Sunday, 26 February 2012

Interactivity in the Online Classroom



Online education has become an ever more present entity in the academic world in the last decade. Not only are people seeking the digital approach for higher education and graduate school, but many are also exploring the world of online classrooms at the primary level. While there are many advantages to taking an online approach to education, there are of course (as there are with all things) also many disadvantages to online learning. One of the biggest criticisms that the online classroom has faced is the question of interactivity in the online sphere. Interactivity is the student's ability to create their own knowledge and it important because it responds to all different learning styles. Students in an interactive environment learn by doing. The complaint is that online courses have minimal student-student and student-teacher interaction. This, however, may not entirely be the case.

Student-Teacher Interaction in Online Courses
The issue with interactivity in the online world is that interactivity does not look the same online as it does in a traditional setting. No, for the most part, students and teachers will not be conversing face to face. However, there are several different strategies that online instructors can utilize to create more student-teacher interaction. Instructors can include a picture and "about me" information on their site. Keep this material updated regularly, so that students can continue to learn things about you. It is the teacher's role to create an interactive learning environment that enable the most productive and successful learning experience for students. Teachers should engage students in discussion forums, an internal blog, whiteboard, instant messaging, wikis, and social media. Teachers should choose the tools that work best for their teaching method and goals and use them to engage and interact with students. While the interaction and discussion that occurs between teachers and students will look different online, it is the same at its core. Students and teacher are still communicating and learning as a unit.

Student-Student Interaction in Online Courses
It is this form of interaction that online courses and classrooms may be more advanced with in today's society. Students today use the internet for a huge portion of their personal interactions. With Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and all others, students are comfortable and accustomed (at this point) to this type of conversation. Incorporating this level of comfort into classroom discussion and interaction can no question be a positive thing. Teachers should encourage students to interact in the online classroom. Have students create profiles for themselves so that they can get to know one another. Use this as a first assignment where students can include pictures, biographies, and favorite websites. They can get to know one another the way they get to know and interact with their "real life" friends—online. As for classroom discussion, many students may find discussion more engrossing and inviting in an online context. The immediate pressure of speaking in front of all your peers is lessened. Students can carefully craft their arguments and comments before posting them. Discussion can be enhanced by more educated and crafted comments.

Student-Content Interaction in Online Courses
This area of interactivity in the online classroom is actually very similar to how it is in the traditional classroom setting. Students receive assignments and can interact with the content in much the same way they would in a classroom. Of course, because the class takes place online, much of the students work will be done completely on a computer and online. Teachers should encourage web-based research and should require that students' check the reliability of their sources. Students can share useful websites with one another, providing an opportunity for student-student interaction as well. Teachers should ask their students to critique the content of assignments and projects. This encourages more thorough interaction with the material and helps the instructor create more relevant course material. Furthermore, online methods of teaching can allow for creativity from students in their assignments. Allow students to create their own format for their work; let them present their content in their own way to better showcase individual talents.
Author Bio:
This is a guest post by Nadia Jones who blogs at accredited online colleges about education, college, student, teacher, money saving, movie related topics. You can reach her at nadia.jones5 @ gmail.com.
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