and Zoom to scissors, markers, and giant sticky notes. Using real business scenarios, students will collaborate to recognize and improve under-performing sentences or paragraphs and to demonstrate growing competence as autonomous editors.


Interaction Portfolio

Piibi-Kai Kivik and Elisa Rasanen

Our active learning project aims to encourage foreign language learners’ independent language use in the IU Finnish and Estonian programs. We will develop a course-long assignment, an “independent user portfolio.” The students will keep track of and actively process their language use and learning outside of class (“in the wild”), utilizing technology and online resources. The portfolio will also serve as a formative assessment tool and provide us as instructors with information about our students´ real-life target language needs, leading to enhanced teaching and materials.​


The Flipped Arts Management Classroom and Community Engagement Program Design

Ursula M. Kuhar

Kuhar teaches SPEA-A241/V450: Community Engagement in the Arts, a course that studies the activities undertaken by arts and cultural organizations as part of mission strategy, designed to build robust relationships with the communities they serve, for mutual benefit.  To help student arts managers prepare for entry into professional practice, the course will be flipped halfway through the semester. During this time, students will scrutinize sophisticated case studies and work in groups to design a community engagement program for an arts organization using Americans for the Arts’ Animating Democracy methodologies. Students will also participate in masterclasses/consultations with leaders in the field who will provide feedback on these projects. This opportunity will grant students a great sense of agency as they lead and transform their learning experience.


Development of ASURE laboratory on Bacterial Antibiotic Resistance

Nancy Magill

This project will involve developing a new track for the ASURE (Arts and Science Undergraduate Research Experience) program on campus; taught on campus in the spring of 2020 for the first time.  The lab class will focus on antibiotic resistant bacteria from the non-clinical environment.  Over the course of the first semester, students will isolate bacteria, examine the antibiotic resistance patterns, identify the bacteria, and then use PCR to identify the genes responsible for that resistance.  Further, the students will be working in teams and will be obtaining and analyzing data, writing proposals, and presenting their findings as a team.  A major focus will be on how well they work as a team including assessing each other.

Yingling Bao, Senior Lecturer, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, C320 Business Chinese
Developing Students’ Intercultural Communication Competence Through Problem Solving
This project aims to develop student competence with intercultural communication through the use of interactive modules focused on business culture in China. Each module will incorporate a problem-solving model focused on commonly occurring miscommunication through the use of a flipped classroom. Course content will be updated to incorporate group work, class discussion, and collaboration to focus on business culture in China.


Deb Getz, Clinical Assistant Professor, Applied Health Science/School of Public Health, L102 Personal Leadership Development
Personal Leadership Skills to Support Student Success
Strong personal leadership skills are a critical aspect of success in college, and in life. This course focuses on key personal leadership skills including intellectual and practical skills, personal and social responsibility, and leadership dynamics. The course is based on the American Association of Colleges and Universities Essential Learning Outcomes (2018) engaging students with readings, videos, and activities to reflect, build, and apply the skills needed to support their success. Intended modifications will update the activities to reflect current issues, and build more pertinent discussion points to apply to our ever-changing culture.


Virginia Hojas Carbonell, Senior Lecturer, Spanish & Portuguese, S250 Honors Intermediate Spanish II
Developing Self-regulation Through Peer Editing
This past year, Virginia has been focusing on developing peer-editing skills in her S250 Honors class as a tool for self-regulation and learning. With this grant, she will work on creating self-reflection documents to use after each peer-edit, in which students will answer specific questions related to their peers’ comments and state how their next draft will be affected by their peers’ comments and feedback, including specific examples. In addition, she will re-design some of her current peer-editing documents to gradually move students away from relying entirely on their instructor’s feedback for some of the categories. She will also be collecting feedback regularly to evaluate students’ perceptions and progress regarding peer feedback.


