Interactivity in Online Learning

Interaction from instructor to student and student to student is not only a good practice, “regular and substantive interaction” is a federal requirement for online learning. This guide includes examples for providing interaction in your online learning.


This content was adapted from information shared in faculty support sessions by Boise State University’s Center for Teaching and Learning.

How to Include Interactivity in Online Learning

Oral Communication

Video and audio allow students to demonstrate their understanding of a concept, display the results of their work, and even explain the processes they used for problem-solving. Consider the value to students as they:

  • Role-play with their peers in preparation for client interactions

  • Explain a thought process for solving an equation

  • Provide brief updates with visual examples of their experiences for service learning projects, community outreach, and field studies

  • Meet via video introductions to gain a better understanding of the diversity of their peers

Some tools to consider include Flip for short-length exchanges and Panopto or other video production tools for longer-length presentations and screencasts. With tools like Flip, students can have conversations via short video posts. It has the potential to change the learning experience by preserving the oral component while allowing students more time to craft what they will say. It also reminds students that they are communicating with real human beings. 

Instructors can interact with students in a short-length video posing a question or other prompt. Then, students respond with their own video(s). Short-length video exchanges allow students to demonstrate their understanding of a concept or display the results of their work. Try these activities:

  • Ask students to explain a theory or present a case study, then invite classmates to reply with questions or peer feedback.

  • Ask students to build a model and provide a tour of its parts.

  • Ask students to role-play conversations between caregiver and patient or professional and client.

Written Communication

For interaction with the written word, look to both the familiar and new tools. Consider a tool like Padlet to create an online bulletin board that you can use to display information on any topic. Participants can add images, links, and videos. Columns can be used for sorting or refining. Also, consider familiar tools like those found in Google Suite. Students might use LucidCharts to write a story outline as a flowchart, Google Slides is useful for creating posters, and Google Sites can be used to create websites for visual explanations and portfolios. 

Many activities can be done individually or in groups. Try these activities:

  • Brainstorm and then prioritize a research question for research methods instruction in Google Docs, Padlet, or Sheets

  • Create a “wiki” page for a historical figure

  • Map a story arc in a flowchart

  • Use Padlet to collect exemplary public health communications from a past natural disaster

Group Activities

Group activities can incorporate some of the activities identified above. The tools available through Groups can be very effective in online learning. Group discussion boards can be used for role-playing, sharing student work for peer feedback, exploring opinions, and analyzing positions. Groups provide a space and tools just for group members to meet as equals in carrying out their work on projects. There are, however, additional tools outside of the learning management system to explore group interactions.

Google Suite can provide space using Google Documents to collaborate via a wiki or to co-design a Google website to display the results of group work. Google Forms provide easy access to share and receive student-generated surveys.  

Related Information

Need more help? Try eCampus Center Faculty Development.
Suggest more topics by contacting