7 innovative teaching methods for modern higher education

Step into the future of teaching: Uncover 7 groundbreaking methods that are reshaping higher education and inspiring a new generation of learners.
April 2, 2024
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Change is the only constant and higher education has undergone some fairly significant changes in recent years. From shifts in enrollment patterns to hybrid learning models, the landscape has evolved dramatically, presenting both challenges and opportunities for educators. 

Underneath these shifts, a vibrant undercurrent of innovation is reshaping education, motivated by the desire among students to learn that bridges academic theory and real-life application. 

Many higher education institutions and visionary educators are taking on this challenge, introducing new methods of learning that not only captivate and engage students, but also boost educational learning outcomes. They are employing a suite of innovative teaching methods designed to equip students with the critical, real-world skills they need to thrive in a rapidly changing professional landscape. Here are seven of the most innovative methods they are using.


1. Project-based learning

Project-based learning (PBL) is an instructional approach where students engage in hands-on projects to solve real-world problems or address complex questions. It represents a shift towards more engaged, relevant education that prepares students for the challenges and opportunities of the future.

Unlike traditional lecture-based instructional methods, PBL focuses on student-centered learning, teaching essential workplace skills that are highly sought out by employers in virtually all industries such as:

  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Creativity
  • Innovation
  • Problem-solving
  • Adaptability

By immersing students in authentic, real-world real-world projects, they engage in a kind of deep, reflective learning that compels them to navigate through ambiguity, research and synthesize information, and develop solutions to intricate problems. This sharpens their abilities and equips them with the resilience needed in today's job market.

To integrate project-based learning effectively in higher education curricula, educators should follow essential design elements:

  • Collaborate with industry partners to identify current, real-world problems relevant to the course content.
  • Design projects with clear, measurable learning outcomes.
  • Incorporate interdisciplinary learning.
  • Ensure students have access to the necessary resources and support, including guidance from faculty, access to industry experts, and the right tools and technology.
  • Provide students with an opportunity to reflect and evaluate their work.

2. Flipped classrooms

In the flipped classroom model, content delivery and homework are reversed from the traditional order. Instead of using class time to deliver lectures and assign students independent homework, the flipped classroom model introduces students to new content before class through pre-class activities while class time is used to participate in interactive, application-based learning activities.

In the flipped model, the primary mode of learning switches from passive to active. This shift enables a more personalized learning experience, as instructors can spend more class time addressing students' specific needs, questions, and challenges. It also: 

Effectively integrating flipped classrooms into higher education requires careful planning and consideration. Here are some strategies for educators looking to adopt this model:

  • Create engaging pre-class materials that are designed to introduce key concepts and prepare students for in-class activities, such as video lectures, podcasts, and reading assignments.
  • Use class time for activities that build on pre-class assignments and encourage active learning, such as discussions, debates, problem-solving exercises, and hands-on projects.
  • Provide clear instructions and expectations.
  • Leverage educational technology tools, such as learning management systems for distributing materials, online discussion boards for pre-class engagement, and interactive software, to facilitate the flipped classroom model.
  • Gather feedback and adjust.

3. Inquiry-based learning

Inquiry-based learning (IBL) is an educational strategy that prioritizes the student's role in the learning process, encouraging them to explore, ask questions, and share ideas, thus driving their own learning experiences. This approach is rooted in constructivism, a theory that people construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world, through experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences. 

IBL focuses on the learner's curiosity and initiative, using questions, problems, and scenarios as its foundation. By placing the responsibility of learning in the students' hands, it encourages:

  • Student-driven questioning 
  • Active engagement
  • Guidance for scaffolding
  • Authentic experiences 
  • Deep engagement 

This engagement is driven by their interests and questions, making the learning experience more relevant and meaningful. As students explore topics and seek answers, they develop a love for learning that extends beyond the classroom, becoming lifelong learners.

The implementation of inquiry-based learning in the classroom can have profound effects, and teachers can take actionable steps toward achieving this goal:

  • Create a culture of inquiry where questions are valued over answers, and curiosity is nurtured. 
  • Structure lessons around open-ended problems or scenarios that require research, investigation, and sense-making.
  • Engage students with problems and scenarios that are relevant to their lives and to the real world. 
  • Provide resources, guidance, and support as students navigate through their inquiries, rather than being the primary source of knowledge. 
  • Incorporate collaborative learning. 
  • Emphasize process over product.
  • Provide opportunities for reflection.

4. Collaborative learning

Collaborative learning is an educational approach that involves groups of students working together to solve a problem, complete a task, or create a product. Collaborative learning plays a critical role in developing essential life skills such as teamwork and communication. 

By working in groups, students are encouraged to articulate their ideas, listen to others, and negotiate different perspectives. This process not only strengthens their interpersonal skills but also prepares them for the collaborative nature of the modern workforce. The key benefits of collaborative learning include:

Some examples of collaborative learning include group projects, peer teaching, jigsaw method, think-pair-share, and project-based learning. When implementing collaborative learning, it is important to:

  • Provide clear instructions and expectations for group work.
  • Assign specific roles and responsibilities within each group.
  • Encourage an atmosphere of respect and support, where all ideas are valued. 
  • Offer regular feedback and opportunities for reflection.
  • Use technology to facilitate collaboration.

