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3 Ways to Improve Student Interaction in E-Learning

860593_40313047.jpgIf there is one so called downside to E-Learning, or even to distance learning as a whole, it is the lack of peer-to-peer interactions among participants.  And, while some instructors may not miss this facet of a traditional classroom, I often find myself longing for that one small piece of the “good ol’ days!”

Why?  Because it worked!

There is just something about sitting down with your peers as you all work your way towards a common goal.  Something that helps to drive the information home while increasing retention rates and improving the overall student experience.  It is a tried and true method of teaching and it is one that I try to replicate as closely as possible in my own E-Learning classroom.

And, yep, it’s possible!

It’s all about being creative.  About stretching your imagination while embracing all that technology has to offer us.  It’s about innovation.  And really, isn’t this what we all like to pride ourselves on anyways?  

So this is our topic for the day.  We are going to look at three key ways that you can implement strong peer-to-peer interactions regardless of the setting.  After all, its all about the presentation, not the geography!

751398_35167431.jpg1. Open Discussion

It’s like the golden rule of teaching!  Okay, maybe not the golden rule, but its an important one, and here it is.  If you want people to relate to one another, then first you have to get them talking.  Preferably to each other, but it is possible to start with student-teacher interaction as you move towards the student-student model you are looking for.

There are several different ways that you can encourage discussion in an E-Learning format. A common way is to use a standard discussion forum approach.  With this setup you as the teacher will post various discussion topics at set intervals and then require that the participants comment and react to these threads.  The idea being that over time the thread will take on a life of its own without you having to continually offer guidance and stimulation.

An in-course live chat is also a good way to encourage discussion in real-time. Students can participate in discussions while they are in the course (with other students, or with YOU, or both). If you are using the Weblearning LMS, you can check out the live chat component here.

Now, keep in mind that these are just a few ideas of many that are out there.  You could ask the students to come up with their own threads.  Have them summarize various lessons and then comment on what others have come up with.  Truly, the options here are endless.  Basically it doesn’t matter how you get them talking….just get them talking!

866529_26072537.jpg2. Group Feedback

No matter the subject, it is always important for your participants to be able to discuss their ideas and defend their position in a group setting.  This is one of the reasons that peer-to-peer interactions are so important.   One of the best ways that you can prepare your students for what they will face in the real world is to offer group feedback sessions.  This can be done in a variety of ways, but my personal favorite calls for requiring students to review each others papers, projects or exams.

Why?

Because this is very close to how things work in the real world.  Especially in the business world.  Very rarely will someone be asked to complete a project completely on their own.  More often than not they will be part of a team that is working towards a common goal.  Meaning that ideas and action items will have to go through the various group members before the group as a whole moves forward.  By incorporating this facet into your E-Learning initiatives, you are preparing your students for the realities of the real world.  They will learn to turn to their peers for help before presenting either a problem, or a finished product to the “teacher” i.e. their boss!

3. Assign Group Projects

Remember those groups we were talking about just a moment ago?  The ones that your students will work in once they are part of the business world?  Well, why can we not incorporate those same groups into their E-Learning curriculum?  In this case we are moving the learning model from “cooperative” student interaction, the process of offering each other feedback, to “collaborative” student interaction, the process of working together on the same initiative.  Or, many students, many goals versus many students, one goal.

The type of project that you assign really doesn’t matter.  What matters is that your students learn to depend on one another as they leverage the strength of the group.  By capitalizing on each member’s strengths they should be able to deliver a higher quality finished product than if they tried to forge ahead on their own.

Here is the beauty of the group project.  In this case the E-Learning format of your course will serve as a more accurate marker of the real world than a traditional class room could ever dream of.  In a traditional class room students working in a group are able to push all their seats together as they layout a plan and start to execute.  It’s effective, but not accurate.  In the business world people are much more likely to send ideas via email, hold conference calls and work on presentations via the cloud.

Any of this sound familiar?  It should because it is exactly how your students will communicate as they make the most of their E-Learning experience!

The moral of this story is that peer-to-peer interaction is NOT impossible in E-Learning.  It is absolutely possible and even more so it is only limited by you, by the edges of your creativity and by what you are willing to try with your students.  My list is only the beginning.  It is meant as a place for you to start and as a springboard for your own ideas.

So, what can you come up with?

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The Weblearning LMS is a powerful, budget-friendly, easy-to-use Online E-Learning System for authoring, managing, and tracking online learning presentations and tests (including your E-Learning Lessons). You can read the brochure, or to try it FREE,  go to the Weblearning E-Learning System Sign-up Form.

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