Interactivity, Instructional Interactions, and Performance Interactions

There is a difference between the traditional “levels of interactivity” for asynchronous e-learning and interactions. Actually, they are very different.


Levels of interactivity are usually used during the Request for Proposal (RFP) and Proposal stages of business development/sales/contracting to figure out scope and pricing for an e-learning project. Based on my experience, I use four levels of interactivity, while many companies/individuals use only three. My definitions are an amalgam of many other definitions I’ve come across over the years:

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  1. Level 1 Interactivity: Passive Learning. Text, graphics, simple audio, simple video, test questions. Learner acts solely as a receiver of information. (Page-Turner)
  2. Level 2 Interactivity: Limited Participation, Makes simple response to instructional cues. Liberal use of multimedia. Some exercises. (Drill & Practice)
  3. Level 3 Interactivity: Complex Participation. Makes a variety of responses using varied techniques in response to instructional cues. (Complex Branching, Complex Choices)
  4. Level 4 Interactivity: Real-Time Participation. Full immersion, simulated job performance /task, real-time feedback. (Real-Time Simulation in Operational Setting)


Interactions, on the other hand, have everything to do with the actual design of the e-learning project to bring about the desired performance change. To focus on the type of interactions we need to design, we need to understand what we are trying to accomplish with the interactions. To do that, we need to take a look at Bloom’s taxonomy. Bloom’s taxonomy is considered hierarchical (from bottom to top), ordered in terms of increasing complexity of learning, and consists of the categories below:

Creating: arrange, assemble, collect, compose, construct, create, design, develop, formulate, manage, organize, plan, prepare, propose, write

Evaluating: appraise, argue, assess, attach, choose compare, defend estimate, judge, predict, rate, core, select, support, value, evaluate

Analyzing: analyze, appraise, calculate, categorize, compare, contrast, criticize, differentiate, distinguish, examine, experiment, question

Applying: apply, choose, demonstrate, dramatize, employ, illustrate, interpret, operate, practice, schedule, sketch, solve, use, write

Understanding: classify, describe, discuss, explain, express, identify, indicate, locate, recognize, report, restate, review, select, translate

Remembering: arrange, define, duplicate, label, list, memorize, name, order, recognize, relate, recall, repeat, reproduce state

Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy:

Click on “Next” is not an interaction. Clicking on an audio file to listen is not interaction. Clicking on a video file to watch is not interaction. Clicking on a “reveal” graphic to see more text is not interaction.

There are two types of interactions: Instructional Interactions, and Performance Interactions.

Instructional Interactions

Instructional interactions are centered around Bloom’s level levels of learning such as the “Remembering” and “Understanding” categories (see above). Traditional e-Learning has been about “learning,” and “knowing.” Well, that’s nice, but still does not solve the job skills problem of doing better back the workplace. It’s kind of like driver education classes. You “learn” all about the rules of the road, traffic signs, lane markers, and driving laws. That’s valuable. It’s very valuable. It also falls under “Remembering” and “Understanding.” You wouldn’t give someone driver’s license after only taking a class and passing a written exam would you? What about all the “driving” practice they need? Allen Interactions has a good definition for Instructional Interactions: Interactivity that actively stimulates the learner’s mind to do those things that improve ability and readiness to perform effectively. Instructional interactions are not just about “knowing,” but about getting the learner “ready to do something.”

Performance Interactions

Performance interactions, unlike instructional interactions, focus on Bloom’s higher levels of learning centered around Applying, Analyzing, Evaluating, and Creating. In other words, DOING stuff. It’s in the DOING that we help learners bring back to the workplace improved performance. It’s what people DO in their jobs that matters, not just what they know. They can “know” all day long, yet what matters at the end of the day is what they “do,” how they perform. Performance is DOING something.

Thinking about it in another way, Performance interactions are moving us toward simulations of the workplace. Here, we allow the learner to opportunity to practice, practice, and practice until they reach proficiency.

I also like Allen Interactions approach to this type of interaction. They call it the CCAF model:

  • Context: Specific, visual, related to application, taps into emotions, personal
  • Challenge: Purpose, progressive difficulty, real-life, multi-step
  • Activity: Requires effort, suggest application, elicit meaningful behavior, direct manipulation
  • Feedback: Intrinsic, delayed judgment, content-rich, honest

Thankfully, we now have the ability and the technology to offer “doing” interactions in out e-learning. I attribute this to the advances in learning technology spurred on by the Game-Based Learning/Serious Games/Simulation movement in our industry.

Comments, jabs, refutes, discussions?

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