A Framework to Assess Appropriate Interaction to Meet Accreditation Quality Guidelines

A Framework to Assess Appropriate Interaction to Meet Accreditation Quality Guidelines

Anymir Orellana (Nova Southeastern University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0877-9.ch013


Appropriate interaction is one criterion of quality of online courses. The importance of interaction in online education is well documented in research findings; explained in various theoretical approaches and models; and highlighted in best practices from consortia, accrediting agencies, and by practitioners. Despite the availability of guides for quality assessment of online courses, a concern arises when program administrators are faced with the questions: What does appropriate interaction in an online course mean and how does one show evidence of it? How does one guide the implementation of appropriate interaction in order to meet recommended quality guidelines or accreditation standards? To partially answer these questions, this chapter proposes a framework to guide the assessment of appropriate interaction as a criterion of quality online course based on accreditation quality guidelines.
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Accrediting organizations recognize the importance of interaction in their recommended standards and best-practices guidelines for quality online programs (e.g., Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology [ACCSCT], 2004; Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools [ACICS], 2015; Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions [C-RAC], 2011). Criteria related to interaction mostly give emphasis on the need for appropriate opportunities for interaction among students, between teacher and students, and between student-content. Hence, balanced interactive activities of the three types of interaction are often expected in effective online courses.

Understanding the nature of interaction, and how to facilitate it, is important for effective teaching and learning at a distance (Anderson, 2003a, 2003b; Battalio, 2007; Moore & Kearley, 2012; Simonson et al., 2015). Interaction is perhaps one of the most studied topics in the field of distance education (Anderson, 2003a, 2003b; Bernard et al., 2009; Simonson, et al. 2015). Several theories, practical guidelines, and standards highlight the value of interaction in online courses (Moore & Kearsley, 2012; Roblyer & Wiencke, 2003, 2004; Sorensen & Baylen, 2000). Although similar in the core (e.g., communication among participants in the learning experience), the definitions and classifications of interaction in the literature vary and the concept is often operationalized according to the perspective of the authors.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Credit Hour: Amount of work represented in intended learning outcomes and verified by evidence of student achievement that is an institutionally established equivalency that reasonably approximates not less than: (1) One hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of out-of- class student work each week for approximately fifteen weeks for one semester or trimester hour of credit, or ten to twelve weeks for one quarter hour of credit, or the equivalent amount of work over a different amount of time; or (2) At least an equivalent amount of work as required in paragraph (1) of this definition for other academic activities as established by the institution, including laboratory work, internships, practica, studio work, and other academic work leading to the award of credit hours. ( USDE, 2010 , p. 10 )

Instructional Strategy: Overall plan of instructional activities to achieve an instructional goal. It includes sequence of objectives, learning activities, student grouping, media and delivery system. It typically includes pre-instructional activities, content presentation, learner participation assessment and follow-through activities ( Dick et al., 2015 ).

Instructional Activity: Activities required for students to achieve meaningful understanding, retention, application, and practice with feedback ( Smaldino et al., 2015 ).

Instruction: “Anything that is done purposely to facilitate learning” ( Reigeluth & Carr-Chellman, 2009 , p. 6). Smaldino, Lowther, Russell, and Mims (2015) define instruction as “any intentional effort to stimulate learning by the deliberate arrangement of experiences to help learners achieve a desirable change in capability” (p. 25).

Interaction: Exchange of information, ideas and opinions among learner-learner, learner-teacher, and learner content ( Moore & Kearsley, 2012 ).

Accreditation: Means by which American higher education institutions are reviewed for quality ( USDE, 2015 ).

Online Course: One in which at least 80 percent of the course content is delivered online ( Allen & Seaman, 2015 ).

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