The Practice of Active Learning


Effective education does not come from the passive absorption of facts, yet classes at most universities are large lectures devoted to sharing static content. At Minerva you actively participate in learning the capabilities needed to analyze, comprehend, and collaboratively solve complex challenges. Based on decades of research in cognitive and behavioral science, all your classes are small, face-to-face seminars built to stimulate deep mental processing and active engagement with the course material.


students in each Active Learning Seminar
Every class at Minerva is a small seminar conducted using the Active Learning Forum, an advanced learning environment designed to facilitate continuous face-to-face interaction with your professors and classmates.
Though each seminar is different, with some focused on lively discussion or collaborative work sessions, and others on polling and debate, all require your full participation.
This video highlights one of the Cornerstone classes on the Active Learning Forum.
Video: Andrew Hida and Jessey Dearing
Minerva Schools
School of Arts and Sciences
School of Business
“I really wanted to have an impact. I wanted all the findings that I’ve been studying for decades to be used in some way that’s beneficial.”
Stephen M. Kosslyn, Ph.D.
Founding Dean of Arts and Sciences

Practical Skills and Applied Knowledge

An education can be divided into three parts. While traditional universities generally view the dissemination of information as their primary responsibility, Minerva focuses on the other two parts: intellectual development and experiential learning.

Today, information is abundant and easy to access; content has become a commodity. Instead of focusing on content, academics at Minerva are built to teach the four core capacities needed for leadership, innovation, broad thinking, and global citizenship. These core skills — critical thinking, creative thinking, effective communication, and effective interaction — have been split up into a broad set of teachable components, the learning objectives that underlie the curriculum.

Each course at Minerva reinforces the learning objectives, so they become integrated into the way you think and how you approach the world. By learning these Habits of Mind and Foundational Concepts (HCs) across multiple disciplines, you gain the ability to apply them to disparate contexts and new situations.

Your deliberate intellectual growth is paired with real-world experiences that further your mastery of subject matter and application of the HCs. Outside of classes, your participation in research projects, field work, internships, and other practical training helps you build the capacities needed to make consequential decisions and prepare for future success.
Students Roujia Wen, China and Royi Noiman, Israel join Founding Dean Stephen Kosslyn (center) for an in-person work session.

Photo: Bob Miller
Personal Skills
critical thinking
e.g. evaluating claims, weighing decisions
creative thinking
e.g. solving problems, developing ideas
Interpersonal Skills
effective communication
e.g. writing, speaking, presenting
effective interaction
e.g. negotiating, working on teams
“The variety of courses keeps me excited. I’m always learning new things, topics I was not drawn to naturally, but am glad I have been exposed to.”
Sultanna Krispil, Minerva Student
Ottawa, Canada

Defining the Course of Your Education

Students should set the direction for their individual learning path. At many schools, the curriculum is either unstructured or rigidly defined. Minerva’s curriculum is intentionally designed to balance breadth and depth.

Beginning with the first-year Cornerstone courses, you are introduced to the Habits of Mind and Foundational Concepts (HCs), the core skills that are a common foundation for every Minerva student. Through these interdisciplinary courses — Multimodal Communications, Formal Analyses, Empirical Analyses, and Complex Systems — you will use the HCs to deepen your learning and tackle the big questions challenging our global communities. 

From this base of understanding, you then construct a personalized course of study, with each semester building upon the previous one. In this way, you are able to gain both diverse knowledge and specific expertise.

In the second year, you select your major from one of the five colleges — Arts & Humanities, Business, Computational Sciences, Natural Sciences, or Social Sciences. This sets the direction for the core courses you need to complete. You also have the option to double-major, choosing two different tracks to pursue.

In year three, you focus further by selecting a concentration within your major. The concentrations enable more specialized work in your chosen field. Your final year is then devoted to more self-directed study, both through Oxford-style tutorials, as well as your final Capstone project. This culmination of your studies allows you to synthesize your learning by developing a novel solution to a challenge you define.

“As with other social animals, something amazing occurs when humans build a community. At Minerva, you will engage with other brilliant thinkers who will teach you things you will remember for life.”
Eric Bonabeau, Ph.D.
Dean of Computational Sciences
Photo: Martin Klimek/Getty
“Minerva refreshingly stands out in a landscape where most American colleges are barely distinguishable in form and function.”
Arun Ponnusamy
Vice President & Head Counselor, Collegewise

A Passion for Student Learning

Professors should focus on teaching their students. Classes at most undergraduate institutions involve a tenured professor, lecturing to a crowd, as various assistants spend limited time working directly with students. At Minerva, you interact with each of your professors throughout every class session, as well as during scheduled office hours.

Founding Dean Stephen M. Kosslyn has assembled a team of exceptional educators, all leaders in their respective fields and each with a passion for teaching. Selected for their outstanding achievements and worldly perspectives, the faculty are extensively trained in the methods and practice of instruction in the active learning environment.

The dynamic nature of classes at Minerva, the innovative curriculum, and focus on student learning have attracted top talent from many of the most respected traditional institutions, including Harvard, Brown, MIT, and Stanford, as well as from organizations in the private sector.

The academic team also shares a belief in the power of education to enact meaningful change in the world. From social justice to advances in science and technology, they recognize that teaching will enable this generation — and generations to come — to work together to solve the most complex challenges of our time.
Learn in an innovative educational setting, as you gain the skills needed for a lifetime of achievement.
Yoel Ferdman, USA, and Ailén Matthiess, Argentina, attend class from a San Francisco café.

Photo: Bob Miller
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