Interaction in face-to-face classrooms can differ immensely from online courses, especially as you move along the continuum from e-enhanced to e-focused to e-intensive. The four different types of interaction are:
Student – Student,
Student – Instructor,
Student – Content,
Student – Technology.
The intructional media and pedagogical techniques used by instructors in traditional vs. online courses determines the types of interactions that are present in each environment (Thurmond & Wambach, 2004). I believe the level and meaningfulness of all interactions is also dependent upon the strategies and tools used by the instructor.
The traditional classroom offers a very one-sided experience: students sit, listen, and take notes while the instructor (content expert) delivers the information. Besides a few interjections or questions, student-instructor (S-I) and student-student (S-S) interaction is very limited. I would also suggest that student-content (S-C) interaction is limited as it consists solely of taking in what they can from the lecture and attempting to jot notes and remember information. Then students are expected to go home and complete readings and assignments, completely isolated. There is also limited or no opportunity for interaction with technology (S-T).
The Flipped Classroom, on the other hand, is a very student-centered approach to instruction. For those who haven’t investigated the Flipped Classroom yet: students take the time at home to learn the course content via readings and videos and class time is used for collaboration, clarification, and activities. It brings engagement to a whole other level. Students have various levels of interaction at all stages of the course. Instruction begins at home when students are engaging with the content (S-C) and technology (S-T) by viewing content videos. When they come to class, they are interacting with other students (S-S), the instructor (S-I), and the content (S-C) as they participate in activities, complete assignments with guidance, ask questions, review material, do presentations, debates, the list of possibilities goes on. The Flipped Classroom provides instructors with the opportunity to create a dynamic and engaging learning environment for students that increases interaction in all four areas.
The Teaching Online Program through UofC provided a great resource summarizing the four types of interactions in online courses (S-S, S-I, S-C, S-T) as well as some tools and strategies instructors can use to create each type of interaction in their online learning environment. It can be found here: http://marymac.pbworks.com/f/4+types+of+interaction.pdf. I wanted to share this resource with anyone interested in an e-enhanced learning environment like the Flipped Classroom, or increasing student engagement in their e-focused classroom.
Magadan, J. (2010). 4 Types of Interaction. For PC CTLT. Retrieved from: http://marymac.pbworks.com/f/4+types+of+interaction.pdf
Thurmond, V., Wambach, K. (2004). Understanding interactions in distance education: a review of the literature. International Journal or Instructional Technology & Distance Learning, 1(1). Retrieved from: http://www.itdl.org/journal/jan_04/article02.htm