Collaborative Learning using Answer Garden Active Learning - Active Learning

Last updated on 15/06/2020

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Collaborative Learning using Answer Garden


This simple activity involves students brainstorming and collaborating over a topic question or statement. Their collective responses are displayed in a word cloud generated via Answer Garden.

How to implement the strategy

Pre-session preparation 
1. Prepare a question or statement about the topic of learning for the session.   
2. Type the question or statement into Answer Garden
3. Save the link generated by Answer Garden that is specific to your question. 
4. Ensure you have a copy of the question or statement and the Answer Garden link ready for display as part of the lesson’s resources (this could be a slide or a post).  

During the session 
1. Divide the class into groups of 3-4 students. 
2. Ensure each group has at least one person with access to a mobile learning device such as a laptop, tablet or mobile phone.   
3. Display the question or statement and Answer Garden link you have prepared. 
4. Encourage students to brainstorm responses in their small groups and post their preferred answer(s) via the link.  
5. The activity should be complete in around 5 minutes, giving you enough time to walk around the room listening to conversations and brainstorming.   

The purpose of the strategy

This very simple activity is a good way of encouraging students to develop their understanding, test assumptions and learn from their peers.  It provides an opportunity for quieter students to participate as part of a wider group activity. 

Responses generated by students can be used to: 

  • Gauge students’ understanding and opinions on specific subject matter.  This is particularly relevant at the beginning of a new topic.  Identifying students’ preconceived ideas enables you to tailor the session and better meet learners’ needs.  Your question may start with “What do you understand by/about .....?” 
  • Students also have a visual representation of their peers’ ideas and can evaluate their own viewpoints.  
  • Generate a segue into the rest of the session or you can refer to the Answer Garden responses periodically, reinforcing the value of students’ participation in the activity and their knowledge.

Read More

Pre session activity. This activity can be used to encourage students to complete readings or generate discussion before they come to class.  Give students a deadline to enter responses.  The word cloud generated can be used to start discussion during the session.  

Online adaptation.  Divide groups into break-out rooms during a Collaborate session.  Hover between rooms to listen to students’ discussions.  

Conclusion of Session.  Students can work collaboratively at the end of the session to post the key ideas they have learned.   

The opportunities for collaborative learning with this activity are endless.  Consider how students can apply Answer Garden to give peer feedback.  

Further Reading

Navigate the Tech Echo System via Explore Learning and Teaching (ExLNT) to find more on the technical aspects of implementing Answer Garden. 

Cohn, R. J., & Plack, M. M. (2017). A cloud with a silver lining: Helping students learn about professionalism. Teaching and Learning in Medicine, 29(3), 304-312. doi:10.1080/10401334.2016.1274658 

This paper discusses the use of word cloud technology to engage students in reflective practice around the topic of professionalism.  The authors describe how word clouds were incorporated to resolve a pedagogical challenge and actively engage students in learning.  The value in this article is the long-term use of the activity (semesters 1 and 7) and the lessons learned.  

Miley, F., & Read, A. (2011). Using word clouds to develop proactive learners. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 11(2), 91. 

In this paper the authors describe the learners’ approach to word clouds based on Kolb’s learning styles.  It is an interesting read and may offer insights to how students learn with actively with technology.  

The learning focus of the strategy

  • Collaborative Learning

Technology that can be used to enhance the strategy

Answer Garden

Navigate the Tech Echo System via Explore Learning and Teaching (ExLNT) to find more on the technical aspects of implementing Answer Garden. 

Class size that is suitable for the strategy

  • 100+ students
  • 20 - 50 students
  • 50+ students
  • < 20 students

Activity group size

  • Pairs
  • Small group < 10

Year level in which the strategy is often used

  • First year
  • Post graduate
  • Second year
  • Third Year+

Discipline area (Academic Group) in which the strategy is often used

  • Arts Education and Law
  • Griffith Business School
  • Griffith Health
  • Griffith Sciences
  • Other Group

Phase of the learning and teaching session in which the strategy will be used

  • Conclusion to the session
  • Introduction to session
  • Main phase of the session
  • Pre-session

Preparation time for the strategy

  • Less than 10 minutes

Duration of the strategy

  • Less than 10 minutes

Level of learning outcome that the strategy is designed to address

  • Analyse
  • Evaluate
  • Remember
  • Understand

Learning space appropriate for the strategy

  • Computer room
  • Lecture theatre
  • Online
  • Seminar room
  • Workshop

Preferred Citation

Learning Futures (2020). Collaborative Learning using Answer Garden. Retrieved from


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