You may be thinking, "What could we possibly do in an eLearning environment?!" There are numerous synchronous and asynchronous activities that can be used in the eLearning environment. The activities are separated by those two notions. True, teaching an eLearning course requires some additional planning due to the online status. external image lib003046.jpgHowever, here you will find activities that can be used to help make your eLearning course more interesting and worthwhile for the participants. Having a variety of strategies and online activities is important because your students' motivation and participatory level will directly affect their learning.

Motivational & Icebreaker Activities

The purpose of icebreakers is to get to know each other in order to build a sense of community. When starting an elearning class, it is a good idea to include an icebreaker activity. This also motivates students to participate in future classes. Below is a sampling of activities, but for more detailed information, please visit our icebreaker page.

Synchronous Activities

  • Interview a Classmate: this could be done either synchronously (via text/audio chat between participants in 'breakout' rooms) or asynchronously (e-mailing the partner ahead of time with the interview questions). The introductions would be best synchronously so that everyone could get to know the other participants at one time because after the interview, the partners would introduce each other to the class
  • Play Tag: during a synchronous meeting time, this could be used to get to know each other or to take turns responding to questions. One student would respond to the question and then 'tag' another student to answer. This would continue until all students have had the opportunity to share their answer with the group. Facilitators could keep track of who has had a turn and (if possible) make note of this on the 'white board' that all participants see during the session.
  • **Forum Games**: allow users to interact and get to know each other by playing an online game, some games include Photoshop Tennis, Hangman, word associations, and more.

Asynchronous Activities

  • Survey: complete a survey that the facilitator or teacher sends out and share results with class through a blog, discussion board, or email

Independent Activities

The following activities could be completed independently on the learner's own time away from class time. Asynchronous activities would be best suited for activities where the students work by themselves.

Asynchronous Activities

  • Digital/email Chain Letters: students send email messages hoping to receive one back in return. Digital chain letters emerged from the older system of sending chain letters sent through the mail system. If you would like to see how to set up a digital chain letter try this chain letter experiment. Please use caution when setting up a chain letter with classmates. Remind students to use proper netequitte.
  • Interview an Expert: could occur synchronously or asynchronously depending on the purpose of the interview.
  • Surveys: gather information or feedback through an online survey. Some popular programs are advanced surveys, supersurvey , surveymonkey
  • Computer Simulations: a computer program that tries to simulate a model to provide learning experiences for the learners.

Partner Activities

Synchronous Activities

  • Role Playing: an activity where the partners assume roles gain a better understanding of concept or topic from another point of view, this can occur in a chat format

Asynchronous Activities

  • Peer Editing/Peer Evaluations: this could occur when classmates give feedback on papers, projects, or other assignments. Partners could give feedback through track changes in Microsoft word, email, blogs, or discussion boards depending on the assignment and the purpose.

Team/Group Activities

The following activities could be completed in a small group or team. Again, the method which you choose to use would depend on your desired outcome. Many times individual students would first respond and then bring their responses back to the small group.

Synchronous Activities

  • Online Study Groups: this could occur when students are preparing for an assessment and peer feedback is important, classmates could meet through instant messenger or over Skype.

Asynchronous Activities

  • Collaborative Concept Mapping: a way to organize information with the use of technology. There are many types of graphic organizer programs available such as Mind Manager and Cmap Tools to help groups of people, think, plan, and create a plan to further their ideas. Several concept mapping tools are free to download.

Whole Class Activities

Below you will find activities that are appropriate for the whole group. Of course, there is usually an independent assignment that needs to be completed prior to the whole group coming together to discuss the topic.

Synchronous Activities

  • Guest Speakers: invite outside guests and/or experts to teach and lecture about a topic, or for participants to interview about a topic. This can be done via teleconferencing or through another synchronous chat program. A web cam would be helpful for students to get a visual picture of the speaker.
  • Muddiest Point Exercise: In such an exercise, at strategic points during a class, the instructor asks the students to take 2 minutes to write about the "point or concept that is the muddiest (most confusing) to them". The students then submit their muddiest points. This often prompts the students to ask questions on the spot, and it also gives the instructor a set of answers to review during or after class. The information can help the instructor decide what class activities to undertake next.
  • Discussion Summary: participants summarize what they learned about the topic presented
  • Games, and Simulations: these activities can be used review a concept or used in a way to teach something new. Many students learn best by doing, so playing games is not only fun, but also a hands-on way to learn. This link is from a symposium held in February 2006. It has information about the benefits of using simulations and games in e-learning environments.

Asynchronous Activities

  • Structured Controversies/Debates: given an assigned reading, students can debate the opposing sides via audio or text chat. Depending on the size of the class, breakout groups could be formed to allow for easier participation or deeper discussions in smaller groups.
  • Telling a Story: personal connections make learning more powerful, and everyone is able to learn from the experiences of others.
  • Discussion Summaries: review a concept by asking students to retell the main idea. Can be used to begin or end an online session.
  • **Critical Incidents**: a situation/event where a person experiences a problem and others have to learn from or cope with the problem in hopes of developing empathy or personal growth.
  • Scenarios & Case Studies: factual or hypothetical situations where participants read or listen to a topic of interest


Check out the following resources for more information on activities for e-learning classes.

Ko, Susan & Rossen Steve. Teaching Online: A Practical Guide (2004).

Online courses offered through University of Wisconsin - Stout for K-12 Educators

Making Sparks Fly in Online Discussions