Interaction in distance education and online learning: using evidence and theory to improve practice

Abstract

In a recent meta-analysis of distance and online learning, Bernard et al. (2009) quantitatively verified the importance of three types of interaction: among students, between the instructor and students, and between students and course content. In this paper we explore these findings further, discuss methodological issues in research and suggest how these results may foster instructional improvement. We highlight several evidence-based approaches that may be useful in the next generation of distance and online learning. These include principles and applications stemming from the theories of self-regulation and multimedia learning, research-based motivational principles and collaborative learning principles. We also discuss the pedagogical challenges inherent in distance and online learning that need to be considered in instructional design and software development.

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Correspondence to Philip C. Abrami.

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The preparation of this article was facilitated by grants to Abrami and Bernard from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Government of Canada and the Fonds Québécois de la Recherche sur la Société et la Culture, Province of Québéc. An earlier version of this paper was presented at “The Evolution from Distance Education to Distributed Learning” 2010 AECT Research Sympoium, Bloomington, Indiana, July, 2010.

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Abrami, P.C., Bernard, R.M., Bures, E.M. et al. Interaction in distance education and online learning: using evidence and theory to improve practice. J Comput High Educ 23, 82–103 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12528-011-9043-x

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Keywords

  • Distance education
  • Online learning
  • Self-regulation
  • Multimedia learning
  • Motivation
  • Collaboration
  • Instructional design
  • Cooperative learning
  • Metacognition