5. Gamification

Gamification refers to the application of game-like elements such as point scoring, competition, achievements, and rules of play into educational activities. The goal is to make learning more interactive, engaging, and enjoyable for students. 

This approach leverages the natural human propensity for play and competition as a means to:

Interactive games and simulations can provide practical experiences and problem-solving challenges in a controlled, risk-free environment, allowing students to experiment, fail, and learn from their mistakes without real-world consequences.

Incorporating gamification into course design and teaching strategies requires creativity and thoughtful integration of game elements that align with educational objectives. Here are some insights and strategies for educators:

  • Define clear objectives that align with learning goals.
  • Use points, badges, or awards to acknowledge achievements and milestones.
  • Organize the curriculum or certain topics into levels or stages that students can unlock as they progress.
  • Employ competitive elements.
  • Create a narrative or story around learning activities, making the educational journey more compelling and relatable.
  • Design activities that provide immediate feedback to deepen understanding and identify areas for improvement. 

6. Blended learning

Blended learning represents a forward-thinking approach to education, combining the best aspects of traditional and digital learning. Its hybrid nature offers a versatile and comprehensive approach to education that caters to diverse learning styles and needs.

In-person sessions can be utilized for discussions, hands-on activities, and direct instruction, providing opportunities for immediate feedback and personal interaction. Online components, on the other hand, can include video lectures, interactive quizzes, forums, and other digital resources, enabling students to engage with the material at their own pace and on their own schedule.

Blended learning also increases accessibility for students with disabilities, offering various formats and tools that can be adjusted to meet different needs. This inclusivity and adaptability make education more equitable and attainable for a broader range of learners.

 To create an effective blended learning environment, educators should:

  • Utilize educational technology tools that enhance learning and engagement.
  • Choose platforms that are intuitive, reliable, and accessible to all students.
  • Foster interactions in both settings.
  • Use a mix of lectures, interactive activities, assignments, and assessments to cater to different learning styles.
  • Offer ample support and resources for both the online and in-person elements.

7. Experiential learning

Experiential learning is a powerful educational approach that emphasizes learning through hands-on experiences and reflection. It is based on the concept that the most effective learning occurs when students are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in an experience, reflect on that experience, derive insights from it, and apply those insights to new situations.

This cycle of experience, reflection, conceptualization, and application forms the cornerstone of experiential learning, allowing learners to take initiative, make decisions, and be accountable for the results. 

Experiential learning is particularly effective in:

  • Preparing students for real-world challenges. 
  • Bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application.
  • Developing critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making skills.
  • Fostering adaptability, collaboration, and communication skills.
  • Enhancing students' versatility and job market competitiveness.

Through experiences such as internships, service learning, fieldwork, and project-based tasks, students are able to acquire knowledge, skills, and values from direct experiences outside a traditional academic setting.

To integrate experiential learning opportunities into higher education courses, educators and administrators can focus on:

  • Creating hands-on, collaborative, and reflective learning experiences
  • Developing relationships with industry partners
  • Leveraging technology to enhance these experiences
  • Encourage reflective practices to maximize learning outcomes
  • Provide plenty of support and guidance

Empowering education with Riipen

When educators and higher education institutions explore innovative teaching methods, they often run into problems finding technology that lets them integrate these methods seamlessly. It can be hard to find a platform that supports and enhances these methods. That’s where Riipen makes a difference.

By aligning closely with contemporary teaching methods, Riipen stands out as an essential resource for educators aiming to enrich their teaching strategies and prepare students for the challenges of the modern workforce. With Riipen educators have the ability to:

  • Access to over 30,000 industry partners from around the globe.
  • Select from a vast array of ready-to-go projects, as well as the flexibility to create customized experiences tailored to their curricular needs.  
  • Encourage collaboration not just among students, but also between students, educators, and industry partners.
  • Incorporate real-world projects into the curriculum
  • Make experiential and work-integrated learning experience more accessible and equitable for all students.

Whether you're aiming to implement project-based learning, enhance student engagement through collaborative projects, or provide valuable experiential learning experiences, Riipen has the tools and connections you need. 


Jump ahead:
Start your journey towards innovative teaching and make a lasting impact on your students' academic and professional futures.

Key takeaways

  • Among the innovative approaches being prioritized are hands-on projects, real-world problem-solving, and student-driven inquiry, geared towards equipping students with critical skills such as teamwork, communication, creativity, innovation, problem-solving, and adaptability in the real world.
  • Many of the innovative methods emphasize the integration of technology and collaboration with industry partners. 
  • These teaching methods offer a more personalized and flexible learning experience for students. 

Start your journey towards innovative teaching and make a lasting impact on your students' academic and professional futures.

Schedule a free demo and start your journey towards innovative teaching and make a lasting impact on your students' academic and professional futures. 

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