Interactions and Distance Learning

Interactions and Distance Learning

Jean-Claude Bertin (University of Havre, France), Patrick Gravé (University of Havre, France) and Jean-Paul Narcy-Combes (Sorbonne nouvelle - Paris 3 University, France)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-707-7.ch009
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Abstract

In the second part of this book, we discussed the nature of the five poles on which our didactic ergonomics model rests, as well as the nature of the language learning process around which the system revolves. While, in some cases, we could identify sets of theories on which to construct acceptable representations, we were faced with a number of areas where uncertainty proves to be unavoidable. This in no way invalidates the model but points to the complexity inherent in any attempt to describe human behaviors and actions.
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Objectives Of The Chapter

This chapter will try to answer the following questions:

  • How can the various types of interactions between the five poles of the model be envisaged?

  • What new issues emerge from this review?

  • How can this apply to distance learning contexts?

In the second part of this book, we discussed the nature of the five poles on which our didactic ergonomics model rests, as well as the nature of the language learning process around which the system revolves. While, in some cases, we could identify sets of theories on which to construct acceptable representations, we were faced with a number of areas where uncertainty proves to be unavoidable. This in no way invalidates the model but points to the complexity inherent in any attempt to describe human behaviors and actions.

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Interactions Within The Model

Studies on interactions in distance learning are numerous, and can be mainly characterized as (a) centered on the learner and (b) of analytical type. An example of the first type could be Thurmond’s definition of interaction as:

…the learner’s engagement with the course content, other learners, the instructor, and the technological medium used in the course. True interactions with other learners, the instructor, and the technology result in a reciprocal exchange of information. The exchange of information is intended to enhance knowledge development in the learning environment. Depending on the nature of the course content, the reciprocal exchange may be absent – such as in the case of paper printed content. Ultimately, the goal of interaction is to increase understanding of the course content or mastery of the defined goals. (Thurmond, 2003, p. 4)

Analytical studies would tend to agree on the existence of four types of interactions: learner-content (language, in our case), learner-peers, learner-teacher and learner-technology, also referred to as learner-interface (Chen, 2002, Ehrlich, 2002, Navarro & Shoemaker, 2000, Rovai, 2002, Swan, 2001). Thurmond & Wambach (2004) note that while the first three forms of interaction are shared between face-to-face and distance learning situations, only the fourth type of interaction (learner-interface) may be totally absent from traditional classroom situations.

In a Web-based course, the learner-interface interaction can have a tremendous bearing on students learning the content (Hillman et al., 1994); consequently, instructors need to consider the impact that Web-based technology will have on learning when designing Web-based courses. (Thurmond & Wambach, 2004)

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