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What are Interactive Lessons?

By Bryon Turcotte
Updated Feb 18, 2024
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Interactive lessons are classes or educational sessions hosted via the internet to teach specific subject matter while allowing different levels of student participation. Using technology and varied methods of distribution, educators and trainers can effectively teach a wide range of subject matter, reach a larger audience and allow those who may not have the ability to attend a formal classroom setting to experience this in a personal computing environment. Individuals seeking an accurate understanding of a specific subject can access interactive lessons through a number of websites using several multimedia applications and players.

The first type of interactive lessons may consist of a simple slide show controlled by several software scripts and an active database, which contains questions and answers delivered to the student through a specific interface. The interactive lesson may contain several pages of review material that the student is required to read before progressing to the next level of the lesson. The end of each review may contain an exercise with a number of multiple choice questions, which will require the student to enter specific information into text fields or use the computer's mouse to activate buttons within the interface. Answers are then compared to those within the database and used to compute a score for the student. Some organizations combine multimedia elements making an interactive lesson more engaging and interesting for the student.

Some interactive lessons may include pre-recorded video featuring an instructor who delivers the content through a series of visual demonstrations, audible samples and step-by-step instruction. The same basic elements are featured but broadened by using a human instructor to give personality to the process. A higher level of scripting and database technology can enhance a lesson of this type to interact with the student in a completely different way. Instead of simple data entry or the click of a mouse, the student can choose answers, which prompt the instructor’s response depending on the information given.

Streaming, an internet broadcasting method, allows a student to engage with a classroom session using a specific media player and experience interactive lessons in real time. The video and audio signal can be captured from any location equipped with internet connectivity and a host computer workstation. Students can interact using instant messaging technology which most often incorporates text, audio and sometimes video broadcasting elements. Interactive lessons can help educators connect with students in real time eliminating many limitations of the physical classroom.

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Discussion Comments
By anon358945 — On Dec 13, 2013

I don’t disagree with any of that in theory, but in reality, for the vast number of users, although they do have ‘personal choices’, those choices are largely illusionary, or misleading, or between options that are equally unpalatable. It’s fine for an educated, informed user with sufficient time and understanding to work their way through the choices, but for many that’s just about impossible.

By tolleranza — On Oct 15, 2011

I love the idea of interactive lessons. I think part of the reason I love the idea is because I don't look at interactive lessons as *substitutes* for live lessons but in addition to or an alternative for traditional lessons.

Interactive lessons open up a whole educational world for people that may not ever get to experience education as the typical student who is able to go to college does.

Think about how many scenarios the interactive lessons could help. If you have a family emergency such as going home to help an ailing parent you could keep up with your classes as opposed to having to withdraw.

If you lived far away from a particular program, rather than having to uproot your life and possibly your family and where you spouse is working you could take the classes online.

I think if you were one of the people in the above situations, sure you would rather be in the classes in person, but because of your current situation you would probably forgo the "in person discussions" ability to answer questions to better care for yourself or your family.

By amysamp — On Oct 14, 2011

I am about to take a class that is televised and then has interactive lessons online after the television show. Of course the class is not going to count towards any sort of degree, but it is supposed to increase my self-knowledge.

The best part of a television show that doubles as a class? It's free!!

But as far as what I think about the overall idea of interactive lessons is that it is not a one size fits all.

Just as I have seen some mention, you cannot get the same discussion on literature via an internet chat or comment section. But some other classes can easily be done over the internet.

When I was a graduate school assistant the professor I assisted was getting an intro class together as an online class. She was having film students film her as she taught a class.

I just thought it was neat that at least she was trying new technology. It seemed to have paid off as she is now the Dean of the entire college.

By Oceana — On Oct 14, 2011

I have a friend who recently got a job working from home as an online teacher. She has to work at least 8 hours a day, and she teaches in real time.

She can hear her students, and they can hear her and each other. She has even had to knock a few of them off the site for constant talking and disrupting the group!

