Create Opportunities for Online Students to Engage with Each Other

Quality Review Showcase

The Quality and High Quality online course reviews explore components proven to be best practices in online course design. This post showcases Quality item, “The course offers opportunities for students to actively engage with other students to enhance learning (e.g., discussions, group work).”

Online learners sometimes feel disconnected in online classes, especially when there are few opportunities to interact with others. When students enter the classroom, they are not empty vessels; they bring with them a diverse set of experiences and knowledge. Given that learning is ultimately rooted in social interaction (Dewey, 1963), it is important to offer some interactive opportunities in an online environment. Interactions have an added benefits for students of supporting active learning and increasing ownership of learning, and they should be designed to support the learning objectives (Hurst, Wallace, & Nixon, 2013).

What Are Some Ways Your Online Course Can Be Designed to Meet This Standard?

  • In an online discussion, students can explore ideas, appreciate multiple perspectives, and solve problems with their peers. Consider novel discussion prompts, such as incorporating role play or a debate. Check out the Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository’s collection of entries on exemplary online discussion strategies.
  • Online collaboration in the form of group work can result in a stronger product than if a single student worked on it. When students interact, they have the opportunity to evaluate their ideas, clarify their thinking, and develop critical thinking skills. Check out the Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository’s collection of entries on collaboration for examples of successful online group work.
  • Use the Groups feature in Webcourses@UCF to support group work. Other tools to support collaboration include Conferences and Collaborations.

What Does This Look like in a Real Online Course?

Example 1. Beatriz Reyes-Foster, ANT3610, Online Discussion.

Dr. Reyes-Foster incorporated the Photovoice method in an online discussion in her Language and Culture class, asking students to take photos that they felt represented the concept of performance. Students replied to each other, attempting to decipher the meanings behind their photos by relating them to course content. Feedback was very positive. As one student commented, “I was excited to see what other students would post as their image because everyone can come up with something different in their everyday life.”

For more details and images, please read Using the Photovoice Method to Elicit Authentic Learning in Online Discussions by Beatriz Reyes-Foster and Aimee deNoyelles, published in the openly available Journal of Teaching and Learning with Technology in 2018.

Example 2. Madelyn Flammia, ENC4298, Group Project Proposal.

Technical Communication for the Virtual Workplace is a course in which students learn the basics of virtual teamwork. The team project is a research report on collaborative technologies (including blogs, wikis, podcasts, and chat tools). The example showcases the project proposal process. Note the very clear articulation of the nature of the tasks, contingency plans, role assignment, grading criteria, and deadlines; all crucial to the success of a group project.


Canvas: Collaborations Overview


Dewey, J. (1963). Experience and education. New York: Collier.

Hurst, B., Wallace, R., & Nixon, S. B. (2013). The impact of social interaction on student learning. Reading Horizons: A Journal of Literacy and Language Arts, 52 (4). Retrieved from 

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