Pedagogy is ever evolving as it is embedded in a larger social context. New ideas, sensibilities, and preferences mold how teaching and learning are conducted. Also, scientific research has had a hand in its evolution. It has been pointed out time and time again that certain approaches perform statistically better than others. Today, thanks to modern technology, information is much more accessible. Anyone can basically learn without leaving their homes through online courses and online degree programs (Purdue Online, 2020). So, students are now taking advantage of accessible and affordable online bachelor’s degree programs.
Nevertheless, one thing stays the same. Learning facilitators still need to be good communicators. As such, many argue that they espouse interactive learning to help acquire and maintain students’ attention and to be “effective and efficient” at it (Pradono et al., 2013).
But not everyone may be convinced of the effectiveness of interactive learning. That is why in this article, we will try to understand what interactive learning is, the tools that teachers can use to engage their students in this approach, and statistics as well as scientific studies regarding this pedagogical method.
There have been several paradigm shifts in education. For a long time, learning was linear, a pedagogical strategy focused on the program itself. It required that students first familiarize themselves with the ideas and topics of the first lesson before they move on to the next. The approach has no flexibility, as it requires the learner to acquire knowledge in a straight sequence.
While linear learning has received its fair share of critics, the results of experiments conducted by Granger (2012), however, revealed that linear learning can be more effective than flexible learning in certain situations. This implies that there is no one best approach. Rather, it is entirely dependent on the context, which includes the learning styles of students and how motivated they are to learn.
Nevertheless, the education paradigm shifted to interactive learning from linear. The former approach involved various types of interactions as well as the use of multimedia materials. There have also been moves from simple presentations or slideshows to more interactive learning tools, delivered by computer applications specifically designed for such purposes. The instructional modality required active student participation. Since it can be difficult to understand what interactive learning is all about, a primer on it is essential before moving on to interactive learning statistics.
Interactive learning is a teaching method that supports educators taking a hands-on approach in engaging students. Through this procedure, there is social interaction between the educator and the learner (Interactive Learning Project, 2020).
The dynamics in the classroom also change in that students are no longer passive participants. Instead, they are also part of the conversation and become active participants. They not only engage with the instructor but with each other as well. And, of course, it also means that they utilize the modern educational tools available.
This changes the way school activities are handled. For example, schoolwork that used to be take-home is tackled by the whole class inside the classroom together with the teacher. Another example would be instead of just listening to teachers explain course topics, learners supplement their understanding at home through multimedia (Interactive Learning Project, 2020).
Interactive learning has proven to be effective. Beaman and Wheldall (2000) found that when instructors increase their positive verbal mediations, there is a corresponding increase in the focus of students on tasks at hand. In addition, the defining aspect of interactive learning is receptivity to the action of the learner during the learning process (Moreno & Mayer, 2007).
But there is much more to what interactive learning can offer. With constant technological innovations, digital learning technologies have also made their way to classrooms and other learning spaces. They now augment lessons or become the tool for the educator to deliver their lessons.
Interactive learning is now in use in many classrooms around the world. Educators are also utilizing different devices to enforce it. But this approach does not just apply to the academe: it can work in workplace settings, too. In fact, certain industries rely on interactive approaches to training to get their employees ready for any situation. These include team building games and other engaging activities.
Source: Juraschka, 2019; Murray, 2012
Source: Rambli, Matcha, & Sulaiman, 2013
Source: Teodorescu, 2015
Educators are always challenged to keep their students’ attention. They have to learn to be engaging, to come up with interesting activities, and to go beyond traditional pedagogy to ensure that learners understand the information being imparted to them. Teachers seeking to keep their students engaged must employ interesting methods that will sustain the interest of as many students as possible (Ergas, 2016).
It was not always like this, however, as teachers used to be the center of the classroom. The exchange was linear. It means that the pedagogical strategy centered around a study program. It also means that students are required to master module A before they can move on to module B and so forth. The learning process is predetermined and goes on a straight line. There is little room for flexibility for learners in this teaching approach (Linear Learning, 2014). Indeed, the only input from students came from recitations, homework, and projects. Then it evolved to hypermedia learning involving visual and audio learning materials.
Nevertheless, the focus was still on the teacher. But later on, it transformed into the idea that the teacher is no longer the transmitter of knowledge. Rather, the educator has become a facilitator (Tapscott, 1998).
As mentioned previously, interactive learning involves student participation. Beyond that, there are other components that must be present for this approach to work. These are the personalization of discussions, learners’ motivation, inclusive learning environments, and student collaboration.
