Deepening Engagement: The Intimate Flow of Online Interactions

Deepening Engagement: The Intimate Flow of Online Interactions

Anita Chadha (University of Houston, Downtown, Houston, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/IJOPCD.2019070103
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Peer interaction in the online classroom boosts academic progression and engages students in deeper learning. This study assesses several different forms of student peer interactions on a collaborative website in an American politics course offered across two universities. Findings reveal that students identify and personalize their interactions with each other while employing deeper learning, a measure of their reflective discussions using academic content across the universities. This study concludes that a peer interactive design is an effective online teaching method to expand student learning, one that engages students with each other while deepening their learning.
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Student-to-student interaction is a vital part of any course experience. In fact, there has been recognition a long history of the critical role of interaction in supporting, and even defining, education. As early as 1916, John Dewey referred to interaction as the defining component of the educational process that occurs when the student transforms the information passed to them from another and constructs it into knowledge with personal application and belief (Dewey, 1916). Numerous studies since then underline Dewey’s defining component that high levels of student-to-student interaction, that is the students’ ability to share and discuss learning resources gathered or created by students, (Collis & Moonen, 2012) have a positive impact on learning (Anderson, 2003; Chadha, 2017).

In a traditional face-to-face classroom this interaction happens naturally, as students listen to each other’s comments, ask each other questions and build rapport through frequent contact. The same interaction occurs online as the asynchronous design of online spaces provide students with time for reflection and deliberation before they respond (Boud, 2001; Paul & Elder, 2013). A few studies offer a glance at the development of different forms of student-peer interactions built on the basis of asynchrony online (Anderson, 2003; Bender, 2012; Carini et al., 2006; Chadha, 2018; Chadha 2017). One type is the student/content interaction, a form that is built upon the benefits of asynchrony providing students the time to think, reflect, synthesize and communicate content after much reflection and search for information (Anderson, 2003; Chadha, 2018). This form includes visiting and revising discussions after much thought due to the online asynchronous environment (Chadha, 2018). The student/teacher interaction form is another type where the instructor designs the online space and activities for student interaction (Chadha, 2018). The student/student interaction is a form based on student-peer communication about the content especially as the asynchrony allows the discussion between students to continue without uninterrupted pauses, along with times for silence for them to reflect before continuing deliberations (Rudestam & Schoenholtz-Read, 2009). The continued interaction among students deepens learning, critical thinking and problem-solving skills that foster an active learning community (Anderson, 2003; Bernard, et al., 2009; Croxton, 2014; Jones et al., 2011). Finally, the teacher/teacher interaction form is one that refers to the interaction of teachers with their peers to create good practices (Anderson, 2003). These differing forms of interaction have an impact on student achievement and satisfaction, as reflected in their test performance, grades, and student satisfaction (Roblyer & Ekhaml, 2000).

Research consistently demonstrates that courses that involve students interacting with other students reported high levels of satisfaction and learning than courses without interaction (Chadha, 2017; Swan, 2002a). It is, therefore, imperative that instructors design online spaces for students to interact with each other while giving them time to think critically and build their relationships with peers online. It is as imperative to research and assess the different forms of interactions that develop among students. The central aim of this study is to expand upon the limited research on both the design of an online site created for the specified purpose of interactivity as well as to assess the varied forms of student interactions that form online. In doing so, this study provides a unique online pedagogical design that deepens student learning through interactivity, one that is useful across any disciplinary subject.

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