Academic journal article Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia

An Interaction-Centric Learning Model

Academic journal article Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia

An Interaction-Centric Learning Model

Article excerpt

The author considers whether current definitions of interactivity in educational software are optimal. While many definitions of interactivity in educational software are based upon how well the software imitates communication with the learner, or social interactions within a classroom, the author calls for a new model of interaction based upon how learners interact mentally with new schema. Drawing upon studies of interactive learning and educational psychology, a model for such interaction is outlined. Examples of media that could be used to create such interactions are given. Considerations on the employment of the model are offered.


When considering the cost and time needed to produce multimedia software, instructional designers are often forced to consider why they would use multimedia software over cheaper delivery systems, such as paper or audio. A justification that some instructional designers give for going to the cost of producing multimedia is interactivity. For instance, Pellone (1991) claimed a "major advantage of the computer in the classroom is that it provides interaction." This reasoning appeared to be based on an assumption that the interactivity that software can provide has positive effects on instruction. Several studies and literature reviews have promoted this idea. Among them, Schaffer and Hannafin (1986) contended their study with 98 high school students showed performance in a 23-item recall test was significantly affected by the degree and nature of interactions present in software that managed video clips. Fletcher (1991), when reviewing the literature on the effectiveness of interactive videodisc instruction wit h military rainees and students of similar age to military trainees, claimed "The more the interactive features of interactive videodisc were used, the more effective the resulting instruction."

Many instructional designers had, by the 1 990s, transferred the idea that interaction was essential to the design of instructional software, to the idea that interaction was essential to education. For example, Zirkin and Sumler (1995) compiled a list of studies on interaction in traditional classrooms and distance education using various instructional media. Zirkin and Sumler claimed that interactive instruction positively affected student satisfaction, test performance, and grades. They also contended that this correlation between higher interactivity and better student performance occurred whether the instruction was in a classroom or in the form of instructional media. Summers (1991) argued that without interaction, teaching merely becomes the act of relaying knowledge as if it were "dogmatic truth," and maintained that interaction was needed to enable learners to eventually become independent thinkers. More recently, Parker (1999) proclaimed that interaction was an essential part of the academic process . These thoughts seem to echo the earlier ideas of Dewey (1916) and others who argued learning should be an active process.

However, Bork (1987, p. 136) asserted, "an unfortunate tendency exists to view any interaction as marvelous!" Bork went on to postulate that there were varying levels of interactions, and that a measure of an instructional program's interactivity might be the quality of the average interaction divided by the average time between interactions. Pondering this statement begs the question whether, if interaction is indeed essential to teaching and learning, is it enough to create many occurences of low-level interactions, such as clicking or dragging items on the computer screen to bolster Bork's ratio, or should instructional designers instead design interactions that support and promote the cognitive processes that constitute learning?

A model of the interactions that take place between a learner and what the learner is trying to learn might help instructional designers provide the learner with a diverse set of interactions that foster learning. …

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