Digital Interactivity Does Boost Learning, Says New Research

Digital Interactivity Does Boost Learning, Says New Research

Two new research papers published this week have demonstrated that interactive online multimedia and social media such as Instagram and YouTube boost productivity and learning in students. 

A team specialising in art education at Canada's Concordia University looked specifically at the power of social media as a teaching tool. They worked with pupils at a Montreal community centre which provides professional work experience for young people facing academic challenges. The researchers wanted to find a way to help the students become more engaged with what they were learning in formal education, and hypothesised that using social media could be a way forward. 

As a result, they've designed an internship in multimedia production for 13 to 17 year olds, La Relève. It's led by artists and practitioners rather than teachers. The students work directly with these artist-educators on projects related to sound design, digital imaging and video production, using tools like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube not only to express themselves, but also to develop professional multimedia skills. By working on projects that involve modern phenomena they're already acquainted with from their social lives, such as selfies and mashups, they are more able to develop technical and professional skills for the workplace.

Over at Penn State University, a study into an anti-smoking website found that its interactivity made it more persuasive.

Study participants using an interactive version of the website were more likely to say they were anti-smoking than those using a non-interactive website. The researchers reported that they believed this was because the interactivity - in this case, a drag-and-slide bar linked to images and message interactivity - made the website easier to use, encouraged users to focus on the messages, and made the process more enjoyable for users. These positive emotions may then translate to positive support for the messages of the website itself.

The two types of interactivity used in the study achieve similar outcomes with different approaches to engagement, explained one of the researchers: "Modality interactivity (the drag-and-slide bar) persuades people because they are having more fun browsing the website, which absorbs them, and creates more positive attitudes toward the message as well," said Jeeyun Oh. "Message interactivity persuades people by making users think more deeply about the message."

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