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Here is some preliminary research/reading into online course retention, completion, success and interactivity. It is a claim I make in our handbook of online course development, I want to make sure our research is up to date. If you have anything to add to this, PLEASE comment with a link. You will be remembered in a later annotated bibliography!
This kind of research is essential for understanding the importance of group projects, social media, and utilizing a wide-variety of networking modes in online courses. It is not enough to have information on the web or in a network. Students and teachers need to engage with this information, interact in a network in particular ways. This becomes a course design strategy. Some of these articles are older because I believe that they hold some keys to how we should be looking at social networks and media - both of which hold a potential for interaction undreamed of in the early 90s.
Aldrich, Clark (2009) A Taxonomy of Interactivity. Clack Aldrich On Serious Games and Simulations. http://clarkaldrich.blogspot.com/2008/08/taxonomy-of-interactivity.html
Anderson, Terry (2003) Getting the Mix Right Again: an updated and theoretical rationale for interaction. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, Vol 4, No 2. http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/149/230
Henry, Jim and Meadows, Jeff (2008) An Absolutely Riveting Online Course: Nine principles for excellence in web-based teaching. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology / La revue canadienne de l’apprentissage et de la technologie, V34(1) Winter / Hiver, 2008. http://www.cjlt.ca/index.php/cjlt/article/view/179/177
Herbert, Michael (2006) Staying the Course: A Study in Online Student Satisfaction and Retention. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, Volume IX, Number IV, Winter 2006. University of West Georgia, Distance Education Center. http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/winter94/herbert94.htm
"Incorporating Interaction in Your Distance Learning Course." (2005) Academic Technology Center. Worcester Polytechnic Institute. http://web.archive.org/web/20060909200751/http://www.wpi.edu/Academics/ATC/Collaboratory/Teaching/interaction.html
O'Brien, B. (2002). Online Student Retention: Can It Be Done?. In P. Barker & S. Rebelsky (Eds.), Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2002
(pp. 1479-1483). Chesapeake, VA: AACE. http://www.editlib.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Reader.PrintAbstract&paper_id=9973
Roblyer, M. D. and Ekhaml, Leticia (2000) How Interactive Are Your Distance Courses? A rubric for assessing interaction in distance learning. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, Volume III, Number II, Spring, 2000. State University of West Georgia, Distance Education Center. http://www.westga.edu/~distance/roblyer32.html
Sims, Rod (2000) An Interactive Conundrum: Constructs of interactivity and learning theory. Australian Journal of Educational Technology. 2000, 16(1), 45-57. http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet16/sims.html
Shedroff, Nathan (1994) Information Interaction Design: A Unified Field Theory of Design. http://www.nathan.com/thoughts/unified/
Thorpe, Mary (2008) "Effective Online Interaction: Mapping course design to bridge from research to practice." Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 24(1), 57-72. http://ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet24/thorpe.html
Thurmond, Veronica and Wambach, Karen (2004) Towards an Understanding of Interactions at a Distance. http://web.archive.org/web/20080130193445/http://www.eaa-knowledge.com/ojni/ni/8_2/interactions.htm.
What I am reading now:
Journal of Interactive Online Learning http://www.ncolr.org/jiol/
This is a publication of the Virtual Center for Online Learning Research. There are articles here from 2002 to the present.