She worked many years as a regular elementary school teacher, but she lost her job due to downsizing. So, this job is perfect for her. She no longer owns a car, so an added plus is that she doesn’t have to commute to work each day!

By aaaCookie — On Oct 13, 2011

@BambooForest- There are some internet tutoring sites that offer help for people already enrolled somewhere else, and they have had good reviews from customers. These are usually for thinks like interactive reading lessons, or science, or something that can have independent work that's checked later. I agree that language might be harder, though, and some sites offer "free" interactive lessons that are either not really interactive, or turn out to not really be free.

By BambooForest — On Oct 13, 2011

@recapitulate- I agree. I spent some time teaching English in Europe and you would be amazed at the level, or lack thereof, of some of the "teaching" on offer in some places. There are "interactive" language lessons, some involving reading and talking, some just involving doing assignments and getting feedback, and those are some of the better things. There are also classes taught by people with almost no teaching experience, and some without even a real lesson plan to follow.

I admit I tried a school like that to get some extra cash, and all they seemed to want from me was the fact that I was a native speaker. It's frightening to think that so much shoddy education is available, and people will trust it.

By recapitulate — On Oct 12, 2011

I think I am sort of on the fence about interactive lesson plans. They seem like a good idea for some things, like interactive math tutoring or other help that is less intensive, but I cannot imagine myself trying to learn a language that way. I know that a lot of people in other countries trying things like interactive English lessons through an online "tutor", but it seems like there wouldn't be the same feeling that there is in trying to converse with someone right there with you.

By jennythelib — On Oct 11, 2011

@sunnySkys - I can see how it would be a whole lot of trouble for just one brief course. But I did an entire online master's degree and found it very rewarding.

My program used what's called synchronous distance education. When most people think of distance ed, they think of being able to log in whenever and complete certain assignments. That's the asynchronous model.

With synchronous, all the students and the instructor log in to an online classroom, featuring interactive lesson tools like a "whiteboard," the ability to view the instructor's screen, slideshows, and a chat function, at the same time each week. It's sounds like that's kind of what you did, but that you had a lot of software issues. We have a choice of multiple different browsers and can even use Chrome usually even though that's technically "unsupported."

It can take a little while to work out the bugs, but since it's a whole degree program, it's worthwhile and after the first week or two, it's generally smooth sailing.

By sunnySkys — On Oct 11, 2011

I think interactive online lessons can be difficult if you're not technology savvy. I had to do some interactive lessons when I was training for a new job once. It did not go well.

First of all, the technical requirements were extremely specific. I had to use a specific web-browser with specific plug-ins. I didn't have some of the plug-ins, so I had to download them. Then they were the wrong versions. At one point, I was able to hear the audio for the training course, but not see the video.

I actually got so upset I threw my laptop across the room. Luckily it didn't break. Finally I called tech support and got some help, but the whole experience was very frustrating. I don't think I will do another online course unless I have to.

By JaneAir — On Oct 11, 2011

@indemnifyme - Have you ever tried an online course with interactive lessons? You might be very surprised. Technology has come a long way over the last few years.

As the article said, some courses included recorded or real time lectures by an instructor. I feel like this goes a long way towards making an online course have a more "personal feeling."

Also, there are tons of way to do video chat these days. Sometimes you can even do video chat with more than one participant. I don't think it would be too hard to get class members from an online class together for a video discussion.

Online learning is great. You just have to think outside the box a little bit.

By indemnifyme — On Oct 10, 2011

I'm sorry, call me old-fashioned or whatever, but I don't think there is any substitute for learning something face to face. Sure, online lessons may be "interactive" but it's not the same as having a real live person next to you, talking to you and teaching you.

Not to mention the interaction with other students in the classroom. I feel like when I was in college, I learned a lot of valuable things from class discussion. I really don't think you can replicate that over the Internet.

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