Examining interactivity in synchronous virtual classrooms

  • Florence Martin University of North Carolina Wilmington
  • Michele A Parker University of North Carolina Wilmington
  • Deborah F Deale University of North Carolina Wilmington
Keywords: Synchronous, Virtual Classroom, Learner-Learner, Learner-Instructor, Learner-Content, Learner-Interface, Interaction, Horizon Wimba


Interaction is crucial to student satisfaction in online courses. Adding synchronous components (virtual classroom technologies) to online courses can facilitate interaction. In this study, interaction within a synchronous virtual classroom was investigated by surveying 21 graduate students in an instructional technology program in the southeastern United States. The students were asked about learner-learner, learner-instructor, learner-content, and learner-interface interactions. During an interview, the instructor was asked about strategies to promote these different forms of interaction. In addition, the academic, social, and technical aspects of interactions were examined in three course archives using Schullo’s (2005) schema. Participants reported that the Wimba interface was easy to use and that various features, such as text chat and the webcam, facilitated interaction among the students and with the instructor in the virtual classroom. The importance of students’ ability to receive immediate feedback and their experience as presenters was highlighted across the various kinds of interaction. The instructor’s teaching style and visual presence were instrumental in engaging students with the content. The results suggest that student interaction, and hence learning, was aided by the live communication that occurred through the virtual classroom. This study has implications for those who are considering adopting virtual classroom technologies for their online or blended teaching.

Author Biographies

Florence Martin, University of North Carolina Wilmington

Florence Martin is an Assistant Professor in Instructional Technology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.  She received her Doctorate and Master's in Educational Technology from Arizona State University. She researches on technology tools that improve learning and performance (learning management systems, virtual classrooms, mobile technologies). Email: martinf@uncw.edu and florencemartin@gmail.com

Michele A Parker, University of North Carolina Wilmington

Michele A. Parker is an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She obtained her Ph.D. in Educational Research, Statistics, and Evaluation from the University of Virginia. Her research on technology integration spans higher education and K-12 settings. Email: parkerma@uncw.edu

Deborah F Deale, University of North Carolina Wilmington
Deborah F. Deale is currently a graduate student in the Masters of Instructional Technology Program at UNC Wilmington. She has 10 years of instructional experience in K-12 public and international education working as a Computer Support Specialist working with teachers to effectively integrate technology into the K-12 curriculum. Email: dfd5320@uncw.edu
How to Cite
Martin, F., Parker, M. A., & Deale, D. F. (2012). Examining interactivity in synchronous virtual classrooms. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 13(3), 228-261. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v13i3.1174
Research Articles