Sandra Ortiz, Senior Lecturer, Spanish and Portuguese, S200 Honors Intermediate Spanish
Active Learning as a Tool to Increase Cultural Awareness
In this class students will draw cultural parallelisms and differences between Hispanic countries and the United States by working on different group projects. There will be a variety of cultural topics addressed during the semester based on their S200 textbook. For their projects students will conduct their own research about the cultural topic at hand and will share their findings with their groups to create a final report that will be presented to the whole class. Students will participate in class discussions and will receive feedback from me and their classmates during the creation of their projects.

Mary Embry, Senior Lecturer, School of Arts, Architecture + Design
F203: Materials for Fashion Design
Materials for Fashion Design is a foundational large flipped course, using in class time to work on assignments that review recorded lectures viewed outside of class.  This grant supports the implementation of student response system technology for in class assignments, leaving time within the classroom for hands on group activities with a swatch kit of materials.


Steph De Boer, Associate Professor, The Media School
Global Media Infrastructures: From Undersea Cables to Local Itineraries
This project revises the assignments for my course, “Global Media Infrastructures: From Undersea Cables to Local Itineraries.”  It does so to better emphasize the significance of case-based analysis, as well as develop and utilize mapping tools (from analogue to digital) to enable students to discover, analyze, and convey the global to local scaled relationships that form these instances of media infrastructure.  In so doing, students will better contextualize as well as more forcefully and critically convey the dynamics of power, control, and access at play in particular instances of media infrastructure.  


J Duncan, Senior Lecturer and Erick Lee, Lecturer, Informatics
Debugging as an Active Learning Tool: Participating in Programming
Our project focuses on I210, a skills-based introductory programming class in Python. We examine a piece of the programming process where students often under-perform, and seek to enhance group performance. When the student typing encounters an error in their code, communicating this to other group members should increase the chances for the other group members to contribute, participate in the process, and increase their own understanding. By implementing this process in some sections but not others, we plan to compare performance to see if there is a measurable difference in student outcomes.


Virginia Hojas Carbonell, Senior Lecturer
S250 Intermediate Spanish II
Virginia will be working on developing peer-editing skills in her S250 Honors class as a tool for self-regulation and learning. In this class, students will work on creating a semester-long project broken into smaller assignments, for which they will provide each other with feedback to submit several drafts. She will also be collecting feedback regularly to evaluate students’ perceptions and progress regarding peer feedback.

Erik Willis, Associate Professor, Department of Spanish and Portuguese
S425 Spanish Phonetics
Willis will use his grant to address challenges in his Spanish Phonetics course, S425. Specifically, students in this course face a lack of immediate feedback on pronunciation mistakes, as well as authentic native Spanish listening practice that is communicatively meaningful. Willis plans to address these challenges by developing peer-to-peer video-call activities between IU students and native Spanish speaking students in the Dominican Republic and possibly in Mexico. He conducted a pilot of this activity using “video-pronunciation pals” from the Dominican Republic, and found that it was in general a great success. To enhance this activity, Willis will develop specific exercises for the IU students and their video-pronunciation pals to engage in, improve their Spanish language skills through authentic listening and speaking.

Kelly Benham French and Joseph Coleman, Professors of Practice, the Media School
MSCH-C 225
French and Coleman will split an award to work on redesigning the foundational reporting and writing course in the Media School, MSCH-C 225. They will update this large course, which is required for journalism and public relations tracks in the Media School, with modern newsroom practices and more time for active learning. The revised course will include a single large lecture each week (with lectures on basic content, guest speakers, classroom assessment techniques, and team-based learning), as well as lab time in which students can do hands-on writing and reporting exercises under the supervision of their instructors.

Gretchen Horlacher, Professor of Music Theory, Jacobs School of Music
MUS-T 351 Music Theory and Literature V
Horlacher teaches MUS-T 351 Music Theory and Literature V, the last in a series of music theory courses required for all music majors. The challenge she will address with her Active Learning Grant concerns the music students are required to listen to for the course, which consists of long, highly individual pieces that are usually unfamiliar to students and often not well liked. To help students focus on the important aspects of each piece as they prepare for each class session, Horlacher will create “just-in-time” activities to encourage students to listen carefully and to prepare them for more complex analysis in class. Students will do these exercises online, on a Canvas platform, and will also be able to express their opinions of particular pieces and to respond to others’ opinions.

