Hand dripping water on a sprout. Fall 2021 eCampus weekly update banner  with quote: when a flower doesn't bloom you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower. Alexander Ben Hiejer. 

This Week on the Ohlone eCampus 

Week of September 27, 2021 

Focus Topic: Where's the Water Cooler in Online Education? 

Despite the numerous studies to the contrary, faculty are still trying to put their face-to-face classes online and teach them the same way with the same exercises, interactions, and pedagogy.  We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – Teaching online is a whole different beast that requires its own, unique approach to disseminating content to eager and open-minded young adults.  Where you may have a captive audience who will sit mesmerized by you for 90-minutes as you share your incredible wisdom, you’ll lose students after about 5 minutes of a video lecture in an asynchronous online class.  Students will engage in dialogue and critical thinking organically in a face-to-face classroom.  In the online environment, prompts need to be intentionally developed to encourage depth and breadth of thought as well as grab a student’s interest, so students want to jump in and participate.  Simply requiring a discussion post does not ensure the student will be engaged or quite frankly, apply critical thinking skills.  You may not accept the “I agree” response, but I know you have seen the rambling, nonsensical 200-word response that also only says “I agree.”  How do you get them to talk with one another authentically online?   

Perhaps one key is in creating a safe and trusting environment where students feel they can interact with one another and develop interpersonal relationships while expressing their individual personalities.  To help build that supportive and inclusive environment, consider having the students help you create “Rules of Engagement” or how they want the discussions and interactions to go in the online class.  Invite the students to join you in creating a “classroom” contract at the beginning of the semester that welcomes students to be their authentic selves in an environment that is supportive and welcoming to all.  Invite students to join informal study sessions or create study groups in Teams or in a Cyber Café discussion forum.  Involve the students by asking them how they would like to interact with one another and help provide them with a forum to do just that.   

You might also find that students, when given the chance, come up with some of the most interesting prompts that encourage their classmates to engage.  Have you tried asking them what they want to know about the topic of the week?  You may be surprised at where they take the conversation, and in a good way! 

For more ideas and a review of the literature, read the article Purposeful Interpersonal Interaction in Online Learning: What is it and How is it Measured? 

Teaching Tip: The OEI Rubric - B4 - Informal Student Interaction

Encouraging students to interact with one another is an important part of the online learning experience.  It is so important, in fact, that the accrediting body, ACCJC, requires evidence of it in online courses.   

Getting students to interact with one another happens organically in a face-to-face class as they wait for the door to open, sit next to one another, or pass each other in the hall after class.  These informal interactions are often lost in online classes when students are separated from one another by distance and time. 

Item B4 of the OEI Course Design Rubric asks you to include opportunities for unstructured student-initiated interaction with other students and encourage students to take advantage of opportunities to build a sense of community.  Consider including a Cyber Café in the discussion forum for informal and unstructured interactions.  Or perhaps use a Wiki page or Google Jamboard to gather student’s questions about course content or topics of interest. Your class might enjoy a Motivation Station where they can post motivational memes, videos or mantras.  Each class is different.  Try out different strategies to see what works.  And don’t forget to regularly encourage students to make use of the opportunities to build a community as well as provide their own insights into how they would like to engage with one another. 

The particulars of student-to-student interaction in your course are clearly articulated in the Distance Education Addendum.  To ensure that you are meeting the requirements for the online course (yes, synchronous courses are online) you are teaching, please reach out to your dean or Distance Education Coordinator, Robin Kurotori, for a copy of your addendum. 

Professional Development 

Hand dripping water on a sprout. Fall 2021 eCampus professional development banner  with quote: when a flower doesn't bloom you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower. Alexander Ben Hiejer. 

Grading for Equity Book Club 

You won’t want to miss this opportunity! We promise! Sign up today and join the grand conversation as we discuss Grading for Equity by Joe Feldman. We have space for 10 more faculty members who will participate in weekly synchronous discussions over the course of 6 weeks.  The conversations have been dynamic, and we think you’ll thoroughly enjoy them - even if you’ve only skimmed the chapter or must miss a week or two. ECampus will provide the book. 

Voluntary Peer Online Course Review 

The first official POCR Cohort begins in mid-October. Stay tuned for more information, or reach out to eCampus today to join in this opportunity designed to support you every step of the way toward aligning your fully online asynchronous course with the OEI Course Design Rubric. Details are forthcoming.

eCampus Office Hours 

Hand dripping water on a sprout. Fall 2021 eCampus office hours banner with quote: when a flower doesn't bloom you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower. Alexander Ben Hiejer. 

We’ll be in the “gardening shed” waiting for you to join us this week on 

  • Monday, September 27 from 4:30 – 6:00 pm 

  • Friday, October 1 from 9:00 – 10:30 am 

Office Hour Zoom Link 

See You Online!



Mehall, S. (2020). Purposeful interpersonal interaction in online learning: What is it and how is it measured? Online Learning, 24(1), 182-204. https://doi.org/10.24059/olj.v24i1.2002 

Click here to check out our previous issues.