In Interactive Multimedia-Based E-Learning: A Study of Effectiveness, Dongsong Zhang of the University of Maryland states that “a key challenge is to provide learners with easy, intuitive, and fast access to the content” (p. 149) and argues that “to create effective learning, e-learning environments should provide interactive instructional content that learners can view on a personalized, self-directed basis.” (p. 160).
Zhang hypothesized that students in an interactive multimedia-based e-learning environment would 1) achieve higher test scores than those in a traditional classroom, 2) report higher levels of satisfaction than those in a traditional classroom, 3) achieve higher test scores than those in a less interactive multimedia-based e-learning environment and 4) report higher levels of satisfaction than those in a less interactive multimedia-based e-learning environment. (p. 151 – 152). Zhang finds a significant difference in improvements from pretests to posttests of a lecture administered in a fully interactive Learning By Asking (LBA) system, a less interactive LBA, and a traditional classroom. Specifically, his results show that “students in the fully interactive e-learning group achieved significantly better performance and higher levels of satisfaction than those in the less interactive e-learning group and traditional classroom” (p. 156) in both experiments that he ran.
Zhang viewed a fully interactive LBA system as one in which “participants could perform various operations at any time to control their learning pace and content by pressing control buttons on top of that interface.” (p. 151). Though his results indicate that this system is the best way for one to learn content, both of his experiments were done in a single session of ~ 45 minutes. Does the effectiveness of e-learning continue to be better than traditional classrooms on a long-term scale? “None of the participants had previous e-learning experience,” (p. 154) so could their attention to the content have been based on the novelty of the interface? This study was published in 2005; would the results be different for a generation that has been frequently exposed to online learning?