Goal: Examine issues related to student and instructor characteristics and the possible impacts of these characteristics on design choices.

When teaching in a face-to-face setting, we are subconsciously aware of the interactions that take place. We can monitor these interactions with most of our senses in ways that we monitor interactions with others in our daily lives. When we teach online these interactions are hidden from us. As a designer of online learning, and as an instructor, it is helpful if more overt attention is given to understanding, monitoring and shaping the interactions in the class. It is important to balance the interactions to be respectful of student time, and to ensure that the planned and likely interactions are adequate (or even optimum) for ensuring learning.  – Brian Newberry

1. The interactions matrix is a table listing the three types of interactions at the top, with some sample activities on the left. Place an X in the cells to indicate which activities correspond to which interactions.

In an Introduction to College Research class, it’s possible to incorporate all three interaction types into the class regardless of the class format – F2F, hybrid, or online. However, in the Session Three lecture, Professor Newberry notes that one should be careful about including too many different types of interactions in an online class, especially if different types of technology are required. It’s important not to allow the learning of technology to overshadow or displace the learning of course content. That said, here are just a few examples of activities that can be used in a library research class and the interaction types they address. As you can see, in a library research class, most of these activities can successfully address multiple interactions depending on how they are used.

Interactions Matrix

Learner-Content Learner-Instructor Learner-Learner
 Video X  X  X
 Lecture  X
 Chat  X  X  X
 Discussion  X  X  X
 Screen  capture  X  X  X
 Prezi  X
 Email  X  X
 Blogs  X  X  X
 Google docs  X  X  X
 Resource evaluation  X  X
 Podcast  X  X X
Skype  X  X  X

2. Discuss of the types of interactions that are most often used in the content area for which you expect to design instruction. Be sure to explain the content area, the types of students and types of objectives with which you will be working.

In his Session Three lecture, Professor Newberry notes that course designers must be careful to create the most effective ways for learners to successfully reach the objectives of the course. He advocates the Interaction Approach to online instruction design to insure that students learn what we intend for them to learn. Like Newberry, Bouhnik & Marcus (2006) state that one of the most important factors relating to e-learning is the element of interaction. In his 1989 editorial, the noted distance education scholar Michael G. Moore outlines three types of interaction that can affect learning in online courses:

  • Interaction with content (Learner-Content)
  • Interaction with the instructor (Learner-Instructor)
  • Interaction with classmates (Learner-Learner)

It’s interesting to note that these three interactions seem to correspond nicely to the three presences in the Community of Inquiry model of instructional design:

  • Cognitive Presence/Learner-Content
  • Teaching Presence/Learner-Instructor
  • Social Presence/Learner-Learner

Moore (1989) states that Learner-Content interaction “is a defining characteristic of education. Without it there cannot be education, since it is the process of intellectually interacting with content that results in changes in the learner’s understanding, the learner’s perspective, or the cognitive structures of the learner’s mind.” However, he also notes that Learner-Instructor and Learner-Learner interaction are valuable if not essential in reaching the learning objectives of an online course. The course I proposed in Session Two is a good example of a course that can successfully incorporate all three types of interaction.

  • Course Content: Introduction to the EBSCO Health Source database.
  • Students: Students are undergraduates who have completed at least two semesters of general requirements and are in the first semester of the Associate Degree Nursing program.
  • Objectives: Teach students how to access the database. Introduce them to its features and content. Teach them how to search, limit, retrieve, save, and cite medical journal articles.
  • Interactions:
    • Learner-Content: lecture via podcast and Word document; screencast tutorials; Prezi online presentation; LibGuide webpages; guided search worksheets; resource evaluation
    • Learner-Instructor: email; chat; Skype; office hours; open door policy
    • Learner-Learner: discussion board; video and/or screencast creation and comment; collaborative bibliography; Skype; F2F computer lab sessions

3. Chapters 2, 3 and 4 of the Horton text discuss three categories of activities: Absorb, Do, and Connect. After reading these chapters you are to locate one or more online classes and identify one Absorb, one Do, and one Connect activity.

According to Horton (2012, pg. 51), there are three types of learning activities that can help students accomplish learning objectives:

  • Absorb: Read, watch, listen. In these activities the learner is physically passive but mentally active.
  • Do: Practice, play, answer. In these activities the learner practices, explores, and discovers.
  • Connect: Relate knowledge to the real world. In these activities the learner connects what they are learning to what they already know.

Online Course One


Course Content: Rutgers Beginner’s Guide to Research

Intended Students/Probable Student Characteristics: University undergraduates in the Google generation who are comfortable with electronic media but unaware of college level research requirements and information resources.

Instructor Characteristics: This course is presented as a video using avatars. The “instructor” is a graduate student in Library and Information Science who has been tutoring at the university library for two years.

Identify the Type of Activity: This tutorial touches on all three of the activity types. It’s primarily an Absorb activity because the student watches and listens to information presented by an avatar librarian about the research process. The tutorial designer has successfully integrated Do activities into the tutorial by requiring the viewer to make selections along the way and “help” avatar students with their research. The selections the viewer chooses dictate the direction of the tutorial. The overall objective of this tutorial is to promote the Connect activity wherein the student can internalize the knowledge gained and use it in their own research project.

Identify and Discuss the Interactions in the Activity: This is a very interactive online tutorial on conducting research but the interactions are primarily Learner-Content. The learner views the content at their own pace and is given choices throughout. However the viewer must “interact” with the avatar and gets feedback upon selecting answers so perhaps, in a stretch, you can say there’s Learner-Instructor interaction. There’s a Feedback option in survey format but there’s no place to add your name or contact info so if you actually had a question this is not the place to ask it.

Online Course Two

  • URL:
  • Course Content: Evaluating Web Sites
  • Intended Students/Probable Student Characteristics: Middle school and high school students. These are students who were born digital and who use Google as their search engine of choice.
  • Instructor Characteristics: Created by the staff of publisher McDougal Littell to enhance the content of their text books but these tutorials can be stand-alone as well.
  • Identify the Type of Activity: Like the previous tutorial this one touches on all three of the activity types. It’s primarily an Absorb activity because the student reads information on the webpage. The tutorial designer has successfully integrated Do activities into the tutorial in the form of quizzes and activities. The learner can select from a variety of tutorials, quizzes and activities. The overall objective of this tutorial is to promote the Connect activity wherein the student can internalize the knowledge gained and use it to determine the value of websites.
  • Identify and Discuss the Interactions in the Activity: This tutorial is a Learner-Content interaction. Its sole purpose is to impart information. The content and the activities promote this interaction.


Bouhnik, D. & Marcus, T. (2006). Interaction in distance-learning courses. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. 57(3):299–305. Retrieved from

Horton, W. (2012). E-learning by design. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley and Sons.

Moore, M.G. (1989). Three types of interaction. Editorial. Retrieved from

Newberry, B. (2015). Session Three Lecture. [Word document]. Retrieved from CSUSB Blackboard ETEC 541.