Student-Centered Social Interaction Online

Credit: Sitthiphong/iStock.com
Credit: Sitthiphong/iStock.com
In my years as an instructional designer at Indiana University, I’ve heard the same complaint again and again across wholly disparate courses and programs: “I would like more and better student interaction in my online courses.” These teachers have used traditional online discussion boards and watched in dismay as their students generated generic, barebones posts and responses designed to meet the minimum requirements for participation rather than to actually discuss a given topic. It’s not surprising, given that discussion boards themselves resemble internet forums from the 1990s, before the advent of smartphones or YouTube. It’s safe to assume that many modern students have never engaged in a traditional, text-based internet forum before taking their first online course. Instructors are asking students to communicate in a medium they have never learned using what must seem strange and outdated tools. Faced with this proverbial hammer and chisel, students engage only as much as is required of them and no more. Though educational institutions have embraced the online space and bought in to the plethora of digital teaching tools and strategies on offer, the primary way students actually communicate online—social media—seems to have been overlooked as a valid part of higher education pedagogy.

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