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How to develop critical thinking in students through eLearning

Developing Critical Thinking Skills - TeacherCast Guest Blog

Critical thinking is essential to survive in today’s highly competitive world. In the times of tight deadlines, critical thinking helps people make sound and bold decisions. Phrases like, “Thinking out of the box” stem from the concept of critical and creative thinking. The quality of thinking critically is a great tool for the success of every person, regardless of their profession. Unfortunately, this quality is not promoted or taught in many educational institutions. These schools focus more on the academic and theoretical school of thought. They encourage competition and short-term success in the classroom which lead students to rely on their memory to learn new concepts and ideas. This outlook has made many students rigid and archaic in their approach. They hardly take any risks or use creative and innovative techniques to do a task. This method turns the people into mere workers, and not innovators.

Fortunately, technology has enabled teachers to innovate and help students in various ways.  The teachers have the liberty to incorporate tools and techniques in their eLearning modules which make the students think critically.  With the many qualities the eLearning platform already has, for example, it’s flexibility, interactivity, and round-the-clock availability, it makes for a perfect platform to incorporate creative and critical thinking.

eLearning teachers should use the following methods to develop critical thinking in students and help make the world a better place by creating true innovators and world leaders.

Develop a Measurement Technique

You can't improve something which can't be measured. Thus, the first step of developing a course that inculcates critical thinking is to develop a measurement style which can gauge the progress of students. You may start your course with an aptitude test focussed on testing a particular school of thought (and not technical concepts). At the end of the course, you may have a similar test which also includes certain concepts which are not taught in the course. If the students' approach to learning improves along with the course, then they would attempt the questions which are not taught in the classroom. Of course, you need to be more precise in measuring the effect of your course on students.

Teach Practical Examples and Situations and not Theories

Creating courses based on just theories and concepts is one of the major mistakes a run-of-the-mill educational institution makes. This is the reason why you will see students constantly complain about the mundane and boring nature of their studies. While teaching concepts and theories are necessary, how you teach them makes a world of a difference. Having a comprehensive and practical approach is an excellent way to make your courses interesting and informative. For example, if you want to teach your students about a mathematical concept, figure out a way to demonstrate how that particular concept works in the real world. Tell them about its relevance in the world of science without being too technical. Create slides exclusively for the practical outcomes of the theoretical concepts. It will help generate interest, resulting in better retention, and will also improve their practical thinking abilities.

Challenge Learners

To foster a great mind, challenges are a must. The real world is full of challenges, from the everyday life to the professional life. It is high time educational courses are equipped with good mind challenging activities to shape the students’ minds for the future. Based on the course you are providing, create interesting and comprehensive quizzes, puzzles, questionnaires, etc. Don’t be straightforward and banal in formulating the questions. Twist them to incorporate everyday life situations with practical implications. This will give them the ability to apply the concepts and theories from the books to the real world. It will also foster their ability of critical decision making.

Promote Individuality

While creating an eLearning course, you need to respect the fact that each individual is different, and they have their unique learning methods. Create a personalized eLearning course that best fits your students’ learning needs. In addition to creating different learning techniques, namely, audio, visual and verbal learning methods, make sure that you also promote their individuality by other means. Learn about your students using social media metrics and customize your course accordingly. Choose design templates, quizzes, and questionnaires based on their individuality. This will give them a lot of confidence, and help them in shaping a truly unique personality.

Instill Creativity

Creativity is a crucial component of critical thinking. It helps in making efficient and out of the box decisions in all professions. Use creative teaching methods and designs to make the students follow by example. Be creative in your own approach, the creativity in your students will flow naturally.  Give interesting and simple examples to complicated and theoretical concepts. Use engaging and creative videos to explain difficult theories simply and effectively. Put creativity as a priority while designing the course.

Ask relevant questions at the beginning of a course and give some buffer time to students to think about the same. Lead the courses in a way that it answers one question at a time.


There is no fixed formula to ensure that students think critically while learning a concept. You have to experiment with various ideas and take feedback from the students. The tips mentioned above will help you move in the right direction. However, with time you need to do much more and engage your target audience effectively to generate desired results.

Adela Belin is a private educator and online tutor. She shares her teaching experience with colleagues, students, and writers.

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