Chickering and Gamson illustrated the importance of interaction in learning. Five of their seven principles directly relate to interaction among (1) the participants in the learning process and (2) the participants with the subject matter:
– contacts between students and faculty
– reciprocity and cooperation among students
– prompt feedback
– emphasis on time on task
– communication of high expectations.
Cognitive theory suggests more interaction in learning environments leads to improved learning outcomes and increased student satisfaction, two indicators of success useful to program administrators. Our key findings indicate that increased levels of interaction, as measured by time spent, actually decrease course completion rates. This result is counter to prevailing curriculum design theory and suggests increased interaction may actually diminish desired program reputation and growth.
Although the authors found no evidence that robust participation in asynchronous discussions can harm student exam performance below 4,000 words posted per week, it is important to recognize that enthusiastic participation may have adverse effects that fall on the peers of the most active discussion participants. Some students may feel overwhelmed by the amount of information being posted by their peers, for instance, and respond by withdrawing from the discussions and/or the course
But I’m wondering whether it is information overload that is the problem. Isn’t it more a lack of understanding about what we mean by connectivity and what role connectivity should play in our lives and learning? It seems that it is often interpreted that more connectivity is better – more connectivity means more learning, more connectivity means being able to keep up. But is this true? Would an answer to this question sort out the information overload problem?