Sunday, February 5, 2012

interactivity


Interactivity
Interactivity refer to a user who has access to a range of input devices (keyboard, drawing, pointing, touchscreen or speech) which can activate the technology being used; the result of this action is some form of visual or audio output (text, graphics, printing or speech), and the sequence of actions form an interaction. As noted by Bork (1982), instructional technology is about making that interaction both meaningful and engaging to the user, and interactivity can be viewed as a function of input required by the learner while responding to the computer, the analysis of those responses by the computer and the nature of the action by the computer.
Types of Interactivity
Object Interactivity
Object interactivity (proactive inquiry) refers to an application in which objects (buttons, people, things) are activated by using a mouse or other pointing device. When a user "clicks" on the object, there will be some form of audio-visual response. The functionality of such objects can be varied according to consequential factors such as previous objects encountered, previous encounters with the current object or previous instructional performance/activity.
Linear Interactivity
Linear interactivity (reactive pacing) refers to applications in which the user is able to move (forwards or backwards) through a predetermined linear sequence of instructional material. Often termed electronic page-turning, this class of interaction does not provide response-specific feedback to learner actions, but simply provides access to the next (or previous) display in a sequence. Overuse of linear interactions in learning environments may reflect inappropriate use of the technology. From a development perspective, the linear interaction is simple to generate and can be used to maximise courseware development ratios. However, its use as a major form of interaction in an application is not recommended as the level of learner control is restricted, and learner-initiated branching may not be accessible.
The Figure below (Copyright 1995 NSW State Rail Authority) illustrates a screen with OBJECT interactivity in which the user can get simple information by clicking one of the three buttons, and LINEAR interactivity in that the two arrow buttons can be used to move between information pages. The INFO and LISTEN buttons provide SUPPORT interactivity.
Support Interactivity
One of the essential components of any software application is the facility for the user to receive performance support, which may range from simple help messages to complex tutorial systems. The inclusion of support interactivity (reactive inquiry) in the classification extends the options of the developer to include both generalised and context-sensitive support.
Update Interactivity
This is one of the more powerful classes of interactivity (although its significance is not consistent with the comparatively low proactive confirmation category), as it relates to individual application components or events in which a dialogue is initiated between the learner and computer-generated content. For this concept, the applications presents or generates problems (either from a database or as a function of individual performance levels) to which the learner must respond; the analysis of the response results in computer-generated update or feedback. For example, when a question is posed to assess knowledge, the answer provided by the trainee is judged and responded to. The instructional rigour of the judging will determine the extent to which the update or feedback provides a meaningful response to the user.
Update interactivity can range from the simple question and answer format to complex conditional responses which may incorporate artificial intelligence components. While updates to both complex and simple interactions may be indistinguishable to the learner, the processing and strategies used to generate the update may vary considerably. The more the update is based upon the current learner's responses, the more individualised these updates will appear. The planning of update interactivity is extremely important in developing interactive multimedia applications, as the quality and format of media as a component of the update and feedback will affect the overall effectiveness of the instruction.
Construct Interactivity
The construct class of interactivity (proactive elaboration) is an extension to update interactivity, and requires the creation of an instructional environment in which the learner is required to manipulate component objects to achieve specific goals. A classic example of this form of interaction is a lesson created for the original PLATO system (0distill) which required the learner to construct distillation apparatus from component parts. Unless the construction was completed in the correct sequence, the task could not be completed. Construct interactions require significantly more design and strategic effort, as many parameters affect the successful completion of an operation. This class of interaction can also provide a link between non-situate learning and simulated environments by introducing the learner to real-world actions.

Reflective Interactivity
This class of interaction (proactive elaboration) has been included to cater for the many situations in which instructional designers wish to include text responses to prompts or questions. A general rule I have used is that if N correct alternatives are provided to a text response, the user will enter the N+1th correct response which will be judged "incorrect". To prevent this, reflective interactivity records each response entered by users of the application and allows the current user to compare their response to that of other users as well as recognised "experts". In this way, learners can reflect on their response and make their own judgement as to its accuracy or correctness. This technique was used successfully in an interactive-video project (Farrow & Sims, 1987) as well as a more recent commercial CBT project. Similar strategies are also being used in internet-based instruction.
Simulation Interactivity
Simulation interactivity (which ranges from reactive elaboration to mutual elaboration, depending on its complexity) extends the role of the learner to that of controller or operator, where individual selections determine the training sequence. For example, setting a range of switches to certain values to enable the functioning of a production plant, with the settings selected determining the presentation or update sequence. The simulation and construct interactivity levels are closely linked, and may require the learner to complete a specific sequence of tasks before a suitable update can be generated. The interaction sequence can also be varied according to the specific instructional strategy required; for example, the simulation may be controlled and the learner progressing only after making a correct choice. On the other hand the sequence may be consequential, where the actions of the learner generate an update which mimics the actual operation or process being simulated. As with all interactions, if the update is to relate to individual learner responses, the design and development will require more effort.
Hyperlinked Interactivity
With hyperlinked interactivity (proactive navigation), the learner has access to a wealth of information, and may "travel" at will through that knowledge base. The provision of linked information can provide a means to present problems which are solved by correctly navigating through the "maze" of information. From the developers perspective, the major design effort involves defining, maintaining and integrating appropriate hyperlinks to ensure all possible (or relevant paths) are accessible. While providing a flexible environment for information access, this concept of interactivity may diminish the motivation of the learner to explore if required links (from the learner's perspective) are either unavailable or inoperative.
Non-Immersive Contextual Interactivity
This concept combines and extends the various interactive levels into a complete virtual training environment (mutual elaboration) in which the trainee is able to work in a meaningful, job-related context. Rather than taking a passive role in which they work through a series of content oriented sequences, they are transported into a microworld which models their existing work environment, and the tasks they undertake reflect those of the work experience. Non-Immersive Contextual interactions require significant effort in design strategy and work well with a rapid prototyping methodology.
Immersive Virtual Interactivity
Often perceived as the ultimate in interaction, Immersive Virtual Interactivity (mutual elaboration) provides an interactive environment in which the learner is projected into a complete computer-generated world which responds to individual movement and actions. Although this concept has yet to be used in typical instructional settings, the notion of working in virtual worlds continues to gain popularity. 

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