Maggie McVay Lynch on Interactivity and Web-Based Pedagogy

Interactivity is much more than being able to click on a
hyperlink or interact with a machine. In fact, the vast majority of
student interactivity is cognitive and that is what we should focus on
enhancing in whatever way best helps the student to incorporate the
knowledge in their daily lives and practice.

In the upcoming WAOE newsletter for Nov/Dec I have an article that goes
into this in much more detail, but I would like to make a few comments
here, and if you find these intriguing perhaps you will read my article
in the newsletter when it comes out later this week.

Interaction occurs on four levels:

# Interaction with the content
# Interaction with the instructor
# Interaction with classmates
# Interaction with self

As a course designer, you have a great deal of control over the first
two types of interaction, and some control over the third type. However,
you have no control over the interaction students experience with
themselves - comparing new knowledge to old, generalizing mental models,
selecting and discarding information - the act of cognition.
Nevertheless, by designing the first three levels of interaction you can
help to assure that the student's mental processing is more likely to
select concepts and methods that you deem important to the learning

I've attached a table, in Microsoft Word format, that describes some of
the types of interaction one might build into a course. The
table provides a matrix for how you might translate an instructional
technique used in the clasroom to delivery online. I initially
developed this table in an article for The Technology Source in 1998.
It was then updated for a book I wrote in 2001 and was published in 2002.

In working with many instructional designers, I often find that new
online designers sometimes make the mistake of attempting to develop a
course that uses only materials available on the Web. The belief of
these new designers seems to be that it will be easier for the student
to access materials if they are all on the web, and it will allow them a
wide range of search functions. Both of these assumptions are true.
However, limiting the entire instruction to the Web also limits the
effectiveness of the learning experience to a small number of activities
and students. Just as you use a variety of media in a classroom, so also
should you expect to use a variety of media in your Web-based courses.

Contrary to popular belief, textbooks are not going to disappear in the
Web-based classroom environment. In fact, many students truly appreciate
having a textbook to supplement their learning. The textbook provides a
different way of organizing information, as well as a kinesthetic tool
for many learners. One complaint about materials available only on the
Web is that students cannot read or learn when away from the computer.
Many institutions have reported that students print 95% of the material
they find on the Web so they can have the pages with them as they travel
to work, on trips, or wait for services. This is where the textbook
becomes an important partner to your course design. Furthermore, for
those students who live in countries where access to the Web is still
charged by the minute, taking the time to read everything online can be
very costly.

Other text-based supplements to your online course include articles,
instructor notes, and assignments. In fact, there is an ongoing
controversy among educators as to whether it is better to place all text
materials online or to distribute them as a course packet along with the
textbook. If students are going to print all of the online material
anyway, there is good reason to avoid putting so much text online and
simply supplying it to your learners in the format they prefer. On the
other hand, some designers would argue that having all the text online
allows for better search, hyper-linking, and tracking of student use.
The point is not to dismiss the possibility of having additional
text-based paper elements that the student purchases or receives that is
referred to online but not duplicated.

Though technology now allows us to develop streaming video, quick time
movies, and large audio files to be delivered over the Web, it doesn't
mean that this is the best way to deliver the material. Bandwidth is
still a huge issue for most students accessing their courses from a home
or business computer. This is particularly true in rural areas and in
countries where the infrastructure is not fully developed. Someone
accessing the Web with a 56K modem (still the typical speed of the vast
majority of students) will have many problems downloading audio, video
and quick time movies. In some cases, the video will not play at all. In
others, the video plays but the audio is not synchronized because of
latency. Also, if the video signal is received the latency makes it
difficult to view or to evaluate. If presenting video or audio is an
important element in your course, you are better advised to use a CD.

Like textbooks, CDs are an important media partner to course design. A
CD can hold a great deal of material. You can stream audio, video,
tutorials, and a variety of other material to a CD and the student will
see it exactly as you prepared it without all the problems of dialing-in
with their modem. Within your Web-based course you can instruct your
students to put in their CD, watch a movie clip, and then respond on the
discussion board as you deem appropriate. In this way, you have provided
good instruction and can still guide the students' experience and
understanding of the content, even though it is not delivered directly
from your Website. Audio and video tapes are still viable media
partners, as are several other presentational tools.

The key to selecting media is to follow the same rules that guide all
course design: First define the goals and objectives, then determine the
best means by which to teach the material and assess mastery. Selecting
media based on this rule will always assure the best course development
possible. Oh, and in terms of interactivity. All of these are
interactive. :)

Table presented in Lynch, M. (2002). The Online Educator: A guide to creating the virtual classroom. London:Routledge. ISBN 0-415-24422-6 p. 97

Table 1: Translation of Classroom-based Interactions to the Web

Classroom Interaction

Form of Web Interaction

Description of Potential Use

Class discussions Chatsynchronous, immediate interactivity Schedule specific chat times when students may gather to discuss a topic. It is useful to structure the chat by providing questions or topics in advance.

Bulletin Boardasynchronous, gives time for considered responses Post questions on the bulletin board and ask for student responses.

Role-playing MOOs/MUDs (Multi-User Dimensions) Students come to chat in assigned roles; a scenario can be previously posted on a Web page.

Case Studies Chat Provide case study in advance (via textbook or Web pages) and ask students to come prepared to chat.

Bulletin Board Post specific case-related questions to bulletin board.

E-mail Ask for a written, analytical assignment to be attached to e-mail.

Question and Answer sessions Bulletin Board Designate a topic on the bulletin board for Q&A.

Chat Have chat office hours posted in advance. It is advisable to pick at least two differing times (e.g., Saturday 8:00 am and Wednesday 9:00 pm); remember geographical time differences within your student population.

Assignments and peer critiques E-mail Attachment Send attachments to the instructor via e-mail for grading and feedback.

Web Page Post to Web and send URL to instructor.

Bulletin Board Posting Cut and paste to bulletin board for sharing with entire classmay also use peer critique with this method.

WebCT Functions: