Today, we have more choices to learn in an exciting and interactive environment compared to a decade back. Engaging lesson content and varied devices such as laptops, tablets, PDAs, and smart phones for accessing such content has brought about a new approach to teaching and learning. Irrespective of the teacher being present, lessons are being imparted in an asynchronous environment. Interactive courseware allows students to actively participate in the learning process and retain the knowledge learned through the use of simple and easy modes.
Interactivity has been the key component for such remarkable changes in the modes of imparting and accessing education. The meaning of ‘interactivity’ has grown ginormously. Before we take a leap further, we need to understand the concept of interactivity and interactions in its entirety as the dividing line between the two is sure to vanish in the near future.
Interactivity is more than a rendition of a lecture or piece of information. It is creation of a platform where the learners are more than passive listeners. They engage with the lesson which is responsive to their actions. It therefore, results in greater understanding and retention of the lesson and helps the learners overcome their trivial errors.
The interactivity potential is yet to be fully realized in the sphere of teaching and learning. Most of us have also been under the impression that computer based eLearning is interactivity. But, in fact that is so very untrue as eLearning merely allows the learner to browse the content on a computer, laptop or a handheld. This meaning of eLearning is not compatible with the concept of interactivity as explained above. Interactivity is more fun and makes the learners interested, curious, engaged and challenged in any setting be it the classroom or online classroom. In short, Interactivity is explicit interaction which leads to direct response and direct commentary.
An interaction on the other hand, is a learning activity where the learner is presented with a scenario. In this scenario, the learning goal is set which the learner tries to accomplish with actions and informative instructions from time to time. The key to the creation of a good interaction is that it should not be overtly filled with gimmicks and should have a defined purpose. It should be designed to maintain the learner’s interest till the activity ends.
For instance, interactions can be in the form of simulations, games, quizzes, virtual worlds, etc. The possibilities are infinite but selection of the right set is again very daunting for any instructional course designer. Interactions have to be engaging as they keep the learner mentally stimulated during the learning process/activity.
With the current usage of interactions and interactivity in eLearning and mobile learning courses, the difference between the two is somewhere dwindling. Nevertheless, we need to remember that Interactivity is a process oriented action and interaction is the means to accomplish such processes. What really matters is that both these terms are crucial to an eLearning course and it completes the interactive learning experience for the learner.