Hybridizing Online Learning with External Interactivity

Hybridizing Online Learning with External Interactivity

Donna Morrow (University of Canterbury, New Zealand) and Richard G. Bagnall (Hong Kong Institute of Education, Hong Kong)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-380-7.ch002


One approach to hybrid learning is to hybridize online learning through recognizing and including external interactivity. This chapter examines that possibility. After reviewing the nature of interactivity and individual learner experience in online learning communities, it presents a recent study of interactivity in online professional development learning by practising teachers. From that study emerges the importance and scope of external interactivity between the learner and his or her local community of colleagues, friends, and family in a learning community beyond the traditional online class. Building on that case study, and indications from the literature that its implications may be generalizable, the chapter suggests ways in which external interactivity can be recognized and included in the online learning environment – as a way of hybridizing on-line learning through its inclusion of learners’ interactive engagements in the external learning communities that they bring to their studies.
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Background: The Nature And Role Of Interactivity In Learning

The role of interactivity in learning encompasses differing perspectives, due to epistemological assumptions about the role of human interaction in education and learning. Salomon and Perkins (1998) have described two conceptions of learning: first, the concept of the individual learner, which emphasizes the acquisition of knowledge and cognitive skill and, second, the socio-cultural concept of learning, which emphasizes the participatory aspects of context, interaction, and situation. In both conceptions, interaction is seen to be essential but present in different forms. As early as 1933, John Dewey described the interaction for the individual learner as internal interaction, and saw it as necessary to the process of transforming inert information into meaningful knowledge (Dewey, 1933). Holmberg (1983, p.115), speaking particularly to distance education, referred to this process as the “guided didactic conversation” that occurs as a student interacts with content. While not denying the value of individual interactivity, the more participatory, socio-cultural concept of learning encompasses and depends on a broader range of interactivity between learners, instructors, and other learners (Jonassen, 2002). This social definition of learning has been supported by Wenger (1998, 2000) who argued that the act of knowing is a matter of displaying competence defined within a social community, but always in interplay with individual experience.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Interactivity: Action or impact by or on the learner involving other elements with which the interactions are at least in part driven by the educational or learning intentions of the learner. May be either: (1) Internal Interactivity – internal to what has traditionally been regarded as the educational event; or (2) External Interactivity – in the sense that it involves one or more elements that are outside the traditionally perceived boundaries of the event.

Hybridization: Bringing external interactivity into the proximity of the internal with synergistic effect.

Communities of Support: (1) Communities in the traditional sociological sense of a bounded, interactive association of individuals that function in the educational or learning engagement by contributing to the learning outcomes in some way. (2) More formal communities of practice – especially, in the case of professional development learning engagements or communities of work practice – in the Wengerian sense of a social conception of learning where, through processes of participation and reification, community members both support and challenge one another, and where interaction with peers is seen as a critical process in the development of new understandings and negotiated meaning, within the community.

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