Fostering Interaction to Enhance Learning in Online Learning Environments

Fostering Interaction to Enhance Learning in Online Learning Environments

Jared Keengwe (University of North Dakota, USA) and Gary Schnellert (University of North Dakota, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/jicte.2012070104
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Interaction is central to educational experiences in online learning environments. Interaction enhances learning by fostering three types of learning interaction: learner-instructor, learner-learner, and learner-content. Additionally, online students generally perceive interaction as an effective means of learning. Therefore, it is important for online instructors to create opportunities for interaction in online learning environments. This article stimulates reflections on the critical role of interaction in online learning. A primary implication based on the challenges reported in the study is that instructors need to reflect on effective ways to design and implement successful online learning environments. For instance, instructors could anticipate these challenges by focusing on the development of online tools such as wikis to enhance effective online interaction.
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Theoretical Framework

The study is grounded on three theoretical constructs, namely interactivity, social context, and technology (Tu & Corry, 2003). Interactivity within online learning settings refers to interactions of learners and instructors – an incorporation and engagement of learners inside active collaboration activities. A social context refers to the establishment of learner-centered collaboration activities and a social learning community. Thus, a successful online collaborative learning community is one where the members can connect and engage intellectually, mentally, socioculturally, and interactively in order to achieve their common learning goals via electronic communication technologies (Tu & Corry, 2003).

There is evidence to suggest the potential of technology to supports and enhance knowledge development and knowledge management within online collaborative learning surroundings (Brush & Saye, 2000). For instance, technology tools help learners to elaborate on what they are thinking and to engage in meaningful learning (Jonassen, 2000). Specifically, learners can use technology as intellectual partners to: articulate what they know; reflect on what they have learned; support the internal negotiation of meaning making; construct personal representations of meaning; and support intentional, mindful thinking (Jonassen, 2000). In this context, technology becomes an important issue in group learning (Tu & Corry, 2003).

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