Creating Interaction in Online Courses

Over the years there has been controversy over the quality of online versus on-campus courses. However, the enrollment of online education continues to grow. According to Grade Level: Tracking Online Education in the United States approximately, 5.3 million students took at least one online course in fall 2013 which is up 3.7 percent from the previous fall. One of the “complaints” is the lack of interaction and human element in online courses. The advancement of technology has removed that hurdle for online education. Learning management systems (LMS) typically provide communication tools such as discussion forums, online chats, and video conferencing. Really, the focus should be on the course design because technology is available to facilitate the rest. Online courses and training can be boring or engaging, just like in person courses and training.
Discussion Forums
Discussion forums can be used to engage students and encourage interactions among the users. For example, students might be required to respond to the discussion post, include three sources to support their post, and respond to two users.  The instructor can moderate the discussion as well as determine whether or not users are understanding the topic. Users are able to share their opinion, but also required to analyze and synthesize information. Discussion forums can be formal where the instructor moderates the discussion or informal where users share information. The online format is familiar to most users since they are accustomed to posting on social media and provides a voice for introverts that would not normally speak up in the traditional classroom setting. Discussion forums allows users to review the information as many times as needed and the debate can occur over the entire length of the course as users learn more and more about the topic. In the corporate setting discussion forums are a great collaboration tool for users that are in various locations. As time progresses the discussion forums can serve as a knowledge-base rather than one or two people holding all the information in email. As long as the moderator is interactive with users discussion forums can be an excellent tool for creating interaction.
Online Chats and Video Conferencing
Online chats and video conferencing provide real-time interaction. It can be difficult to schedule them so that is where discussion forums can be beneficial. However, chat logs and recordings of video conferences can be posted online for users that were not able to attend. In addition, multiple sessions can be scheduled to accommodate various time zones. Online chats and video conferencing provide synchronous tools that engage users that are more extroverted. Dividing people into groups can be helpful to make it easier to keep up with the conversation, but all sessions can be recorded and posted online for others to view. Video conferencing allows users to see body language and adds the “human” touch because you can see and interact with the person rather than just reading and responding to text.
Online courses and training allow users to learn at a time convenient to their schedule as well as accommodating various learning styles. Learning to use collaboration tools also benefits users at work. Discussion forums, online chats, and video conferencing collaboration tools that can be utilized to greatly enhance online courses and training. It is important to consider and utilize the various collaboration tools in course design. Users are continuously connect via their smartphones and tablets therefore this methodology should be incorporated into online courses and training to encourage engagement. Edvance360 LMS-SN provides these collaboration tools and much more to enhance your online courses and training.
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