Getting the Mix Right Again: An Updated and Theoretical Rationale for Interaction

Terry Anderson, IRRODL, Nov 05, 2003
Commentary by Stephen Downes

"This paper," writes the author, "attempts to provide a theoretical rationale and guide for instructional designers and teachers interested in developing distance education systems that are both effective and efficient in meeting diverse student learning needs." The heart of the theory is Anderson's equivalency theorem: "Deep and meaningful formal learning is supported as long as one of the three forms of interaction (student–teacher; student-student; student-content) is at a high level. The other two may be offered at minimal levels, or even eliminated, without degrading the educational experience." This is a controversial thesis, insofar as it avers that a high level of interaction between student and content is just as good as that between, say, student and teacher. But of course we need to keep in mind that this isn't a simple principle of substitutivity (as I'm sure many commentators will misinterpret it). Not all students interact meaningfully with content, and therefore require interaction with a teacher. But some students will prefer to interact with the content, or with other students. Each student is different, and each student requires one or another mix, so long as the overall level of interaction is maintained.
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