Texas Tech University

Promoting Student Interaction

Regular interaction in an online course increases student satisfaction and student learning. Students need to feel there is a living, breathing human on the other end of the course who knows them, cares about them, and is participating in the learning journey (“instructor presence”). Interaction creates a sense of belonging, helps students set an intention for learning, promotes active learning and higher levels of thinking and understanding, and promotes constructivist learning. Interaction, when done correctly, creates a real learning community.

Interaction can flow from instructor-to-student, student-to-student, or student-to-content.

Interaction can be synchronous (live, real-time; you and your student(s) need to be at the computer at the same time, such as a Lync session or Skype call) or asynchronous (you do not need to be at the computer at the same time, such as e-mail).

Interaction should not be an afterthought! Plan for interaction as you design your online course and follow up with regular efforts to stay in touch, using some of the ideas below. You can begin with just a couple of the ideas, but be consistent in their use.

Ideas for Promoting Interaction in Online Courses

  • Course Design
    • Welcome video on the home page of a course.
    • Welcome letter to students in the course orientation module.
    • Self-introductions in the Discussion Board.
    • Interactive PowerPoint presentations -- students make selections with feedback built into the presentation.
    • PowerPoint presentations with voiceovers.
    • Video -- YouTube has many resources! Consider copyright when using video.
    • Readings
    • Embedded Web links
    • Surveys, quizzes, exams
    • Podcasts -- Check out iTunes U or make your own.
    • Mobile learning options -- accessible on a smart phone, iPad, etc.
  • Communication
    • E-mail -- we suggest sending your first e-mail just before the course begins.
    • Pop-up announcement in the online course, at least weekly.
    • Phone calls to students -- you'd be surprised how much they appreciate this, even if just once a semester.
    • Live Online Class Meetings
      • Microsoft Lync
      • Skype
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
  • Learning Activities
    • Collaborative/group projects
    • Interactive Learning Guides
    • Video
    • Google Docs
    • Wikis and Blogs
    • Delicious -- shared Internet bookmarks
    • Webinars -- you can use Mediasite to hold a live webinar or ask students tune in to someone else's webinar.
  • Threaded discussions (See also Guidelines for Threaded Discussions
    • Use thought-provoking questions (“essential questions”).
    • Require students to read the postings of others and respond to at least two of them.
    • Role play
    • Debate
    • Student-generated questions
    • Pro/con discussions (assign sides randomly after exploring a topic)
    • Peer feedback on drafts of assignments
    • Sharing completed assignments
  • Student choice on assignments (Yes! This is a form of interactivity.)

Resources for Promoting Interaction in Online Courses