Social interaction is an interaction that occurs between two or more individuals, which leads to the development of a social relationship. They can be both positive and negative interactions, showing opposite effects.
But social relationships can also exist even when there is an absence of communication between the actors involved. Traditional classrooms provide ample opportunities for learners and instructors to engage in social interaction. However, in online learning, learners are present at remote locations, and hence interaction may not be fluent due to technical glitches. In addition, the pandemic has pushed most of the classrooms to the online environment with which people and students are not familiar.
Social interactions during an online class lead to an increase in student engagement and motivation level, which ultimately results in improved student’s performance. Educators must consider ways to create meaningful and sustained social interactions in online courses, especially when students take online courses while balancing their home and work responsibilities. However, it is a surprising fact that most educators and learning material developers don’t like to involve students in discussions. As a result, the majority of learning material and products lack options for interaction through which students can interact with each other and their mentors.
According to many learning theories, interactions between students and teachers is a necessary component of learning. It gives students the opportunity to actively engage in cognitive processing as it demands participation from their side by comprehending the content.
POWER OF DISCUSSIONS
Discussions have a variety of key benefits. Some of them are:
- Discussions require students to articulate what they are learning
Discussion helps enhance the students’ learning processes by requiring them to actively wrestle the information they have received with their experiences and interpretations. It challenges students to engage, apply and externalize content.
- Discussions create active participation in meaning-making
Discussions prove to be brilliant ways for students by enabling them to form complete meaning by comparing and contrasting several content perspectives. Online discussions or forums can be one of the most effective ways to make students aware of the range of experiences and interpretations possible in an area of intellectual inquiry.
- Discussions create social interactions.
Social interaction itself is an important way for students to learn. It enables students to observe various perspectives and cultural aspects of the content. When students participate in discussions, they relate, confront, challenge, and support each other’s ideas, which results in a healthy way of learning by observing diverging ideas.
TYPES OF SOCIAL INTERACTIONS
- Instructor-To-Student Interaction
Sustained interactions between students and educators are the milestone for effective online learning. During the online learning process, this interaction between students and teachers occurs through online discussions, requesting and sharing learning material, and asking course-related questions to the mentor. Similarly, there are different ways through which teachers can interact with students, such as – discussion forums, periodic live or recorded webinars, instant messaging, podcasts, and other learning activities. In addition to it, teachers can provide active feedback on students’ submissions in written, audio, or video format.
Instructors often ask students about their personal experience, academic achievement, and perceptions of the course. It helps the instructor understand and know the student about the course and what changes can be made to improve the delivery of the course.
- Student-to-Student Interaction
On online platforms, students interact much more as they don’t have to confront each other. Research showcases that some students are highly active in participating, talking, and interacting with other fellow mates on online platforms. Whereas some students are not comfortable in engaging and sharing their views with others. They enjoy their comfort zone.
Some ideas to incorporate discussions and social interactions on online ground courses:
- Encourage media responses
Encouraging students to respond to each other using video, images, or audio rather than long text. This makes the conservation look more natural and real, rather than just another assignment.
For example- An educator or instructor wants the student to prepare a biology presentation. So, he/she can give it as a group or pair project for students to interact. However, oral presentations are considered boring and a burden with less knowledge gathering. So, the instructor should give projects with certain ways to present, such as video format, audio, presentation using pictures rather than mere text, etc. It works well for different courses like music. This even helps students to display their creativity and widen their imagination beyond textbook knowledge.
- Discuss Using Role-Playing Or Alternative Perspectives
Educators can get students thinking more critically about the topic by asking their perspective or viewpoint about the same. For the course to become more socially interactive and interesting, there can be role-playing activities for students to understand dialogue delivery and different tones of voice. This can be assigned as a project or an activity. This work particularly works well in history and literature courses.
- Engage In Debates
Using a discussion board as a forum for a debate has two potential benefits. First, it creates an atmosphere for a lively and engaging discussion. With its help, mentors can guide the students on how to engage in debates respectfully and intelligently – a skill that seems to be diminishing in today’s society and political arena. Debating is a major part of social interaction and discussions for students. Two opposite thought students oppose each other in a respected and well-versed manner.
- Allow Student-Led Or Moderated Discussions
The instructor might consider assigning a student to be the discussion leader each week or for a particular topic. They might even leave it more open and allow students to choose the topic themselves. A set of guidelines should be assigned under which students need to work; this can help achieve the desired goal.
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