The Effects of Different Levels of Interaction on the Achievement and Motivational Perceptions of College Students in a Web-Based Learning Environment

Article excerpt

        This study investigated the effects of learning materials with
        different interaction levels on achievement and motivational
        perceptions of college students in a web-based learning
        environment with a posttest only experimental design. There were
        three groups in this study: control group, reactive
        interaction group, and proactive interaction group. The control
        group received a treatment with static hyperlinks to the
        learning content; the reactive interaction group received a
        treatment that was implemented with elaborated immediate
        feedback; the proactive interaction group received a treatment
        that required generative activity. Three instruments were used
        to evaluate the effects of different treatments: an achievement
        test, an instructional material motivation survey, and an
        interview. The subjects in the study were college students in
        various education majors. The results indicated that students in
        both the reactive and proactive interaction groups outperformed
        those in the control group on the achievement test. The students
        in the reactive interaction group demonstrated significantly
        higher motivational perceptions toward the instructional
        material than those in the control group. The qualitative data
        also supported these results.

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Jl. of Interactive Learning Research (2003) 14(4), 367-386

Distance learning refers to any instruction through print or electronic communication media for people involved in learning in a place or time different from that of the instructor(s) or other student(s). It has many formats, from the oldest correspondence courses, audio, one-way video, two-way video, to the World Wide Web (WWW or Web). Among those, the Web is the fastest growing. It provides a pervasive new channel for education that makes education more accessible. It appeals to students, provides for flexible learning, and enables new ways of learning (Owston, 1997). Like other kinds of distance learning, it is widely believed that interaction is one of the important and fundamental factors that affect students' learning and attitudes in web-based learning (Berge, 1999; Gilbert & Moore, 1998; Moore, 1989).

Interaction is a two-way communication process. From the learner's perspective, there are three types of interaction involved in the process of learning: (a) interaction with content, (b) interaction with instructor, and (c) interaction with other students (Moore, 1989). Each type of interaction can have different effects on student achievement and attitude toward learning. From the perspective of learning, it can be argued that the most important interaction occurs between the student and the material he/she is trying to acquire or master. Milheim (1996) pointed out that interactivity between the computer and the learner is one of the most important attributes in computer based instruction because it directly impacts the communication between the educational materials and the intended learners.

Based on the quality of interaction, the student-content interaction can range from low to high levels. In low-level interaction, there is less interactivity, engagement, and cognitive processing. There is more interactivity, elaboration, and cognitive processing in high-level interaction.

Schwier and Misanchuk's (1993) identified interaction levels provide a useful starting point for developing and understanding interaction. They suggested that there were at least three levels of interaction based on the instructional quality of the interaction: reactive, proactive, and mutual interactions.

Although proposed for traditional multimedia, this categorization scheme also applies to web-based learning environments. Web-based learning is popular and growing rapidly. But people still have many concerns about web delivered courses (Windschitl, 1998). …