I. Course Design Principles > D. Interactivity

I.D.2 Learning activities foster student-student and faculty-student interactivity.

Values Supported



One of the best aspects of a quality educational experience is that students form ties and bonds with an educational community. The online class should not sacrifice that experience, but should instead strive to make students feel part of the class and overall University community. Students benefit by being able to draw on the knowledge, experience, and values of fellow students, as well as faculty. When students present their own experiences, they can benefit from the feedback of others. Discussions help faculty and students understand material from a variety of perspectives, and help to broaden the scope of the class and form connections to material external to the class.

There are at least two kinds of interactivity at work here – social and academic. In social terms, there is motivational value for students to know that faculty are “there” for their students, as well as the support they may receive from fellow students. In academic terms, interaction encourages thoughtful discourse; that is, engaging in the conversation of the discipline.

This element supports Responsibility, because students benefit when they seek out individualized feedback from faculty members and fellow students; Co-presence, because interactive activities give students opportunities to learn from each other; and Transparency, because interactive learning activities should reflect learning objectives in the same way other learning activities do, though outcomes may be more difficult to evaluate.


It is often tempting to design an online class to emphasize faculty presentations, or presentation of material to students. However, education is ideally a two-way (or multi-way) process, in which students are as important a part of the learning process as are the faculty. Sometimes it’s more helpful for students to get feedback from fellow students, so instructors need to know when to jump in to facilitate discussion and when to step back and allow interaction to continue. Experience seems to be the best way to learn how to make those judgment calls.

There are various methods to foster interaction among students. For example, consider assigning group work (and providing group-based access to the communication tools that course management platforms such as Webcampus provide), asking students to take turns facilitating threads or topics in discussion forums, or assigning projects that require the use of blogs or similar online technologies (for more information on blogs and similar technologies, contact the Teaching and Learning Center).


Encouraging contact between students and faculty and developing reciprocity and cooperation among students are two of Chickering and Gamson’s seven principles: