Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Student-to-Student Interaction and Collaboration

In A Study of Student Interaction and Collaboration in the Virtual High School, Andrew Zucker's poses the following questions:
  1. Does encouraging online student participation through grading practices increase student interaction and thus increase the value of the course for students?
  2. How do teachers and students assess and value the role of interaction in online courses?
    (Zucker, 2005, pg. 49)
Zucker randomly selected 8 pairs of virtual school teachers who taught the same course. All teachers encouraged interaction between students. Half of them gave double point grade values for the following interactions: ice breaker posts, minimum number of responses each week, one or two small group activities, and a student lounge for socializing.

Measures included the number of posts to the student lounge, student grades, quality of communication as defined by the teacher, and value of communication and overall satisfaction with the course as reported by the students. The survey findings indicated high satisfaction with more than 2/3 agreeing or strongly agreeing that "communications with other students have been an important part of my learning in this VHS course" (Zucker, 2005, p. 51). The survey further indicated that interaction is important for getting to know other students, learning the material, and motivation.

Andrew, Z. (2005). A Study of Student Interaction and Collaboration in the Virtual High School. A Synthesis of New Research on K-12 Online Learning, p. 49-56. Retrieved Apr. 17, 2008, from

More in the news...

The Winterberry Christian Academy is under construction in Marco Island, Florida. It's on target to open in the fall even though construction will not be complete. The school will initially operate as a virtual school until the building is finished. It plans to continue operation as a blended school once students have been moved into the building. I can't help but think that more and more schools will be using blended learning options. We already know that virtual schools can supplement brick and mortar schools by providing a wider range of subject offerings, keeping students with illnesses on track, and meeting the needs of kids who travel or have special needs. The Winterberry solution is one more item to add to the list.


J-Lang said...


Thanks for breaking down Zucker’s methodology in concise terms. I found the results quite telling. Being social beings, obviously throughout our lifetime, we learn a great deal from our interactions with others. Though I understand one of the appeals of virtual school for some students is the ability to work at one’s own pace and largely independently, many students still appreciate being able to discuss and apply what they’ve understood from the coursework socially. Further, by offering their own experiences with the learning, it helps fellow students to frame and analyze their own thinking. Being a soccer coach in addition to a teacher, I’ve always marveled how players need and flourish with activities that help them learn and develop skills in social ways. Even if it’s just being able to chat during warm-ups and show each other their latest “moves,” whether boys or girls, the players have an innate need for it. And, I believe, appropriate social interaction in sports or in a classroom (virtual or traditional) is one of the most important factors in team building. After all, we’re all in this together, no matter how much we value our me-time.

- Justin

Mark said...

How funny that we both noticed that study! :) I wonder how many virtual schools are out there that have students in cohorts or on a traditional school year schedule.

There seems to be some consensus that student interaction is important in second language instruction. However, since the first 3 years of Spanish focus on fundamental knowledge and skills, I think that virtual schooling, even with little student interaction, can work for reaching learning objectives. I can see how interaction would be essential for acquiring the nuances of advanced language competency. We've already pointed out how students can and often do have more interaction with the instructors--which might be the most important relationship at that level (considering how reluctant many students are to speak foreign languages anyway in middle and high school). Ideally, a student would be immersed in an environment of native speakers, but that is certainly not what is offered in the typical high school foreign language classroom. Those are just some thoughts on the subject at the moment. :)

JeanneW said...

Did the teachers who awarded double points for high quality collaboration find greater student achievement or higher student satisfaction than those who encouraged collaboration but didn't award points? I ask because when I tell my students that they can earn extra-credit points with "meaningful" forum posts/replies, their participation and enthusiasm increased dramatically. Once I get them hooked, I don't really need to talk about points.

My firsthand experience (as a student and teacher) tells me online collaboration dramatically increases student satisfaction with online learning.

Great study!

mike said...

love to see this discussion! It’s great to see you all working through the issues and also, it’s great to see recommendations for testing. In the end, it’s what your actual users do and prefer hat should be your biggest driver in making these decisions.
data entry jobs