UW Continuum College Instructor Resources

Designing Purposeful and Engaging Activities

Adults learn more when they participate in the process of learning, whether it’s through discussion, practice, review, or application. More traditional styles of teaching, where students are expected to sit for three hours, listening and absorbing dense information have often received mixed reviews by our students. In contrast, UW PCE instructors who have utilized strategies such as, problem-based learning, project based learning, and cooperative learning tend to see more positive results. Below are descriptions and video clips illustrating three types of strategies for your consideration.

Cooperative Learning

Teaching approach in which small teams use a variety of learning activities to improve their understanding of a subject.


  • Tasks are open-ended and involve higher order thinking
  • Peers challenge one another’s thinking
  • Students are awarded as a group not individually


Cooperative Learning: Students Working in Small Groups (pdf)

Changing a course from lecture format to cooperative learning (pdf)

Video Resources

Cooperative Learning in Action

What is Cooperative Learning?


Problem-based Learning

Teaching approach that challenges students through the process of solving situations based on real world industry problems. Can be done individually or in groups.


Students engaged in problem-based learning:

  • Utilize their prior knowledge
  • Acquire analytical skills
  • Acquire domain knowledge

Video Resources

Problem based learning

MUSM Problem Based Learning

Project-based Learning

Teaching approach that engages students in learning knowledge and skills through an extended inquiry process. Can be done individually or in groups.


  • Focus on the creation of a product
  • Authentic industry problem or setting
  • Duration is weeks or months

As you think of integrating active learning strategies into your course, consider ways to set clear expectations, design effective evaluation strategies, and provide helpful feedback.