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Face Time or Interactivity Requirements

Many programs choose to require some amount of face time for their online participants. In some cases, this choice is tied to state funding or attendance requirements. In other cases, programs have educational reasons for preferring a blended approach. Similarly, some programs define how much teacher-student or student-student interaction should be incorporated into a course, including expectations regarding how quickly teachers are expected to respond to phone calls, emails or postings.

Face Time

Face time is often useful for tutoring sessions, testing, science labs and just checking in with students. Depending on the geographic range of your program, this may not be feasible, except through a network of teachers or school partners. In other programs, it’s quite easy to do while students are participating in online courses from the school’s own media center. Programs should ask the following questions:

  • Does your state require face time for funding or attendance reasons, and if so, how much? Are there special rules for online learning programs or alternative programs that are applicable?
  • Will you require face time for full-time online students, part-time online students, or none?
  • What opportunities and challenges does the geographic range of your program present for providing face time?
  • Will you have stated requirements about how the face time is to be used (e.g. testing, science labs)?
  • Will your program allow interactive television or video web conferencing to be used as face time, and if so, how does that fit within your state laws regarding funding and attendance?

Interactivity Requirements

Although four kinds of interactivity are often described as important for online classes, the relevant focus here is on teacher-student and student-student interaction. The other two are student-content and student-technology. (For more information see Types of Interactivity.) Teacher-student interactivity refers to any communication between teachers and students. In addition to the questions about face time described previously, programs should consider including answers to the following questions in their policies:

Student-Teacher Interaction

  • How often are teachers expected to communicate with students? Parents?
  • How rapidly are teachers expected to respond to student questions or postings? Does that vary depending on the type of communication the student uses? For example, some programs expect faster response time for phone calls than for emails based on the assumption that a phone call generally represents an issue of greater urgency.
  • What constitutes “business hours” during which one level of response might be expected versus other times when a different level of response is allowed?

Student-Student Interaction

More than student-teacher interaction, student-student interaction varies widely across programs. Although student-student interaction has obvious learning benefits just as it does in the face-to-face environment, programs that function on rolling enrollment may wish to use courses and strategies that minimize student-student interaction. However, in cohort models and those tied to a traditional school calendar, student-student interaction can play a much larger role.

  • Will your courses and your program be designed to allow for student-student interaction?
  • If so, will you set expectations regarding how large of a role student discussions and group work should play in each course?