Why Interactivity matters

Online learning, powered by interactive learning, can seed critical thinking and problem-solving, draw diverse perspectives and encourage decision-making

The role of interactions has been critical to the process of learning in terms of engagement, experience, and the outcomes. A classic example is that of traditional classroom education where a teacher interacts and engages with students, asks questions, gives feedback, and even personalises interactions to some extent. Such interactions (or interactive pedagogies) have been an integral part of classroom learning.

On the other hand, for online learning solutions, a general lack of such interactive capabilities has been a limiting factor and, thus, it has remained far from becoming mainstream or a formidable alternative to traditional classrooms.

Then came the pandemic, and this new reality led to challenges for the teachers with no previous experience of conducting online classes or imparting lessons virtually. Many learners, found it difficult to stay focussed on screens for long, owing to lack of classroom-like interactions with teachers and peers. The pandemic revealed the importance of interactive learning, while bringing this vulnerability of the online learning solutions to the forefront. The verdict is clear. Online learning cannot be the solution, unless re-imagined for meaningful teacher-learner interactions.

Blended learning

Interactive pedagogies can help simulate real-time teacher-learner and learner-learner interactions for a richer online learning experience. This can be achieved through human or even machine interaction with the learners. Gamified learning is a good example of learner-machine interactions where, at different points in the learning, the learner must choose from various options before moving ahead. Similarly, interactive videos and simulations can be leveraged to engage online learners. Applications such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR) can engage learners by simulating a multi-sensory immersive learning experience.

Online learning is yet to reach its full potential, and this is reflected in the (low) completion rates of online courses, reported to be just around 10%. Learners’ engagement as well as experience are factors that are critical to the completion and effectiveness of online courses.

Technology has a lot to offer in transforming online learning into an engaging experience for learners. It should be leveraged to catalyse engagement, collaboration, and personalisation through a range of interactive pedagogies such as an ability to brainstorm in groups, study as per individual learning styles, and instant feedback just like physical classrooms. Interactivity can be enhanced through the application of various concepts that are fundamental to learning such as interactive digital narratives, meta-cognition (or an awareness of one’s thinking), learning by challenge (as in games), as well as social thinking and behaviour. Here are some tech interventions that can help transform the online:

Gamification

 The focus should be to make learners learn without being conscious of being taught.

Social tools

 True interactivity is when the world becomes a classroom and every learner has an opportunity to interact with her/his friends across the world. A careful integration of social tools will enables this.

Guide by the side

 A teacher should be available when needed for a learner to ask and get guidance. A one-to-one interaction will give them confidence that teachers are easily available for doubt clarification.

Virtual world

Learning becomes fun when someone creates the content in a virtual world. Today’s AR/VR technologies with 3D objects enable the learner to be transported to the virtual world, learn and return. This takes the interactivity to a higher level and make learning impactful.

Tomorrow’s online education powered by interactive learning can seed critical thinking and problem-solving, draw diverse perspectives and encourage decision-making.

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