Identifying failure modes is an important task to improve the design and reliability of a product and can also serve as a key input in sensor selection for predictive maintenance. Failure mode acquisition typically relies on experts or simulations which require significant computing resources. With the recent advances in Natural Language Processing (NLP), efforts have been made to automate this process. However, it is not only time consuming, but extremely challenging to obtain maintenance records that list failure modes. Unsupervised learning methods such as topic modeling, clustering, and community detection are promising approaches for automatic processing of maintenance records to identify failure modes. However, the nascent state of NLP tools combined with incompleteness and inaccuracies of typical maintenance records pose significant technical challenges. As a step towards addressing these challenges, this paper proposes a framework in which online active learning is used to identify failure modes from maintenance records. Active learning provides a semi-supervised machine learning approach, allowing for a human in the training stage of the model. The hypothesis of this paper is that the use of a human to annotate part of the data and train a machine learning model to annotate the rest is more efficient than training unsupervised learning models. Results demonstrate that the model is trained with annotating less than ten percent of the total available data. The framework is able to achieve ninety percent (90%) accuracy in the identification of failure modes in test cases with an F-1 score of 0.89. This paper also demonstrates the effectiveness of the proposed framework with both qualitative and quantitative measures.