Remote Instruction – Fostering Social Interaction
With remote teaching, students have expressed how, among other things, they miss the social interactivity that is present in a traditional, in-person classes.
While social interaction between students is not often considered a goal in the classroom, acknowledging it and addressing it in a way that complements the curriculum can improve student satisfaction, interest, and ultimately success in the course.
One of the easiest ways to create an opportunity for social interaction is to organize groups that have a designed purpose. The advantages of peer learning are well documented, but the challenge here is creating something that doesn’t feel too organized or forced. So, while a group project or activity may be an easy (and useful) approach, it might not foster the social aspect that students are looking for.
Encourage voluntary participation
What may not work when compelled, might be successful when suggested. Instructors are encouraged to create opportunities for students to interact and provide an infrastructure, if needed, to do so successfully. Instructors should not directly participate in these opportunities, but rather facilitate their existence and continuation.
These opportunities can include study groups, film watch parties, and other similar activities that tie into the course content. While voluntary, these groups may allow students to benefit directly from peer interaction more than formal group work and peer learning assignments. These groups would ideally meet outside of Bruin Learn/any other university structure so as to distinguish them meaningfully from graded class activity.
Instructor input can be more than just a suggestion, however. By creating a Discussion in Bruin Learn expressly to allow groups to organize, the instructor can, for example, keep the conversation in a study group going by posting weekly on suggested topics for discussion and consideration – even if that conversation is not happening within Bruin Learn. For film classes, providing students with a list of things to look for and a discussion prompt may foster watch parties to form and be maintained over the term.
It may be best practice not to attach a grade to this kind of group, even extra credit. Removing grades and direct instructor oversight from the activity will make it feel less like a secret hoop that students have to jump through in order to get on the instructor’s good side and more like a truly voluntary activity.