Keeping students actively engaged with you, the content, and each other promotes student success. When students are observing, doing, communicating, and reflecting, they are actively working with concepts and people. We describe these activities as interactions. Interaction is at the center of the teaching and learning process. When we move some or all of that process online, the way in which students and faculty interact changes. As we re-think how we approach interaction online there are three main types of interaction to consider. While learning activities will differ depending on the content, context, tools, and people involved, there are some strategies that can be incorporated in almost any course to foster interaction.
Student to Faculty Interaction
Student↔faculty interaction can include both formal direct instruction and more informal mentoring and support.
A few examples of student↔faculty interaction include:
- Providing in person and/or online feedback on assignments, learning journals, or other reflective activities
- Participating in in class or online discussion forums or chats
- Making/sending frequent announcements to summarize the previous week or describe the next week
- Providing in person, online or telephone office hours
- Mentoring individual learners
- Working with small groups of students assigned to help teach portions of the course (peer teaching)
Student to Student Interaction
Interaction between students can include formal course-related collaboration and interaction as well as more informal social interaction, which can increase students’ comfort with each other and with the online environment. Student↔student interaction-based activities include but are not limited to:
- Group projects
- Group case studies
- Peer instruction
- Role playing
- In-person, synchronous online or asynchronous online discussions or debates
- Collaborative brainstorming
- Peer review of selected work (For more on using Canvas tools to manage peer review, see the Peer Review section of the Instructor Guide.)
Any of these examples can be used on a large or a small scale ranging from semester-long project groups doing research and presenting results in person to an online meeting where those present discuss a short video case or a discussion forum where they brainstorm alternatives to a textbook problem.
Depending on the size of your class, you can encourage student↔student interaction class-wide or in smaller groups or pairs. When working with smaller groups, it helps to emphasize individual accountability, positive interdependence, and positive interaction in grading the group’s work (Kirschner, Strijbos, Kreijns, & Beers, 2004). This strategy leads to three grades on a group project emphasizing the three aspects of group work:
- Individual contribution to the group project
- Synthesis of the individual parts into a project that shows collaboration, consensus, and learning
- Working together to encourage and facilitate each other’s efforts to complete the project
For more on using Canvas to manage your student groups, please see the Group section of the Canvas Instructor Guide.
Student to Content Interaction
Student↔content interaction includes students’ concrete interactions with the course materials and their more abstract interactions with the concepts and ideas they present. It is more than just reading a book or watching a video. It includes but is not limited to
- Tutorials (using text, still images, audio, and/ or video)
- Quizzes (if the feedback is useful and usable)
- Web quests
- Reading/video discussion or reflections (Reading a textbook is technically a student↔content activity but explicitly requiring students to reflect on the reading and providing directed prompts for that reflection improves the interaction.)
- In-person demonstrations or online simulations (like Froguts Virtual Dissection Software)
It’s helpful to think through the balance of interaction over the entire course. Particularly, providing activities that offer a range of student-student interaction (from substantial to moderate to light to none) allows students with different preferences for the amount of peer interaction to be comfortable at some points and challenged to expand their comfort zone at others.
Key Elements to Effective Learning Activities
The keys to developing effective learning activities are to make them:
- Include opportunities for active learning
- Allow for different types of interaction
- Sequential so each one builds on the preceding one,
- Includeuseful feedback on the activities
- Include opportunities for students tothink and reflect on what they are learning, how they are learning, and the significance of what they are learning.
Part 1: Five Online Discussion Ideas to Apply Learning
Part 2: Four Online Discussion Ideas to Explore Concepts Through Divergent Thinking
Part 3: Seven Online Discussion Ideas to Explore Concepts through Convergent Thinking
Part 4: Five Online Discussion Ideas to Foster Metacognition
Part 5: Online Discussion Ideas – Multimedia and Resources
Determining the Best Technology for Your Students, Your Course, and You – Faculty Focus article
The content found here was designed by Indiana University and adapted for use by the Institute for Faculty Development at Vanguard University. This material is offered under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license and should be considered under this license unless otherwise noted. The original content was imported from “Designing and Teaching for Impact in Online Courses” from within Canvas Commons.