Interactivity in eLearning is a powerful tool to enhance learner engagement and retention. In this article, we explore the four levels of interactivity and the benefits they offer.
The Levels of Interactivity
As a framework for designing more interactive eLearning, I recommend the levels of interactivity model. It is based on learning activity theory and IBM developed the learning cycle,.
The model defines four levels of interactivity: low, moderate, high and critical. It is important to know that these levels are not sequential or hierarchical in nature.
Rather, they can be used together in one course or independently in different courses.
For example, we could include a critical level interaction as part of a knowledge check at the end of a chapter while we could include moderate level interactions throughout an entire course to reinforce concepts as needed.
Level 1: Low Interactivity
This level is appropriate for learning material that is familiar to learners. For example, content that they have encountered previously).
Low interactivity at this level means that learners have seen a video or text content but we don't expect them to take any action or provide any feedback while watching it.
While this type of eLearning can be helpful for those who are familiar with the subject matter and who do not need an interactive experience, it does not provide learners with much opportunity for engagement and retention.
For those who want more engagement than low interactivity provides, there are other levels of interactivity that you can use.
Level 2: Moderate Interactivity
Moderate interactivity involves learners in more than just passively viewing or listening to content. This level includes the following learning activities: multiple choice, matching, hot spot quizzes, click and drag and interactive simulations.
These activities are not overly complex or time-consuming and can engage learners in a meaningful way. In addition, they allow learners to gain feedback on their knowledge of the content while they are learning it and provide an opportunity for reinforcement later on when the learner is reviewing material.
For example, if a learner misses an answer on a multiple choice question, he or she will be able to see what the correct answer is by clicking on it and can then re-test his or her knowledge by taking another quiz. This type of activity is particularly helpful for students who may need additional opportunities to gain knowledge or practice skills before moving on to new material.
Level 3: High Interactivity
High interactivity means that we expect learners to complete at least one task in order to advance through a course or part of a course.
The most common types of high interactivity include branching activities (for example, decision trees, simulations and branching scenarios) and open-ended activities (for example, simulations, branching scenarios and collaborative learning).
This level of interactivity can engage learners in an active way. In addition, these types of activities provide a great opportunity for learners to demonstrate their knowledge or skills through hands-on application.
The hands-on experience helps them to gain confidence in their ability to apply the content to real world situations. It also helps them gain a deeper understanding of the content than they would if they were just passively watching or listening to it.
Level 4: Critical Interactivity
Critical interactivity involves learners in more complex interactions than moderate or high interactivity. This level includes three main types of activities: simulations, problem solving and decision making.
Simulations are very realistic and allow learners to practice using real tools in a virtual environment. For example, you can simulate an operating room environment where students are practicing procedures using virtual equipment such as scalpels, clamps and syringes that operate exactly like the real thing.
Problem-solving activities are like decision-making activities except that problem-solving tasks usually have structure around finding solutions for specific problems, while decision-making tasks focus on finding strategies for handling different situations or problems that may arise in the future.
Both types of activities require learners to think critically and use their knowledge to make appropriate decisions.
Benefits of Interactivity in eLearning
There are many benefits to using interactivity in eLearning. In addition to the previously mentioned benefits, which include engagement and retention, there are additional benefits including: an opportunity for personalized learning, an increase in cognitive load and active learning.
Interactive activities can be used to customize learning for each learner by using personal information (for example, a learner’s name or address) and making it available throughout the course or as part of a branching activity.
For example, if a learner indicates that he or she lives in a rural area on the first page of the course, content may be provided that is specific to rural living.
In addition, personal information can be used as part of a decision making activity where different options are presented based on the learner’s location or other factors.
For example, if a learner is deciding where to go on vacation, he or she may have different options presented based on his or her location (for example: ski trip vs beach trip).
An increase in cognitive load
Cognitive load refers to the amount of mental effort that is required to learn new material. The more a learner has to think about in order to learn new material, the higher the cognitive load.
This means that an increase in cognitive load will result in better retention of information. This is why many eLearning designers make it a priority to include interactive activities in their courses.
An opportunity for active learning
Active learning refers to a situation where learners are engaged and actively involved in their learning process. Interactive activities are perfect for active learning because they involve learners and encourage them to participate and provide feedback throughout the course or activity.
In addition, these types of activities require learners to apply what they have learned in order to successfully complete them. For example, if a learner is working on a decision making activity, he or she will have different options presented based on his or her answers which will require him or her to apply what he or she has learned and make decisions based on his or her knowledge of the content.