Interactivity and Immediacy in Online Academic Programs

Interactivity and Immediacy in Online Academic Programs

Neal Shambaugh (West Virginia University, USA)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9995-3.ch005


Attention to the quality issues of distance education in higher education has focused primarily on courses. Entire academic programs are now delivered online, and faculty members must spend a significant amount of resources in addressing curricular-issues of online programs, as opposed to pedagogical issues for the courses they teach. Priorities for instructor interactivity and immediacy can become explicit goals for all learning experiences in academic programs. This chapter is organized in three parts: (1) the value of using interactivity/immediacy in the design of extended learning academic programs, (2) instructional design best practices for developing interactivity and immediacy in online academic programs, and (3) recommendations for different level of academic programs, including undergraduate, master's, doctoral, and specialized programs, including teacher education, certificates, and professional development.
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Value Of Designing Interactivity In Online Academic Programs

The call for increased and improved interactivity between instructor and student in distance education courses also applies to online academic programs. Interactivity and immediacy in courses have been a principal concern of faculty with teaching responsibilities. However, the advising of students that faculty may never meet in person with online programs becomes an important teaching activity. Potential and active students need contact with instructors and staff for information, advising, and human support to begin, move through, and complete an online program. The development of student support systems with new interactive features may increasingly be needed to guide student matriculation in a way that is seamless, automated where possible, and with human contacts as needed.

Student needs are partly informational but also social and emotional, and students view interaction with faculty and staff as the benchmark for quality advising and instruction. Moving academic programs online requires faculty attention to maintain, re-examine, and specify the quality of interaction in courses and advising as an explicit program feature. Thus, one quality measure of online programs becomes interactivity, the degree to which participants in an academic program develop contact and interaction with the world (Miller, 1973), or as Garrison and Shale (1990) have defined all forms of education (including that delivered at a distance) as essentially interactions between content, students, and teachers.

The characteristics of present and future students suggest that interactivity and immediacy be given high priority as design features to be implemented and evaluated across all features of an online academic program. The oldest of the so-called Millennials (also known as Generation Y) are now in their thirties. Millennials see additional education as programs in which they can apply what they learn and still maintain a social life. Behind this group are Generation Z students, born in the mid-1990s, who want to “grow up” now. Rather than feeling entitled as the previous group is sometimes characterized as, Generation Z students are ready to apply their independence, curiosity, and maturity to real-world activities (Levit, 2015). These future college students may prefer educational programs that interact with the real world and provide the “immediacy” to apply what they are learning. Interactivity and immediacy become marketing key words for future college students now in middle and high school.

The first section of this chapter includes the following subsections: role of interactivity in student success in online programs, features of interactivity to attract students, and the value of interactivity as an accountability measure for program monitoring.

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