Interaction between faculty and the class as well as between students create community in online and hybrid courses. Students want to connect with their professors and other students. Without interactivity, students may feel as though they are teaching themselves, which can lead to feelings of isolation and frustration. A well-designed online course fosters many types of interaction not only the interaction between the student and course material. There is a direct connection between interactivity in an online or hybrid courses and student academic success.
For expanded criteria please see section 2) Instruction, Contact, and Engagement with Students in the rubric/checklist.
Instructor presence is a hallmark of a successful online course. Instructors can show their social presence in a variety of ways. Consider using a variety of technological tools when interacting with the class as a whole, including video and audio introductions and announcements, as well as text-based communication.
Instructions about how and when to reach instructor for help are clear and easy to find, including instructor's phone number, email address, and (if used) instructions for how to contact instructor by text.
Instructor's contact information should be included in the syllabus as well as inside the Blackboard shell (e.g. “Instructor” tab in the left vertical course navigation bar, inside the welcome announcement).
Announcements that remind students of upcoming deadlines, and offer guidance, or encourage students are posted every week.
The instructor can use announcements to summarize material covered in a learning unit, provide whole class feedback, preview new course material, and make connections between the existing and new content. Regular announcements keep students on track and make online learning feel less solitary. Try using audio or video announcements, so that students can form a connection with you as the instructor.
Instructor participates in student-to-student interactions in strategic, substantive and instructive ways that impact entire class.
When an instructor participates in discussions and other activities with students, they can facilitate learning by offering further explanations, providing new insights, moving the conversation forward, and offering feedback and summary. Students gain the most from discussions and class interactions that require not only initial posts but also follow-up (peer) responses and include clear instructions, specific prompts (questions) to answer, set deadlines, and pre-specified grading criteria (e.g. in a rubric).
For expanded criteria please see section 3) Active Student Learning in the rubric/checklist.
The instructor is not the only source of knowledge in an online course; students can learn from their peers as much as from the instructor. Student-student interaction can be achieved via whole class, small group, and pair activities. There are many types of assignments that are well suited for cooperative work such as discussions, peer reviews, peer feedback, and projects. Meaningful student-student interaction in each learning unit of the course is a part of the ROC rubric/checklist.
Varying the technological tools that foster interactivity also promotes student engagement and academic success.
There are multiple ways to facilitate student-to-student interaction. Discussion boards are excellent tools for student interaction, but they are not the only type of assignment that facilitates interactivity. Other tools, such as Voice Thread and Panopto can create opportunities for students to record audio or video posts. Utilize groups in Blackboard to create infrastructure for collaboration.
Instructions for student cooperative assignments are clear and thorough, including information about planning, implementing, presenting, and self-evaluating.
The success of collaborative projects depends on instructor's careful planning and structuring instructions. Breaking projects up into steps that needs to be completed throughout the course scaffolds the learning process and improves the quality of the final product.