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Learning and Interactivity


Learning and Interactivity

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People often wonder what, exactly, counts as interactive learning, assuming that interactivity has to be high-tech and draw upon complex graphics and expert coding techniques. In reality, an interactive course may be high-tech, but interactive learning can describe any course for which the development team considers and plans interactions between the learner and content, instructor, and other learners rather than just presenting content with the hope that the learner will absorb it passively.
We know that learners must actively construct their knowledge by converting new information and new experiences into learning. They need to be engaged in their learning to facilitate making connections, and that engagement happens through interactions available to the learner.
There are three broad modes of interaction in education:

  • Learner-content interaction. The learner’s interaction with content such as course readings, videos, activities, and games.
  • Learner-instructor interaction. The learner’s interaction with the instructor, which may include written feedback, face-to-face presentation, and meetings conducted in person or via voice or video conferencing features.
  • Learner-learner interaction. The learner’s interaction with other learners, which might include discussion board assignments, peer review of produced work, or official or unofficial group study sessions.

Planning for these interactions makes it more likely that the course you design will be effective. In fact, in Distance Education: A Systems View, Michael Moore and Greg Kearsley (2005) suggest that one of the most common reasons that distance education courses fail is that an inordinate amount of attention is placed on the presentation of information rather than on the cultivation of interaction between the learner and the course:

“Whether the primary communication medium is online or print, audio or videotape recordings, broadcasts or teleconferences, there is often an imbalance between the time and effort devoted to experts’ presentation of information and the arrangements made for the learner to interact with the content thus presented, and the instructor-learner interaction and learner-learner interaction that we have discussed. Simply making a video presentation or putting lecture material on a Web site is no more teaching than it would be to send the students a book through the mail.” (145)

To ensure that learners are learning deeply and actively, course developers and instructors need to work together to create courses with attention to the interactions we are asking of the learner. Best practice calls for an authentic “back-and-forth” with the learner, an approach which encourages active learning.

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