Interaction in Post-Secondary Web-Based Learning


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Citation of Original Publication

Berge, Zane L.; Interaction in Post-Secondary Web-Based Learning; Educational Technology, Vol. 39, No. 1 (January-February 1999), pp. 5-11;


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Distance education in the industrialized nations has seen dramatic changes in delivery technologies over the past few decades. Computer-mediated communication and the World Wide Web allow significantly faster interaction between student and faculty and among students during teaching and learning compared with the correspondence or mass communication models of distance education. Questions like the following are under increasing scrutiny: What does "interaction" mean in the context of teaching and learning? Why is interaction perceived as so important in post-secondary education? How can technology be used to promote the types of interaction that facilitate learning at a distance? The answer is often "It depends" - based on the motivation, individual capabilities, and learning style of the student, the subject matter, and a dozen or more other factors that affect the type and level of interaction needed for learning. This article will discuss the more salient dimensions of interaction in the context of Web-based instruction and hopefully provide a useful framework for thinking about interaction in a Web-based learning environment. Interaction is typically thought of as "sustained, two-way communication among two or more persons for purposes of explaining and challenging perspectives" (Garrison, 1993, p. 16). If done in a formal, educational environment, then, interaction is usually between a student(s) and instructor, or among students. It is, and will continue to be, the strength of this ongoing interaction with faculty and other students which distinguishes the university experience from independent learning or one-way, mass communication educational programs (Rogers & Wells, 1997).