Interactive learning calls for students to be involved in classroom discussions. This is crucial and requires the teacher to be nurturing and approachable. Thus, they have to create an environment where learners feel that they are accepted and cared for.
On top of that, lecturers have to make students feel secure in that they can easily ask questions regarding concepts that they do not understand. They should also be comfortable enough to speak with the teacher regarding issues that may pose a challenge to the meeting of deadlines (Stephen, 2018).
Interactive learning does not only involve student-teacher engagement but it also includes student-student collaboration. In this case, it is the task of educators to design activities that allow learners to work with each other. By doing so, students can learn from each other as well and have comprehensive learning of the topic (Kolagani, 2020; Stephen, 2018).
Challenging learners taking part in class activities is essential to interactive learning. It should vary between easy and hard to keep students’ attention and to keep them on their toes. The variety would also allow them to be adaptable while enjoying learning about a topic. However, educators should note that the challenges they pose should also be signed with the learners’ level (Kolagani, 2020).
One of the ways that educators can do so is by steering clear of textbooks. Cristina Caba, a lecturer for more than two decades, recommends that teachers provide students with materials that align with their needs and interests. This is also a great time to introduce activities that educators themselves made.
Another method of motivating students involves explaining the instruction to students clearly. This way, when they perform a task, they can perform well.
While it is impossible to tailor the teaching approach for every individual, it is possible for the teacher to personalize the discussion and the content. They can share anecdotes and analogies that make the topic more familiar and approachable for the learners. Additionally, they can produce types of content that are suitable for the concepts they are tackling and not just rely on textbooks (UC Davis, 2020).
In today’s classrooms, computers and handheld devices are commonplace. An example is what could be seen among Chicago Public Schools, which have provided 100,000 laptops and tablets to students (Bauer, 2020). This was due to the coronavirus pandemic, but they are not the first to implement such a program. Additionally, 60% of principals involved in the Speak Up Research Project for Digital Learning said that they assigned a mobile device to students. This initiative reached 10,600 public and private schools in 3,200 districts in 2017 (Mathewson, 2018). In doing so, they enabled teachers to demonstrate difficult concepts interactively.
For example, lecturers were able to better show and explain formulas in mathematics. In fact, 53% of principals in schools with 1:1 student to device ratio reported the effectiveness of said devices in math classes (Mathewson, 2018). Meanwhile, it allowed students to have colorful discussions with their fellow learners even when they were not in school but on web-based platforms like social media pages and school discussion boards.
In marketing, interactive content is the new king. This is the kind of content that engages an individual actively. This has evolved with the need to catch a user’s attention since the average person pays attention for only eight seconds before losing concentration (McSpadden, 2015).
The same applies to education. That is why elearning platforms implement basic interactive content that adheres to the Shareable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) standards. These remove learning obstacles that may present themselves in cross-platform learning.
Gamification is one of the approaches that teachers can employ to keep students focused on learning. As the name suggests, it involves adding gaming elements where learners aim for rewards as they finish tasks and progress through the course or the lesson plan. Researchers have found that through gamification, students become more motivated in learning. This also gives them a more enjoyable learning experience (de Freitas & de Freitas, 2012; Şahin & Arslan Namli, 2016).
Students who have experienced a gamified approach to education said that they enjoyed the process. They also pointed out that it reinforced the knowledge they gained previously. It enabled them to communicate and engage in friendly competition with their fellow students as well. However, there were downsides to the method, too: the learning environment was competitive and fueled by ambition (Yıldırım & Demir, 2016).
Personalized learning as an idea has been around for decades. It means providing students with learning opportunities using individualized learning paths. However, in the modern sense, it involves using software to create a unique educational pathway for every learner. In this case, the software adjusts to the progress rate and learning capabilities of students. The software uses data from students’ activities to create a tailored learning path and to make other big decisions (Herold, 2019).
The idea behind this approach is that students learning is customized based on their own strengths and weaknesses. This method also takes into consideration their preferences, learning background, and experiences. After all, learning experience involves interactions, programs, courses, or any engagement that happens in schools and classrooms or outside of those. Moreover, these include students learning from their instructors as well as through games and software or apps.
While it may drive some people into thinking that this method would replace teachers, research shows that educators are a crucial element to the success of personalized learning. Indeed, instructors need to expand their skillsets to respond accurately to the needs of students. Thus, they can be better equipped to help learners achieve their learning goals (Bishop, 2019).
