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Intelligent Interactions in eLearning

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Interactivity in eLearning can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and it has numerous benefits.  At LearnBIG we pride ourselves on what we refer to as “intelligent interactions.”  By intelligent interactions, we mean interactions that are not only helpful in testing the learner’s comprehension throughout the course, but which are also responsive and personalized to the learner’s input.

Let us take an example.  A traditional interaction in an eLearning course might be something like the following: The learner is presented with a concept and then after some short discussion asked to complete a three question quiz to see if the learner has mastered the concept.  If the user gets the questions correct, they move on through the course, while if they get them wrong they are told what the correct answers are before again proceeding.

This basic formulation is the basis of almost any interactive component in an eLearning course, and while it is a good start, we think there are some crucial advancements that can be made to improve it.

First, is the question of interactive variety.  Rather than just answering a few multiple choice questions, we think that interactions should vary in style and content depending on the information the user is learning at that particular moment in the course.  Additionally, this variety has the added benefits of increasing engagement with the course and helping to accommodate the preferences of different learning styles.

Second, the timing of interactions is a crucial concern.  If interactions are too closely grouped together, then the learner may become discouraged because they have not had a chance to absorb material, while if the interactions are too far apart then the learner will disengage and stop paying attention to the material.  For this reason, interactions should be interspersed with dialogue or discourse lasting at most three minutes.  Any longer and the user will most likely be well on their way to disengaging.

Third, remediations are a delicate balance and should be treated as such.  Rather than simply tell a learner that they answered a question incorrectly and tell them what the correct answer was, LearnBIG offers a more nuanced approach.  Initially the user is praised for their effort (a technique outlined by psychologist Carol Dweck in her work on mindset), and is either offered a chance to try answering the question again or complete the exercise a second time, or is presented with the correct answer followed by a short explanation of why this answer was the correct one.

Because there are many more ways to answer a question incorrectly than correctly, we make sure that there are multiple remediations.  These different possible responses to any question in the course allow us to specifically address where the user went wrong and present them with an experience that is specifically geared towards helping them learn the material.

It is this last aspect which is perhaps the most important part of creating an intelligent interaction.  By recognizing that each learner is different, and may interpret any given interaction in a different way, we open up the opportunity to create a personalized pathway through the course for each learner who uses it.  Since each interaction can respond to the specific needs of a given user rather than offering a single path for everyone, the interactions can truly be considered “intelligent.”