Information Technology and Interaction in Learning
Abstract: Learning is an interactive process between the learner and the surrounding structures, the so-called learning environment. Several types of instructional interaction - such as the learner-tutor, the learner-learner, the learner-content, and recently, the learner-interface interactions - have been identified in higher education. The design execution of these interactions may significantly influence the learning impact of an academic educational session. Information and communication technology (ICT), and especially the Internet, has affected learning in many ways, but most significantly through introducing new possibilities for instructional interaction. The overriding aim of this thesis has been to elucidate the relative role of certain types of interaction between the learner and his or her environment in academic oral health education. In this thesis, ICT is studied in two distinct roles: as a mediator of communication?that is, as the mediator in learner-instructor and learner-learner interaction?and as a partner in interaction through the educational interface?the so-called learner-interface interaction (human?computer interaction). ICT as a mediator of communication was studied during two Internet-based problem-based learning (PBL) courses and one Internet-based examination of undergraduate students. The potential of ICT as a partner in interaction through the educational interface was investigated through an interactive software application, which aimed to improve the self-assessment ability of students. The results of these studies suggest that computer-mediated interaction (CMI) has an important role to play in higher education, can facilitate complex instructional methodologies such as PBL, and can effectively supplement and enhance face-to-face instruction. However, CMI presented several methodological differences when compared with face-to-face interaction, in terms of both quality as well as quantity of interaction. CMI was received less positively than face-to-face interaction by the students, when used in examination settings. In addition, it remains unclear if computer applications are able to constitute an effective, short-term, remedial support for the improvement of complex cognitive skills in students?such as self-assessment skills?without human feedback. At the basis of these findings and currently available technology, the most beneficial scenario from an educational point of view would include both computer-mediated and face-to-face interaction, with a considerable degree of user-determined flexibility. Future studies should focus on the roles of the various factors that affect learning through the process of interaction.
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