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Learner-learner interaction at the heart of online program’s courses

Ashley Orme Nichols has taught conflict management courses in-person for years. These courses are extremely hands-on and focus on developing practical skills. When Nichols started to develop courses for the online conflict management program, she kept the following principles in mind:

  • Don’t lose the direct skills practice of these courses.
  • Allow students to connect around topics to create a shared experience and normalize conflict in their lives.
  • Try new things that push me and my students out of our comfort zones.

 As a result, Nichols developed highly interactive and engaging courses that she is extremely proud of.

Community building and skill development

Nichols’s courses include weekly Flipgrid discussions to combat discussion board fatigue. Students loved being able to see each other in these asynchronous video discussions and many reported they felt like they really got to know one another in ways they don’t typically get to in online courses. This sense of community laid the foundation for more effective collaborative assignments.

To retain the hands-on feel and practice students experienced in her in-person class, Nichols’s students also use Flipgrid to practice conflict management techniques. Nichols provides mastery-oriented feedback to students before pairing or teaming them together to again practice, grow their skill sets and learn from one another.

Scaffolded group projects

Every conflict management course includes one or more group assignment or project. The scope of learner-learner interactions vary and students can choose to work synchronously or asynchronously. Paired or group work in the online conflict management program is designed around individual skill development and reflection exercises to provide introverts with space and quiet time to think before engaging with others.

“I loved my group and getting together with them”

In one of the first courses students experience in the program, students engaged in a semester-long project that required one synchronous touch point. To make this as easy as possible for students, Nichols grouped students according to similar schedules. To increase accountability among group members, 50% of each student’s grade came from peer evaluations. The peer evaluation component required students to use feedback skills developed in the course.

Conflict management group project:

  • Week 1: Getting to Know You student questionnaire that provides scheduling information.
  • Week 3: Team Contract Creation (see the Resources section below for more) where teams discuss how they will interact with one another, who is responsible for submitting each shared assignment, etcetera.
  • Week 3: Team Listening Activity that required a synchronous meeting (Listening is a core conflict management skill so this is a great way to have students practice and have the team meet each other).
  • Week 4: Team Flipgrid Responses/Coaching where teams are asked to respond directly to their teammates (so they continue to develop that connection to each other).
  • Week 5: Team Case Study Presentation Rough Draft (Nichols provides mastery-oriented feedback to the team).
  • Week 6: Team Case Study Presentation Final Draft shared with class + Team and Self Assessment

Elements of an engaging learning community

The social presence that tools like Flipgrid provide connects online learners with each other and their instructors. Add authentic practice for individuals to build their skills, reflection, mastery-oriented feedback, and group projects that have built-in support mechanisms to help learners learn how to work collaboratively and effectively, and you have a highly engaging interactive learning community.

“I like that we used what we learned right away in our groups. It really helped solidify the material.”

Student feedback has been extremely positive — Nichols wasn’t sure how it would all work out when initially developing these courses, so the positive response has been much appreciated. Student responses included feedback like, “I like that we used what we learned right away in our groups. It really helped solidify the material.” and “I loved my group and getting together with them.” Nichols hopes we can all push our comfort zones to create deep connections with our students and to further their learning!


  • Flipgrid Uses and Support
  • Group Contracts
  • UDL Tips for Assessment
  • Jacobs, G. M. (2014). Introverts can succeed with cooperative learning. Parole, 4(1), 83-93.
  • Lowenthal, P.R., & Moore., R.L. (2020). Exploring student perceptions of Flipgrid in online courses. Online Learning, 24(4), 28-41.

Article Credit

Thanks to professor Ashley Orme and Kim Barker, the eCampus instructional design consultant who worked with Orme to develop her online Conflict Management courses.