"Learning is a social process that occurs through interpersonal interaction within a cooperative context. Individuals, working together, construct shared understandings and knowledge." - David Johnson, Roger Johnson and Karl Smith, Active Learning: Cooperation in the College Classroom, Edina, MN: Interaction Book Co., 1991.
"I entered the classroom with the conviction that it was crucial for me and every other student to be an active participant, not a passive consumer...[a conception of] education as the practice of freedom.... education that connects the will to know with the will to become. Learning is a place where paradise can be created." - Bell Hooks, Teaching to Transgress, NY: Routledge, 1994.
Instructors using the Confer classroom have found many activities that support learning objectives in this specific online environment, away from the face-to-face classroom. Some even contend that participation is greater in this milieu because all students have an equal opportunity to participate (as my friend Donna Eyestone says, "Every student has a front-row seat") and share ideas.
Robin Rogers Cloud observes that all students in her online class participate in discussions, much more so than do those in her face-to-face classes. She thinks there are less social barriers to participation in the online classroom.
Michael McKeever uses breakout rooms to get his online students to work together on multiple pieces of equipment in his virtual lab.
Irene Palacios actually allows students to have moderator privileges so that she can elicit their participation and give them real-time math instruction and constructive criticism.
Larry Green had to adjust his communication preferences to get participation from his math students: although talking was not popular in his Confer classroom, chatting was a big hit.
The best Confer classrooms are not lecture halls. They're places where students are free to participate in their own learning and to make discoveries through active interaction with content, the instructor, and one another.