Student perceptions of required student-to-student interactions in online courses

Faye L. Lesht , David Schejbal


This multi-institutional study of undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in online degree programs explored student perceptions of required student-to-student interactions. Using a semi-structured interview methodology, thirty three students participated in the study. While all of the students had experience with the required discussion board interactions of posting and responding, a majority of the students reported experience with other types of required student-to-student interactions including group projects, group presentations, peer reviews, and, for a few, discussions within the required synchronous sessions. The findings indicate that while most students value the concept of peer-to-peer interaction in online courses, many found the required assignments lacking in authenticity and not a good use of their time. Some students reported satisfaction with one or more of the requirements such as small group assignments when time was allowed for coordination, small group discussions, and selected discussion board posts. The students valued the interactions most when those interactions were relevant to their careers. These findings encourage taking the demographic realities of students studying online into consideration when incorporating student-to-student interactions into courses. Many have family and other obligations, so they are particularly sensitive to work that appears to be trivial or unnecessary. Hence, learning elements such as peer-to-peer interactions should be incorporated into courses intentionally and with purpose so that the interactions do not appear to be busy-work or checking an interaction box.

Keywords: online learning, student interactions, authenticity, online programs



Faye L. Lesht

The author serves in the role of research associate professor for digital learning at Marquette University. Prior, she was associate director at the center for innovation in teaching and learning at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has worked in the field of online and continuing higher education in roles of administrator, instructor, and academic researcher for over 30 years. Faye's graduate education focused on the administration of continuing higher education. She received her doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

David Schejbal

The author is the incoming president of Excelsior College. Prior, David was vice president and chief of digital learning at Marquette University. David writes and speaks broadly about the future of higher education and how that future is shaped by social, economic, technological, and political forces. His academic interests focus on issues of higher education, sustainability, and the environment. David's academic background is in philosophy, and he received his doctorate from the University of Connecticut.

About the article


The article is in the printed version on pages 4-12.

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How to cite

Lesht, F. L. & Schejbal, D. (2020). Student perceptions of required student-to-student interactions in online courses. e-mentor, 2(84), 4-12.