Planning for Interaction & Engagement

Miami University is known for world-class faculty who develop close-knit communities with their students. At Miami Online, we strive to continue this legacy through our online courses and degree offerings by focusing on three types of interaction in our courses:


These interactions help to build what is called a community of inquiry (COI), which should be cultivated in any type of course to support meaningful collaboration through social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence.

Without engagement, learners often don't take ownership of their learning and become the self-directed learners we want them to be. To facilitate student success and meet the requirements of regular and substantive interaction in your course, plan to incorporate various strategies for interaction and engagement during the course development and design phase. Purposefully planning for engagement on your part can result in motivated students who collaborate, participate, and immerse themselves in higher-level critical thinking.

Promoting Student Engagement Through Active Learning

Active Learning Strategies

Active learning is an instructional approach that encourages student engagement through strategies designed to encourage participation, individual reflection, and individual (and group) problem-solving. Rather than sitting quietly and listening to a lecture, students actively participate in the learning process by using strategies such as question-and-answer sessions, discussion, interactive lecture (in which students respond to or ask questions), quick writing assignments, hands-on activities, and experiential learning. As you think of integrating active learning strategies into your course, plan for ways to set clear expectations, design effective evaluation strategies, and provide helpful feedback. Learn more by watching The Active Learning Method. We love the ideas and free resources from cognitive scientist, Pooja K. Agarwal, Ph.D.

Strategies for virtual engagement and interaction
  • Discussion Board ideas to facilitate engagement
  • Breakout Rooms with Zoom/Webex for group projects
  • Collaborate on shared documents, sheets, or slides
  • Post prompts, videos, or articles to a discussion board or course communication hub
  • Have students do virtual demonstrations or presentations
  • Use polling or survey applications for feedback or to create virtual exit tickets
  • Provide self-knowledge checks and pause to reflect on student questions
  • Use a virtual whiteboard to conduct brainstorming sessions, label the parts, design a solution, fill-in-the-blanks, put things in order, or design a metaphor
  • Provide a resource (presentation, image, video, article, infographic) and use direct questioning using VoiceThread, TopHat or discussion
  • Student storytelling, peer teaching, or presenting with recordings and peer reviews and critiques
  • Deliver a problem for students to collaborate on for a plan of action/a solution with Canvas groups, breakout rooms, and/or a shared document
  • Collaborate on a concept map, outline, or story
  • Peer review an artifact, video, presentation, photo, and more with surveys, polling, VoiceThread or TopHat
  • Evaluate an artifact in student groups
  • Share an artifact for student reflection, comments, and feedback
  • Use social annotation to get students engaged with content and each other. You can use a tool like to have students gloss terms, add questions and comments on a reading, or share analysis of passages

Regular and Substantive Interaction (RSI) for Student Engagement

If you are teaching an online course, the U.S. Department of Education has issued guidelines for online education courses for which students may use Title IV funds (federal financial aid). The guidelines provide specific expectations for interaction between students and instructors. Regular interaction encompasses things that you are likely already doing or plan to do, like providing a welcome message or video, sending weekly announcements, providing a Q&A discussion board, or providing lecture videos or tutorials. These routine and regular procedural interactions are all great and essential for student success. The definition of substantive interaction is engaging students in teaching, learning, and assessment, consistent with the content under discussion, and also includes at least two of the following:

  • Providing direct instruction
  • Assessing or providing feedback on a student’s coursework
  • Providing information or responding to questions about the content of a course or competency

Substantive interaction looks for specific instructor to student interactions like providing feedback on a student’s coursework, facilitating a group discussion regarding the content of a course, or recording a lecture followed by a discussion forum on the topics or issues addressed in the video. This resource from Suny Empire State College provides a deeper dive into RSI.

RSI Strategies

  • Announcements listing questions for students to have in mind for assigned readings
  • Timely feedback on assignments that communicates to students what they did well and how areas they need to improve upon
  • Instructor facilitate discussion forums using discussion response techniques like guiding questions, counter points, and common misconceptions

Visit this resource: Easy Ways to Include Regular and Substantive Interaction in Online Courses

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Considerations

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn. UDL provides useful guidelines for developing curricula, selecting materials, and creating learning environments that take into account the wide variability of learners in higher ed environments. UDL provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone—not a single, one-size-fits-all solution—but flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs.

The UDL principles include three sets of strategies for engagement: recruiting interest, sustaining effort and persistence, and self-regulation. This multiple means of engagement can provide students varied reasons and opportunities to collaborate and engage.

UDL Strategies

  • Give learners choice and autonomy, when possible, for how they learn: text format, video, audio, presentation, or other approach for content delivery
  • Create course content that is socially, culturally, and personally relevant to students
  • Invite students to give their personal responses and perspectives
  • Provide learning goals and the purpose of activities and assignments in a variety of ways, like visuals or timelines
  • Provide clear expectations for assignments and group work with rubrics or activity agreements

Find more ideas by visiting

Media Options & Ideas

Content Courses Discussion Courses Activity Courses Experiential Courses
Single camera recording of instructor

Screen recording of slides or software demo

Whiteboard videos

Expert interviews

Curated content: TED talks; documentaries; pop culture pieces that show course concepts in action

Infographics or process diagrams

Interactives for content engagement
Video assignments


Synchronous discussions

Expert interviews

Panel discussions

Curated content: TED talks; documentaries; pop culture pieces that show course concepts in action

Infographics or process diagrams
Video assignments 

Demonstration videos

Curated content: TED talks; documentaries; pop culture pieces that show course concepts in action

Infographics or process diagrams

Virtual “tours” (from external sites) showing real-world applications of activities or processes
Virtual tours or site visits

 Demonstration videos

Expert interviews

Infographics or process diagrams

Virtual “tours” (from external sites) showing real-world applications of activities or processes

Interactives modeling process steps