Why All 4 Levels of Interactivity Matter

Meaningful interactions and their impact


Designing meaningful interactivity is an art and a science that sits at the heart of effective learning design. This complex, yet incredibly rewarding process, involves strategic thinking, intuitive understanding of learners’ needs, and a nuanced appreciation of pedagogical principles. When instructional designers embark on this process, they first cast their eyes on the purpose of the interaction, a compass that guides their creativity and innovation in the
right direction.

This initial understanding sets the stage for the ensuing process. With the end goal in mind, they then formulate strategies to modify learners’ behavior or enhance their skill level through these interactions. This is achieved by constructing learning situations that engage learners in active cognition, challenging them to apply, analyze, and synthesize the concepts
being taught.

The real magic happens when learners begin to assimilate the knowledge gained through these interactions. Instructional designers strive to create learning environments where learners internalize the information, translating the abstract concepts into concrete understanding. This process of internalization promotes deep learning, moving learners closer to achieving their desired objectives.

Building meaningful interaction is a delicate balancing act, and can be done broadly in four different ways:

1) Simple interactive experiences, like clicking or tapping to reveal some information, engage learners in a non-threatening way and help to grab their attention. They set the stage for more active involvement, providing a light introduction to the course content. This form of interaction often comes in the form of clickable icons, hidden notes, or tooltips, which subtly invite the learners to dig deeper and explore the subject matter.

mouse tapping on rectangle triggering a yellow quadrilateral to pop up

2) Selecting among basic available options, such as multiple-choice questions or true/false statements, adds an extra layer of engagement. This kind of interaction promotes learner involvement by giving them a choice, thus inviting a more active role in the learning process. It encourages learners to recall and apply what they’ve learned, strengthening memory and comprehension.

mouse selecting an option from a list, selected option becomes hi-lighted in yellow after selected

3) More advanced interactive problem-solving exercises stimulate critical thinking. These may involve case studies, scenario-based learning, or simulation exercises. Here, learners are invited to apply the skills and knowledge they’ve acquired in real-world contexts. They are
challenged to think critically and make decisions, which boosts their problem-solving abilities and increases the likelihood of knowledge transfer to their work or life situations.

mouse clicks triggering rectangles to order themselves from smallest to largest

4) The creation of complex interactive elements, like interactive videos, gamified content, or virtual reality experiences, represent the peak of interactive eLearning. This immersive approach engages learners on multiple levels – visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. It puts learners in the driving seat of their learning journey, requiring active involvement and decision-making. This sophisticated level of interactivity maximizes learner engagement and is especially useful when dealing with complex concepts or skills training.

blocks of text mom up appear on screen when mouse clicks on a button

Experienced instructional designers employ all these types of interactivity i n varying areas for varying reasons . Simple interactivity is an excellent place to begin a course. By having learners make fun and simple choices at the beginning of the course, we help them develop confidence in their early achievements building motivation. Then, as the learner progresses through the course and more complex interactions are introduced; their confidence serves them at the next level of interaction.

Experienced instructional designers weave these different levels of interactivity into their courses, depending on the course’s objectives and the learners’ needs. Regardless of the complexity, each interaction should steer the learner towards achieving the learning objectives. Even the simplest interaction can make a profound impact on learning when used appropriately. Incorporating AI like ChatGPT can add another layer of dynamic interaction to
the eLearning experience, further personalizing and enhancing the learning journey. Embracing this level of interactivity takes eLearning to the next level, making learning a truly engaging and meaningful experience.

Meaningful interactivity steers the learner towards achieving the learning objectives; whether the objective is a simple information recall; or is more complex and involves altering the learners’ decision-making process [2]. That is why the complexity of the interactions depends on both the objectives of the course and the complexity of the expected outcome. Though it
is easy to imagine all the wonderous things that can be used interactively to push learning forward, there will always be a place for the simplest of interactions in all eLearning.


1.    Boles, R., Benedict, L., Lui, J., Wright, R., & Leung, F. H. (2020). A four-pronged
approach for evaluating e-learning modules with a newly developed instructional
design scale. Journal of Contemporary Medical Education, 10(2), 31-54.

2.    Roy, K. (2006). The impact of learning styles on interactivity in asynchronous elearning. Performance improvement, 45(10), 21-26.

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