The use of games in education was first popularized in the 20th century from the 1960s to the 1970s. At this time, paper-based games abounded (Rice, 2007). It was not until the turn of the century that educational games, also called serious games, really took off. Nintendo was one of the first companies that populated this niche. It created Leapster, a hand-held gaming device that had educational content (Gray et al., 2009).
It is not just young school children that are benefiting from serious games, though. Even health professionals are. The only downside, in this case, is that game design highly varies. The technicalities are inconsistent and reports are few (Olszewski & Wolbrink, 2017).
Multimedia lessons combine text, audio, video, and graphics to impart concepts and explain topics to students. This allows the educator to cater to diverse learning styles.
When taking the multimedia approach, the educator must keep in mind to be astute in creating a mix. This way, they can be certain that every kind of learner can keep up with the discussions. This would also enable them to provide a more learner-centric environment (Muthukumar, 2005).
Mobile learning carries the concept of elearning to handheld devices like smartphones and tablets. This enables learners to study whenever or wherever it is convenient for them (Crescente & Lee, 2011). It has made learning easier for those who are always on the go.
Schools and companies are not the only ones using it either. Museums also utilize it to supplement the education of visitors regarding their displays (Walker, 2006).
Microlearning, on the other hand, is a targeted approach that allows the learner to study an idea, concept, or topic bit by bit. It is “any brief and targeted learning object that spans between three to six minutes” (Andriotis, 2016).
This can be done on any device but is typically on mobile gadgets. Indeed, microlearning platforms make it a point that their interfaces adapt to small screens. This is because most individuals do not like to open their computers or laptops after a day of work to engage in learning activities.
Challenges to Adopting Interactive Learning
One of the foremost barriers to adopting digital interactive learning in the classroom is the lack of adequate technology. This includes minimal access to laptop and desktop computers, tablets, and smartphones. On top of that, not every place has a strong enough internet connection that they can have constant connectivity.
Another challenge is training. Teachers need professional development to maximize the use of interactive learning technology. Though they have confidence in learning how to utilize them, at the rate of the innovation, they would need constant training and skills upgrade.
It is also important that teachers get the right kind of training. There are numerous learning technologies available and at some point, they may need to have a specific, rather than a varied, skillset. Case in point, 21 teachers who had access to iPads had mixed opinions regarding their usefulness (Johnson et al., 2016). Because of that, the investment of the school on the technology may be moot.
That said, the beliefs and attitudes of teachers themselves can prove to be another barrier to the effectiveness of learning technology in the classroom. There can even be resistance, as many educators are used to the teacher-centric setting. For technology to be effective, they need to adopt a learner-centric outlook.
On top of that, technology can also become a distraction in the classroom, which would only serve to frustrate teachers (Schuler, 2019).
One of the first steps that schools and workplaces can take is to create policies to guide the use of technology for learning. For example, instead of treating iPads as paper replacements, organizations can have a lesson plan that centers around an app. In this way, educators and trainers can ask learners to put away the device when not in-task (Schuler, 2019).
When it comes to teacher resistance, schools and organizations have to educate the educators themselves. They need to provide plenty of information to convince them of the benefits of learning technologies (Lynch, 2018). It is also crucial to establish policies and procedures within the institution to encourage the application of interactive learning.
Additionally, education administrators can set up training sessions for instructors to guide them in the use of new technology in making their courses interactive. Moreover, based on the second design rule, the teacher, instead of just being a provider of information, should also function as a coach and learning facilitator (Dochy et al. 2002 cited in Baeten et al., 2016).
And as has been mentioned previously, the technology advancement rate is quite fast that sometimes it is difficult to keep up with. In that case, organizations have to put in place plans, especially budget plans, for adopting new technologies and adapting to trends (Lynch, 2018).
Interactive learning has been through many changes. It has gone from simple teacher-student and student-student interactions to digitized learning and interactions. Possibly, it will go through many changes in the near future as technological innovations continue to abound. So, if you want to stay in the know, you have to keep up with the interactive learning trends in research and industry.
Though there may be resistance and barriers, both learners and teachers now rely on digital interactive learning to access information at their convenience. It has also augmented how they serve knowledge and enable students to understand concepts and topics better.
On the other hand, learners can use digital learning technology to better grasp ideas that they are at first unable to understand fully. They can also use it to discuss with their fellow students to exchange information, thus allowing for collaborative learning.