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Best Technologies and Approaches to Interactivity in Online Higher Education
You ask a very big question with lots of moving parts. This is variously addressed in a growing body of books, studies, articles, case studies, white papers, and graduate thesese. I know becuase I keep reading as many as I can in support of our own work with the Prelude Suite™ www.playprelude.com/ The following are a few articles in which I address an essential issue underpinning your question. In a nutshell, whatever technologies, design features, or activity designs are used they need to transcend virtual distance by helping to create and sustain authetic human connections online with "virtual strangers". It's been rightly said that "the soft stuff is the hard stuff". It would be great to discuss this further given your work in Professional Development curriculum for the MS in Leadership for Creative Enterprises program at Northwestern University. We're doing some really innovative things that might be of interest and value.
Made In Canada: Virtual Team Research & Development
Software Teams: Soft Skills. Hard Facts.
High Performing Virtual Teams: Why Symbolic Identity Matters
University Student Virtual Teams: Challenges & Innovations
Really excellent question. Unfortunately there isn't a definitive answer due to the fact that there are numerous learning styles and combinations. Additionally what "engages" one student may cause aversion in another.
I believe the key to solving this issue isn't in finding the single silver bullet that works each and every time but rather in designing a program that appeals to as many learning styles as possible! This entails presenting material in several formats simultaneously. Knowing your student audience is critical to success.
Thank you for the great question!
Michael A. Capristo, M.H.A., B.S.B.A.