Get Online and Stay Interactive: Media tools make interaction easy.

When venturing into the online classroom, many teachers worry that they will lose the personal interaction present in the traditional classroom setting.  There, students and teachers are face-to-face, which creates that old-school type of interaction called conversation. In many popular online learning management systems, that interaction changes to a written format, which allows students to continue making comments 24 hours a day. This flexibility is one the biggest selling points for online education.

online classes, interactivity, teaching online

Teachers can utilize video chats, virtual whiteboards, and forums to increase student interaction.

At the same time, the spontaneity of live class discussion can be lost. Students often learn more from those discussions with teachers and classmates than from their homework, reading, and problem sets. The slower format of class comment, and even live chat, which operates in real time through written formats, can dampen that discussion.

At Rukuku, we’ve tried to maintain all of these elements by offering a live video chat feature, as well as written chat and comment sections. We also include a virtual white board, which allows both teachers and students to write via iPads or on their computer screens. For example, a teacher could write a math problem on the white board and let the student solve it. Through all these features, online channels can actually strengthen interaction.

Strengthening that interaction takes more than technological tools, however. It takes time. This is one of the biggest surprises for many first-time online teachers. Because class discussion can continue 24 hours a day, teachers must commit to checking in on their classes and commenting often. For better or worse, most online students have come to expect prompt responses.

Toward that end, many online class services require teachers to respond to student comments within a certain time frame, usually 48 hours. Teachers that don’t have those requirements specifically should impose them on themselves. We all have emails from friends and family sitting in our inboxes, waiting for responses. Those responses usually don’t happen if they don’t happen quickly. If you are planning an online class, set a deadline at 12, 24, or at most 48 hours to respond to your students’ comments.

AND, in addition to that, schedule a video chat, just as you would in a traditional course. You may be able to include your lecture in recorded video form as preparation material, together with assigned reading. But make sure you schedule some time each week to lead a video chat. It will add spontaneity and virtual face time, while bringing your students closer to you and to each other.

About that time vampire…


We don’t think about it much, but taking a class is a massive time commitment.

First off, students, teachers and administrators have to get to and from the location where the class is being held. In my case, this means wasting away in traffic on the Washington area’s largest parking lot (yes, 495: I mean you). As first-world problems go, sitting in traffic is the worst. It’s the very bane of my existence. Things I’d rather be doing: anything. Staring at a wall. Shaking hands with Justin Bieber. Getting waterboarded. Just as long as I don’t have to be on that godforsaken Beltway!

That aside, another factor increasing the time required to take a course is that large classes mean time is used inefficiently as teachers try to keep things orderly. This becomes especially poignant when the guy in the back row keeps asking the same insipid question over and over again, and you can’t climb up there and… kindly suggest that he talk to the professor after class. Or send an email.

Everyone’s very busy these days – a couple of extra hours of free time would be a blessing to many. With that in mind, it’s refreshing to think about the time that can be saved by just going online.