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What is it? And does it make a difference?

When learners are engaged, they show better attention spans and retention levels. In addition, they use critical thinking and carry those skills and knowledge into the real world.

Interactivity is just what the name suggests: people or things communicating and acting with each other. Interactivity is known to have a dramatic impact on the results of eLearning. For a learner on a computer, interactivity doesn’t have to involve the instructor. It happens whenever the learner performs an action or communicates with the program they are using. If they are actively using eLearning tools, they are engaged in interactivity.

 

Types of eLearning interactivity.

eLearning Industry classifies eLearning interactivity into two types: behavioral and cognitive. Behavioral interactivity involves action, and cognitive interactivity involves critical thinking.

Under the behavioral interactivity umbrella, we have three levels.

  • Simple behavioral interactivity in eLearning means the student will need to click here and there to navigate the content.
  • Intermediate behavioral interactivity takes more effort, like inputting text and performing drag-and-drop actions.
  • Advanced behavioral interactivity is where things get fun. We have gaming, simulations, clicks, text, and more.

There are three similar levels of cognitive interactivity based on Bloom’s Taxonomy.

  • Simple cognitive interactivity is the processing of information they absorb from the content. (Sidenote: Reading is considered passive learning. If you are processing the information you are reading right now; you are technically engaged in passive learning and simple cognitive interactivity.)
  • Intermediate cognitive interactivity requires analyzing and applying information derived from the content.
  • Advanced cognitive interactivity is the epitome of learning. The student will be tasked with investigation and conjecture, requiring careful material evaluation.

Advanced behavioral eLearning interactivity and advanced cognitive eLearning interactivity provide an immersive experience for the student, producing the most desirable results.

 

How does eLearning improve the student experience?

When interactions fit strategically into a learning methodology that makes sense to the user, it can have a positive impact that reaches into all facets of the learner’s experience.

Encourages critical thinking.

Critical thinking skills are valuable in all roles in an organization. It empowers employees to connect ideas, evaluate different perspectives, identify problems and solve complex issues.  Critical thinking is the objective analysis used to form a judgment. True critical thinking is free of biases and misinformation.

Interactive eLearning courses provide a safe place for learners to engage in real-life situations, ask questions, gather information from reliable sources, and to formulate creative solutions. Critical thinking skills are not developed over night. Learners must be given the opportunity to practice.

Increase long-term knowledge retention.

Retention is the ability to commit new information to long-term memory for future reference. Without it, a learner might be able to apply the knowledge today but won’t be able to use it once time has passed. An interactive eLearning course may increase retention by:

  • Testing the learner
  • Providing opportunities for the learner to correct mistakes
  • Allowing time for learners to actively engage with the material
  • Providing a review and summary of the topics

There are also two popular methodologies for committing new information to long-term memory: the 50/50 rule and spaced repetition.

The 50/50 rule divides learning time into 50% learning and 50% sharing the new knowledge with others. Learning material in a way that you can explain to another person and then actively repeating the information is a recipe for retention.

Spaced repetition is simply the idea that you can learn better by repeating the intake of information at spaced intervals – like singing the ABCs every day in kindergarten. Too much information at once gets lost. Not seeing it enough has the same effect. Spaced repetition gives your brain time to create neural connections.

Interactive eLearning employs quizzes, practice activities, multimedia formats, and immediate feedback to reinforce learning objectives. Combining visual and auditory elements in simulations, games, exercises, and assessments gives every type of learner the tools to engage and absorb information.

Expand learning to real-world applications.

While it is essential for learners to understand theory, learners must be able to apply theory to real-world situations.  Interactive eLearning presents information in a way that encourages learners to consider how newly acquired knowledge would be applied in a workplace or real-world setting.

Highly immersive interactive eLearning environments might offer action plans, career aids, and online resources that blur the line between the “classroom” and the workplace. As learners work through scenarios to solve problems independently or follow guided practices, they won’t just memorize formulas and processes.

They will develop skills and knowledge to successfully address challenges on their own in the future, thus increasing their value within their organizations, communities, and society at large.