Back to the Top ^
Home    /    Teaching Online

3 Types of Interaction That Foster Student Engagement

Submitted by on April 19, 2013 – 2:01 pmNo Comment

This is part three of a three-part series on improving the quality of your online course. Below we explain where and how learner engagement occurs. Part one discussed how learning objectives build a solid foundation for your course; part two discussed how to create course alignment to ensure students achieve learning objectives. At Academic Partnerships, we often hear concerns from faculty regarding student engagement and interaction in the virtual classroom. Especially for new online faculty, learner engagement can be challenging to facilitate. But by understanding how student interaction occurs, you can develop holistic techniques to encourage engagement that promotes learning and increases retention.

Three Variables of Engagement

Standard 5 of the Quality Matters (QM) Rubric emphasizes the instructor’s role to facilitate ongoing, active participation between instructor, student, and content. By calling attention to all three of these variables, instructors can foster a deeper, more meaningful online learning experience and prevent an online course from resembling antiquated information in, information out educational models—these models often overlook the ways that shared, social participation can enhance online interactivity.

1. Student-Instructor Interaction

Consistent interaction with your classroom—on a personal and group level—helps support academic expectations among students and gives you a presence they can count on. We’re not just talking about required forms of communication (e.g., timely responses to email inquiries, assignment feedback), but also leveraging educational technology so that your teaching strengths shine. Your LMS’s tools often provide opportunities that enhance your finest teaching attributes in ways that stimulate classroom interaction. Ask yourself, What are my best teaching qualities? Perhaps you’ve always been able to make your classroom laugh with a well-timed joke, or maybe you excel at communicating difficult concepts in ways that are simple and effective. Use technology that allows you to showcase these strengths as you interact with students. Tip: Consider using these tools and methods to increase your presence and interaction with students: VoiceThread, videos, Voki, audio feedback, Screen-cast-o-matic Additional Resource: Creating an Effective Online Instructor Presence

2. Student-Student Interaction

While your interaction with students remains vital, encouraging peer-to-peer communication is just as essential. To prevent a boring, repetitive, and isolating learning environment, build activities and assignments that ignite classroom discussion. These discussions help alleviate students from feeling sequestered from one another and instead create a dynamic sense of community. These discussions can occur in various formats:

  • Discussion threads
  • Group projects
  • Peer reviews
  • Study groups (developed based on observed, organic interaction among students)
  • Video chat sessions (e.g., for discussing readings or discussion prompts)

Tip: Check out these tools and methods that support peer collaboration: student introductions, Twitter, Instagram, XMind, Google Drive, VoiceThread,, Snapguide, wikis

3. Student-Content Interaction

Assignments, activities, goals, and assessments implemented within your course should reinforce active learning—that is, the process through which students actively assimilate rather than passively absorb learning material. You might have spent a good deal of time choosing quality reading materials and designing well-thought assessments, but don’t overlook opportunities to make content dynamic. Tip: Look for ways to enhance text and heighten engagement and feedback through tools like these: Thinglink, Animoto, Dipity, Cacoo, Flashcard Exchange, Prezi, blogs As you continue on your online teaching trajectory, remember to experiment, learn new tricks, and most importantly, have fun utilizing powerful new tools that can help you maintain interactivity between instructor, student, and content.

Share Your Experiences

Which methods and technologies do you use to provide students engagement opportunities?

Comments are closed.