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CATL - Strategies to promote student-to-student interaction in your online courses
Students in online courses, especially courses shifted to online due to an emergency situation (such as COVID), often desire a chance to connect with other students to form study groups, ask questions, etc. This is reported as especially important to first year students. Here are a few things instructors can do to facilitate student-to-student interaction in online courses. Many require a minimum amount of effort by the instructor to set-up; most are sustained by student involvement.
- Create groups students can join themselves.
- Allow students to create their own groups. People tab must be enabled.
- Create a discussion for students to get to know each other, ask questions, organize their own study groups, etc.
- Allow students to create discussions.
- Create a collaboration (Word, Excel, PowerPoint).
- Create group meeting rooms with MS Teams.
Outside of Canvas
- Create a class group in Microsoft Teams or let students create it themselves
- Create files and folders in Onedrive and share with classmates.
- Encourage students to schedule and host their own live meetings with classmates using Zoom or MS Teams.
- Help students manage slow internet and lower bandwidth
- Provide best practices for managing virtual work
- Remind students to:
- Mute their microphone when others are talking
- Use headphones to minimize echo
- Restart their computer daily
- Utilize student-run synchronous sessions
Instructors can use student run live/synchronous sessions in their online courses. These synchronous sessions provide a way for students to be able to hear and see each other while taking an online course from different geographical locations. These sessions could be informal in nature, for example, providing students a space to discuss and talk about course content covered in a certain unit or module of the class, or to organize student study sessions for assignments or exams. Synchronous sessions can also be used for more formal course requirements such as having students deliver a group presentation or working on a group project. Tools that can be used for these synchronous sessions include Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
- Promote student-to-student interaction using peer-review
Generally speaking, students are open to the idea of helping each other in class and peer review is one way to accomplish that. Having students evaluate each other's work and provide feedback can have a positive effect on student motivation, engagement, and academic achievement. When using peer reviews it is important for instructors to be clear on the directions given for the peer review and also clear on what is expected of students when reviewing each other’s work. It can be helpful to provide a rubric or other detailed instructions for students to follow when conducting peer reviews. It is also important to reinforce the idea that peer feedback should be respectful and constructive. There is a peer review function directly in Canvas.
- Have students help create course materials or policies and procedures
Another idea to get students interacting with each other in online courses is to have them be involved in creating course materials, determining content that will be covered in class, and helping establish course policies. For example, most online instructors utilize netiquette guidelines in their courses. Some instructors have students discuss and create these guidelines during the first week of a course. Having students discuss and help determine how online discussions should be utilized in class and the requirements surrounding those discussions is another way students can work together and help contribute to a course. Some instructors even leave purposeful gaps in their course content and ask students to help determine what additional ideas or content should be covered. Having students work together to help contribute to the course make-up gives them an opportunity to get-to-know each other and it can give students an increased sense of ownership in the class.