Primer for Teaching Online
7. Interaction = Successful Course
Interaction is essential in any course, and this is especially true for courses delivered online. Interaction in an online course is sometimes referred to as computer-mediated communication. The three primary means of interaction that include learner-instructor, learner-content, and learner-learner are the same in both the traditional and online classroom, but how each is carried out differs considerably.
Online communication methods may include discussion boards (also known as bulletin boards and listservs), chat rooms, white boards, and email. These methods are typically divided up in asynchronous (discussion boards, email) and synchronous (chat room, white board) methods. Let’s take a look at how each of these methods can be used based on the type of interaction desired.
Asynchronous communication is done at the convenience of the individual. Users will log in to discussion boards and email at a time of their choosing to review and respond to newly posted messages. Postings of students using asynchronous methods are typically of greater depth and breadth because students can edit, research, and otherwise compose responses. The use of each type of asynchronous tool varies.
- Email : As the instructor, limit your email interactions to questions specific to the individual student, such as grading questions and other confidential subjects. Use the discussion board for questions of interest to the entire class.
- Discussion Boards : These are ideal forums to broadcast information that deals with all students. Rather than using email to answer the same question to several students, instructors can post a generic question to the discussion board and answer it once. Think of email as one-to-one and discussion boards as one-to-many communication tools and use them accordingly.
Synchronous communication is done in real time at a date and time specified by the instructor or facilitator. This can be difficult if students are from different time zones or consist of working adults who may have odd work schedules.
- Chat rooms most closely assimilate the traditional classroom due to their synchronous, real-time capabilities. Chat rooms can be found in virtually all popular course management systems, and several 3rd party chat room programs exist to supplement other CMS systems not having chat capabilities. Chat rooms allow students and instructor to get instant responses and are used when an immediate answer is desired. Be aware, however, that chat rooms can become quite chaotic with any more than five students logged in at a time. Students can also become intimidated by the environment, which requires not only instant responses to questions but quick fingers for typing the responses on a computer keyboard. Chat rooms are good for small group meetings or for virtual office hours but otherwise have limited use.
- White boards consist of a white background with a set of interactive drawing tools available to users. The available tools allow participants to draw simple lines, circles, rectangles, and text. Other more robust white boards may include special characters such as mathematical, chemical and engineering symbols. White boards are excellent for presentations requiring drawing such as math problems, accounting worksheets, maps, simple artwork, and similar uses.
- Computer Mediated Communication Training and Evaluation, Athabasca University
- Online Interaction, Keiko Takimoto-Makarczyk, San Diego State University