Over here, across the pond, every month I attend a local e-learnining playgroup (elearningplaygroup.com) where we explore a variety of topics. For next month's meeting, I'm preparing a short overview on quick tips and tricks for making e-learning interactive. I'd love to bring in some cross-Atlantic perspectives.

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Hi Margaret,

I like Stephen Downes' definition of interaction:

By 'interaction' what I mean is the capacity to communicate with other people interested in the same topic or using the same online resource. In a learning environment, interaction means the capacity to speak with your fellow students or your instructor. Of course, online, such roles are not so distinct - your student at one moment may be your instructor the next, depending on the subject.

From: http://www.downes.ca/cgi-bin/page.cgi?post=13

But it's very rare that this sort of thing is built into any corporate elearning experience!

So a better definition might be: interaction is a process of getting feedback that changes a learner's behaviour.

Given that definition, I'm not convinced that most of what we call interactions are anything other than navigation mechanisms (eg. click to reveal).

At a minimum we should be looking at making the learner think or make choices and then being given feedback on those choices.

Even better would be to include branching approaches where the choices affect the whole of the next section of the learning.

And far better would be some sort of "games-type" approach where choices affect everything that happens next.

I realise that's all probably a bit too general for your group - sorry! :-)


As Mark says, 'interactive' could mean interacting with other people, but we're not that advanced where I work. Over the years I've often been given material like PPT or Word with the request 'make it more interactive'. This request, when probed, turns out to mean:
1. Add animation, audio or video: to me this isn't interactive at all. In fact I'd say they're more passive than reading. This is likely to be a trainer who's heard the word 'interactive' and knows it's a 'Good Thing'.
2. Change it so that some information gets revealed when you click a picture or so on: I may be pedantic but I'd call this 'user control'. Step by step walkthroughs, so-called 'interactive diagrams' and so on. It's OK as a presentation technique but it's nothing to do with learning.
3. Put in challenging, meaningful questions: questions that genuinely test understanding of the subject, and provide feedback that will help the user know whether they've 'got it'. I'd count this as interactivity.
4. Rebuild the material around user decisions, relevant to the work task or business: from a simple multiple choice based role-play scenario to an immersive game. That's interactivity taken to its full.

I know this is too late for your meeting, but I just thought the discussion was interesting - obviously I don't drop in here often enough!



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