Practice in groups helps students reinforce what they have learned during a lesson. However, if the lesson is taught online, the interaction capabilities are limited by tutoring platform design and software and the general nature of online classes. How can your encourage your students to work together and learn from each other in an online classroom?
Let Them Answer Each Other’s Questions
Encourage other students to answer a question one student has. Ask each student what he thinks the answer might be instead of focusing on one or two students in the class who seem to usually know the answers to most questions. This gives all students an opportunity to participate. You, in turn, serve as more of a guide. Students are able to think questions through themselves, which reinforces learning when they come to solutions and answers without your giving them.
Pair Students Up
If there is a list of discussion questions, have one student read a question and another answer. Then switch roles. If the lesson has role plays, ask one student to read one part and another student to read another part.
Write on Whiteboard
If there is a question in the lesson that students can write answers to on the whiteboard, draw a line denoting space students can write their answers on the whiteboard themselves. If the class is doing a brainstorming question, you might just clear the screen and ask students to write words or phrases related to what they are brainstorming on the screen. If there are fill in the blank exercises, assign each student a particular blank to fill in. Another option is just to have them all write answers they know on the board at the same time until they are all completed.
Ask student a question about a topic related to the lesson. Ask each in turn what they think about it. If there is some debate, allow students all the ability to use their microphones and talk at the same time for a few minutes. Ensure that some students do not dominate the conversation and that quieter students feel that their voices are heard by the rest of the class.
Even though your students are restricted to using the online classroom structure, they can work together in ways similar to a regular classroom setting. This helps students feel as if they are part of a learning community and that that they are not completely on their own when it comes to learning. They can hear other students’ ideas and form their own opinions about lesson topics based on more than their own thoughts and the assigned reading and lectures.