Brandon Howell, Lecturer, School of Public Health
T302 Management of Food and Beverage Operations
Howell will be designing a new course, T302 Management of Food and Beverage Operations, for majors in the department of Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Studies in the School of Public Health. Because of the specialized content of this course, students need to take a hands-on, active approach as much as possible. To enable this for his students, Howell will adopt a service-learning approach in which students in his course will be assigned to individual restaurant establishments on the IUB campus, in collaboration with Residential Programs and Services. By observing and helping to solve operational issues in these locations, the students will gain valuable practitioner-based skills in a “lab” environment.

Cody Kirkpatrick, Lecturer, Geological Sciences
GEOL-G144 Extreme Weather and Its Impacts
Kirkpatrick will use his grant to revise his GEOL-G144 Extreme Weather and Its Impacts course, a staple of the new atmospheric science degree track that is also being considered as part of the General Education curriculum. Kirkpatrick plans to refine and formalize some informal, in-class “mini-lab” activities and to develop better explanations of how the activities relate to the course’s other assessments (homework and exams). The in-class student activities he will work on include using an online “tornado warning simulator” program; using weather maps to identify regions of wildfire danger; predicting where tornados will develop on a major severe weather day; inferring hurricane strength from weather satellite imagery; and forecasting the type of winter precipitation. Through these exercises, students will be able to experience science as science is practiced—as a collaborative, interactive process of analyzing information and data about current and recent events. 

Peter Nemes, Lecturer, International Studies
INTL-I100 Introduction to International Studies
This course is taught in the Collaborative Learning Studio (SB 015) in the Student Building, which lends itself to group work and collaborative projects. Nemes will take advantage of the classroom by developing learning units in which an overarching issue relating to international studies (language, identity, religion, conflict, human rights, health, development) is explored in detail through the use of regional case studies. The success of these case studies depends on clear instructions, a strong connection to previous material, and good time management. Through these case studies, students will have an opportunity to engage in and think about the central issues of this discipline while developing critical thinking skills that will aid them not only in other International Studies courses but in other disciplines, as well. 

Jo Anna Shimek, Clinical Assistant Professor, School of Public Health
SPH-V351 Foundations of Environmental Health
Shimek will use her grant to develop a new course, which will be required for students seeking a degree in the School of Public Health. The challenge in this course is to help students understand environmental health issues as they relate to the broader field of public health. To accomplish this goal, students will be introduced to a framework of core concepts in environmental health, which they will then apply to a series of scenarios and case students on specific environmental health issues. Case studies may focus on real-world issues such as the release of a chemical that contaminated the water supply of Charleston, West Virginia in 2014, as well as other topics such as indoor air pollution, lead exposure and children’s IQs, industrial pollution and asthma, and radiation exposure and melanoma. Through these activities, students will master a framework and acquire a process for analyzing other environmental health problems they might encounter. 

Rebecca Dirksen, Assistant Professor, Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology
FOLK F253 Music and Disaster
Dirksen will use her grant to adapt a course she taught at MIT to work for a larger class size when taught at IU for the first time. The course revolves around three disaster events—9/11, Katrina, and the Haiti earthquake—and addresses how music has been used for survival, hope, and healing. Music-related humanitarian efforts will also be considered, as well as how music has been used for "re-memorying" lost locations and (re)defining cultural spaces. Up to 40 students will enroll in the course, and to make sure all are actively learning, Dirksen will employ guided critical reading, class discussions and debates, individual research and analysis, peer review, and the collaborative creation of a digital humanities platform, such as a blog or website. Team-based activities will be integrated into the course, and clicker polling will also allow for increased feedback and interaction in class. All of these components will promote critical thinking and engagement by building a high degree of interactivity between students into the course plan.