Interaction in Online Courses

Types of Interaction

In a typical classroom, students engage with each other and the instructor in a variety of formats. Some arrive early and chat while waiting for class to begin, others meet new people by working in groups. The instructor is readily available to answer questions as needed. In an online course, the instructor must be intentional to build a variety of activities to encourage interaction. There are three types of interaction in online courses:

Student to Student – This type of interaction can be promoted in many ways. Discussion forums allow students to share their thoughts and respond to other students. Instead of having thirty people in one discussion forum, consider breaking the students into discussion groups where they can get to know each other in a more meaningful manner. Even though a course is online, students may work in groups to complete assignments or projects. Various technology tools make collaborating an easy task. Presentations are a great option for online courses. Students may record a narrated presentation and share it with the whole class. Also, a student lounge may be created as an informal discussion forum. Students can use this forum to ask each other questions about the course or other college activities.

Student to Content – A primary way students will learn course material is by engaging with the content you provide. As mentioned previously, course content should be developed using a variety of methods. Students should directly engage with this content and use it to complete activities and assessments.

Student to Faculty – Students should feel your presence in the course. There are many ways that you can interact with students directly and indirectly. Since this an online course, send a weekly announcement explaining the focus and activities for the module. Engage with students in the discussion forums. Provide timely feedback on activities and assessments. Email students who are struggling and offer to meet virtually. Encourage students to attend online office hours conducted through WebEx. Even though you don’t meet face to face, there are many ways to interact with students.

Communication and Netiquette Guidelines

It is important in online courses that you work with students to develop a collaborative, safe, and friendly environment. One way of doing so is through good communication. All online courses should establish netiquette guidelines. The following are netiquette guidelines to share with your students.

  • Maintain a professional and courteous tone in all communications with your peers and with your instructor.
  • Don’t type in ALL CAPS – it’s like you’re shouting.
  • Avoid the use of profanity.
  • Be aware of the effect of punctuation like exclamation points. When in doubt, just end your sentence with a period.
  • Wait a little while before responding to something that makes you angry. This will give you a chance to cool down before you type something you’ll regret later.
  • Be careful of using humor and sarcasm in written communication. It can be easy to misunderstand without accompanying facial expressions and body language. Humor and sarcasm can also sometimes be intentionally or unintentionally offensive.
  • It’s okay to disagree with one another. Disagreement is one way we further our knowledge and understanding, but be sure you express your disagreement in a respectful way. Remember that disagreement is not the same as disrespect.
  • Video recordings should use appropriate language: both spoken and body language.
  • Separate paragraphs with line breaks.
  • Start your emails with a salutation (Hi Jim,) and end with your name.
  • Reply to emails and messages in a timely manner.
  • Use informative subject-lines (e.g. “Cindy Patel’s Introduction” rather than “hi”.)
  • Write in complete sentences and avoid abbreviations and “text-speak”.

As the instructor, it is your responsibility to ensure students engage appropriately. Always monitor your course and send netiquette reminders as needed.