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How can digital learning processes be made interactive?

In times of Corona, in which homeschooling, online lectures and e-learning alternatives are on everyone's lips, it is important to know how to use these resources properly. For each person, the external circumstances and the whole learning atmosphere is subject to change.

No matter how exciting the teaching, lecture or web seminar topic is, the difficulty for the teacher is to maintain the attention of the learners. The easiest solution is to interact with learners. But how can interactions be integrated into digital learning processes?

Design digital learning processes interactively

The success of interactions depends on whether the interactivity supports the basic function of teaching. So, it doesn't matter which digital learning media are used; it is crucial first to understand the actual learning process.

What are the basic functions of teaching?

The basic functions include informing, motivating, promoting understanding, retaining, retrieving and applying knowledge, and organising the learning process. If none of these functions is supported, interaction can even be seen as counterproductive. Under no circumstances should interactions hurt the learner's self-worth or even self-assessment. For example, it does not make sense in online lectures to ask the general question at the end: "Does anyone still have questions?". Such a question is rarely answered. The fear of being the only person not to have understood something is paralysing.

What are the possibilities for interaction?

The most common form of interaction is probably the completion of tasks. However, clearly presented tasks should be chosen, which should not only consist of clicking or moving objects or answer options. Simple multiple-choice or drag-and-drop tasks, for example, can be replaced or supplemented by mind maps. Another possibility is cloze texts where the certain words are not given.

The learner's success is also supported if they can choose the learning content and processing order. It is also appealing if the learner can make their own decisions. This means that they can have a say in how a learning video should proceed, for example. This is comparable to the interactive films of the streaming provider Netflix, where the further course of the film can be co-determined.

The time of learning also plays a role. For example, if your child is a morning grouch and can learn more productively in the evening, set fixed times. This gives you a calm start to the day and allows you to concentrate on your work. It avoids unnecessary conflict situations in the current homeschooling or remote working environment.

Online lectures as a digital learning medium

Many lecturers are now forced to hold their lectures or seminars via webcam. But they are not the only ones facing major challenges in doing so. It is also a different learning situation for the students, as probably above all, the potential for distraction is much greater within their own living space. But there are some tips to at least make the best of the situation. In the following, I would like to discuss visualisation, the role of the lecturer and activation options.

Consider the fundamentals for online lectures or web seminars

First of all, the basics have to be correct: structure and transparency. Just as in a conventional lecture hall, the audience must be informed about the content and time frame at the beginning of the lecture. The visualised outline should also be referred to again and again in the course of the presentation, for example, when a topic has been concluded.

When visualising, it should be noted: only well-designed slides have a learning and attention-grabbing effect.

This includes:

  • highlighted heading
  • limited information
  • precise and concise wording
  • adherence to the structure
  • large font

Furthermore, the saying "less is sometimes more" also applies here. So do not use too many slides. For example, divide your script among the individual sessions. This way, you avoid over-inflating, which can quickly have a demotivating effect.

The lecturer or presenter must be aware that the audience can sense their own motivation. Be authentic, speak freely and work with your voice even in front of the camera. Use many examples and look in different directions of the students, even in the virtual lecture hall. In smaller groups, it is, of course, also possible to address the students by name. However, you can also generalise a direct address by saying: "Imagine the following…". In this way, the students will still be addressed personally and will put themselves in your shoes.

There are also various activation or interaction options for online lectures. Many platforms have also implemented various tools for this. For example, you can ask for votes. In this way, the students change the role of the audience into the role of the acting persons. At the end of your lecture, you can also use the two-minute questions: What did you learn today? What did you not understand?

Interaction through summary questions

These questions can also be answered anonymously online on many platforms. Some platforms also offer various evaluation options at this point. Lecturers thus have direct feedback on what they can pay attention to in their next lecture. Exercise sheets can also be made available online. Of course, it is up to the students to solve the exercises on their own, but that is also the case in "normal studies".

At this point, it should also be mentioned that students are more reluctant to actively participate in lectures or lessons behind the computer screen than they are in face-to-face lessons. Even though a common feature of being online is anonymity, this must be taken into account.

Author: Isabelle Mock