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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Design: Advantages of Interactivity

There are many advantages of having learners interact with the subject matter they are learning. Studies, as well as common sense, indicate that interactivity helps the learner retain information as well as increasing the learner’s willingness to spend time with the material.

In fact, Michael Moore, of the American Journal of Distance Education, wrote that interactivity between a learner and the content is “the defining characteristic of education. Without it there cannot be education, since it is the process of intellectually interacting with content that results in changes in the learner’s understanding, the learner’s perspective, or the cognitive structures of the learner’s mind .”

The conclusion reached by Fleming and Levie (1978) in their work Instructional Message Design: Principles from the Behavioral Sciences which is a listing of over 100 principles that they developed by evaluating research on the topic of designing instruction, is that “in general where the learner reacts to or interacts with the critical stimulus, learning is facilitated, and that facilitation increases with the degree of learner activity or involvement.”

The conclusion reached by Fleming and Levie is supported b William Horton, a leading expert in the field of web-based instructional design, in his work titled Designing Web-Based Training. Horton writes, “Interactivity boosts learning. People learn faster and develop more positive attitudes when learning is interactive.” The interactivity allows the learner to interact, ponder and consider what he or she is learning. Passive reading may entertain or temporarily enlighten but seldom does it remain in long term memory unless a particular emotion or environment is associated with what was read.

Additionally, Michael Allen, who co-founded Macromedia, writes that “Truly interactive learning builds an experience that facilitates both deeper understanding and easier recall.”

Interactivity in web-based training is especially important because people are not content to merely read from the computer screen as they may be with a book. Learners demand stimulation and interactivity for them to be effective as learners. The vast majority of learners need interactivity to remain focused and engaged.


[1] Moore, M. (2001) Three types of interaction. In The 2000/2001 ASTD Distance Learning Yearbook. (eds.) Karen Mantyla. Alexandria VA: ASTD

[2] Fleming, M. & Levie, H. (1978) Instructional message design: Principles from the behavioral sciences. Engelewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Educational Technology Publications.

[3] Horton, W. (2000) Designing web-based training. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

[4] Najjar, L. J. (1998). Principles of educational multimedia user interface design. Human Factors, 45, 343-352.

[5] Allen, M. (2003). Michael Allen’s guide to e-learning: Building interactive, fun, and effective learning programs for any company. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

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