Effects of Interactivity on Student Achievement and Motivation in Distance Education

Article excerpt

This study investigated the effects of 3 levels of interactivity on achievement and motivation of college students taking a Web-based course. Participants were divided into 3 groups: a low interaction group received a treatment with a minimum level of interactivity, a reactive interaction group received a medium level of interactivity with elaborate immediate feedback, and a proactive interaction group received the highest level of interactivity which incorporated a generative activity. The study's results showed increased levels of motivation and achievement in the reactive and proactive groups, but no significant differences on level of motivation were found between the reactive and proactive groups.


This study investigated the effects of three levels of interactivity on student achievement and motivation of undergraduate college students taking a Web -based course. The proliferation of distance education has brought concerns regarding student achievement and motivation. Of specific concern has been the level of interactivity offered by Web-based instruction. Interactivity in Web -based instructional environments is considered to play a significant role in student learning. Although there has been a significant amount of research in distance education, few studies have looked at the effectiveness of instructional methods for Web-based instruction. Simonson (1995) argued that educators must strive "to make the experience of the distance learner as complete, satisfying, and acceptable as that of the local learner" (p. 12). A main goal in education should be the development of learners who will find learning to be an enjoyable experience and who will be motivated to learn.

Although interactivity is often referred to as a significant component for successful online learning, empirical evidence of its importance is lacking. Several studies have examined the effects of interactivity on motivation in distance learning environments and have found it to have a positive effect (Huang, Diefes-Dux, Imbrie, Daku, & Kallimani, 2004; Kennedy, 2004; Su Bonk, Magjua, Liu, & Lee, 2005; Thurmond, 2003; Visser, Plomp, Amirault, & Kuiper, 2002). Motivating students to learn should be a top priority of instructional designers when developing online learning materials. Hodges (2004) concluded that regardless of the model or theory employed when developing instruction, the main goal is to incorporate strategies that will motivate students to learn. He pointed out that there is no cookbook that provides a recipe for motivating students. Motivation is important in distance education because students should be able to work independently without face-to -face interaction, to be good at time management, and to be responsible for their own learning. This requires a higher degree of motivation to learn than it would in a traditional setting.

This study employed the ARCS model of motivational design developed by Keller (1987a, 1987b, 1987c). ARCS has been described as a model for designing instruction to motivate students. In this model, specific motivational requirements for learners to acquire desired outcomes are emphasized. ARCS is an acronym for the four motivational categories of the model: attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction. The attention component includes strategies that stimulate and sustain learners' curiosity. The relevance component includes strategies that link learners' needs and motives. The confidence component includes strategies that provide learners with a positive expectation to achieve. The satisfaction component includes strategies that provide intrinsic and extrinsic reinforcements for learners' efforts (Keller, 1987a, 1987b, 1987c). The ARCS' model validity and reliability have been tested in numerous studies, including classroom-based and Web-based instruction (Maushak, Lincecum, & Martin, 2000; Small, 1997; Visser & Keller, 1990; Visser, Plomp, & Kuiper, 1999; Visser et al, 2002). …