Certainly, most of us have once attended a long and boring training session (virtual or face-to-face), where the students are merely passive observers and are given little or no opportunities to participate. The truth is, this type of instruction hardly makes an impact on the audience. For effective learning and retention you need interaction. This is what makes the experience more worthwhile and valuable for the learner.
Make sure you keep these three big types of interaction in mind. They are essential for learning and engagement according to M.G. Moore:
Learning theories on interaction is one thing. Applying them in practice is another. Also, Moore finds that many eLearning programs make the fatal mistake of focusing on only one kind of interaction and ignoring the rest. Avoid this by learning more about eLearning interaction. Ensure high levels of all three types of interaction:
1) Between Learner-Learner
This type of interaction happens between two learners or among a group of learners studying the same course. This can happen with or without the instructor.
Social interaction definitely plays a main role in how people learn and it’s something that many eLearning professionals tend to forget (or ignore). Studies find that learner-learner interaction leads to greater learning and high course satisfaction. This is likely because students are motivated to learn when they are in a group. They no longer feel isolated and benefit from other people’s feedback.
Plan for learner-learner interaction in your course by considering student collaboration and information sharing. Build a sense of community within fellow students taking the course. Don’t just encourage them to share their insights. Create a learning atmosphere where they can participate, offer response, draw affective feedback and communicate in short, focused messages. This fosters powerful relationships among students and allows them to better understand your material.
Quick Action: Enable students to interact with each other even in your absence through new technology. You can start with these discussion boards, telecommunication tools such as email and chatrooms, and social collaboration tools. For example, provide a student-only forum where learners can discuss their interests or you can even schedule chat sessions that they can attend to discuss a specific topic.
2) Between Learner-Instructor
This type of interaction happens when an instructor delivers information, provides feedback or simply encourages or guides the learner. It also takes place when a learner asks the instructor questions or communicates with him or her regarding the course.
The instructor, then, serves as a guide, a facilitator, an expert or a support depending on the situation. While learners can interact with fellow learners, they do well when the instructor is present throughout the course. By providing ongoing feedback to learners, the instructor can clarify issues, reinforce crucial points and correct interpretation of a subject matter, and stimulate learners’ interest and motivation.
The eLearning instructor, unlike the lecturer in a traditional classroom setup, does not take center stage. He or she becomes a “guide on the side” and not a “sage on the stage.” This effectively brings home the message that the instructor is willing to help students learn and support them until the course ends.
Quick Action: Promote learner-instructor interaction by
Increasing dialogue between instructor and the student (offer several different ways for them to contact the instructor. For example, provide e-mail address, social media accounts and office phone number.)
Monitoring the student’s course performance and participation.
By offering timely or prompt feedback (Respond to students as soon as possible, hopefully within 24 hours.)
Providing clear and detailed information to the learners for every step of the way.
There are many more proven strategies available out there. Whichever you choose, be sure students can actually feel your support and presence during the course.
3) Between Learner-Content
This type interaction takes place when students themselves obtain information directly from learning materials. It happens whenever they interact with the text or are deeply engrossed with the content.
Researchers consider learner-content interaction the most crucial form of interaction since this is where learning takes place. Once students access learning materials such as multimedia, lectures and handouts, they should be able to consume it their own way. They should be able to pause, rewind, repeat and forward parts of the course to master it.
Quick Action: Achieve this type of interaction by giving students options on how they want to consume content. Offer content in different formats including text, audio or video. Give them breaks or quizzes to check for understanding. Also, make sure that materials can be read easily on the screen or can be printed. Moreover, create challenging tasks that require students to interact with the content and explore the topic in greater detail. Simulations, web searches, scenarios, case studies, etc. all demand participants to interact with the content and learn more about the topic on their own.