With the emergence of social media, students are more distracted than ever. College professors are now vying for the attention of students in their classroom and traditional lecture formats are falling increasingly short. With this in mind, what are the alternatives to lecture in higher ed?    

Flipped Classroom

One alternative to lecture in higher ed is a classroom model that requires students to do work outside the classroom, learning through reading or videos, and come to class prepared to discuss the topic. The self-ownership this model requires teaches students to be more independent and to think more critically about the material presented. Collaborative participation is expected and students learn to find their own voice in the classroom. 


Students are given one side of an issue and prepare arguments to support their side of the issue. This alternative to lecture in higher ed is an interactive approach that gives students the opportunity to research, prepare, and present their viewpoint to important topics in their field. Learning to find supporting evidence for and against their assigned position enhances critical thinking skills and their ability to articulate their thoughts to their peers.  

Field Trips

What other alternative to lecture in higher ed brings back fun childhood learning memories?  Learning through these outings are great ways to enrich the depth of classroom learning. Museums, tours of historical sites, plays, and visits to companies give students a way to enhance their interest in their field of study. Students often wonder why what they’re learning matters, and this model helps them connect the dots.

Project-Based Learning

To accommodate different learning styles, hands-on projects give students an opportunity to excel if auditory learning isn’t suited for them. Professors provide very little direction and class time is used to build and create with other students. They may be working on tangibly building something or work together to solve a business problem. This model provides an alternative to lecture that allows them the freedom to express themselves in an applicable, relevant way that resonates with them. 


In degrees that require “proof of competency,” role-playing can provide a glimpse into student skill level and grasp of the principles necessary to practice in their field. Some fields where this might be especially beneficial are in psychology, social work, healthcare, and law related fields. While uncomfortable for some students, it’s an opportunity for them to grow more confident in their ability and for professors and peers to provide helpful feedback for improvement. 

Peer Instruction

As students work in pairs or groups, they prepare material to be presented to the rest of the class. Learning to work as part of a team, with diverse opinions and personalities, provides students the opportunity to learn the value of teamwork. As an alternative to lecture in higher ed, students take ownership of a piece of the puzzle and contribute to a larger outcome. They learn to “win” and “lose” as a team. 

Alternatives to lecture in higher ed are abundant, with only a few suggested here. Regardless of chosen model, creativity in the classroom will continue to keep students engaged in the higher ed classroom and lead to better outcomes for the future workforce.