Human-computer interaction and its implications for learning


Wireless technologies have not only changed the way we work and live but also how we socially interact (Walker, 2017). Is it possible to substitute real social relationships with technological ones? Harlow’s research found that monkeys need their parents for survival not only from a nurturer perspective. However, the experiments also showed that a surrogate ‘machine-mother’ could, albeit not ideally, provide sufficient love for survival (Vicedo, 2009). Research examining the link between the Internet and offline social contacts remains conflicting, indicates a tendency towards Internet use having a reinforcing effect on antecedent propensities for interaction or isolation (Walker, 2017).

The ability to memorize the structure of interlinked digital information depends on the reader’s visuospatialability (Rouet, Voros, & Pleh, 2012). Indeed, spatial thinking is a key factor for individuals’ scientific performance, and it seems to be possible to develop this capacity through training (Uttal, Miller, & Newcombe, 2013). So-called embodied cognition suggests the benefit of adding motoric (not only visual) feedback to verbal explanations in learning (Yun, Allen, Chaumpanich, & Xiao, 2014). This is in line with the transient learning theory that states that visual information gets “overwritten” by subsequent animated presentations; a fact that should be considered when designing educational technology (Wong, Leahy, Marcus, & Sweller, 2012).

Cybernetics stands for a scientific field about systems whose behavior is influenced by internal and external feedback. It is such continuous feedback that builds the basis for intelligence (Bendele, 2016). Do respectively can human-technology interactions provide such necessary feedback? The cognitive connectionist architecture approach refers to parallel mental processing that is, for example, embracing the concept of artificial neural networks (ANN). ANN poses that information does not lie in neural nodes, but rather in the connections between them (Bendele, 2016). We don’t need to use our long-term memory anymore thanks (or due) to ubiquitous digital information. It would be interesting to study further how theoretically fewer neural nodes would translate into a likewise reduced number of informative neural connections (such research may exist, but was not identified in the context of this limited focus article).

Online learning approaches seem to adapt according to the awareness for improved feedback, why concepts like Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITSs), Expert Systems, and Case-based Reasoning Systems are used to design feedback-reliant intelligence generation (Bendele, 2016). In that regard, the involvement of emotion in the learning and motivation processes is vital for promoting effective traditional and online technology mediated learning (Chai, Hafeez, Mohamad, & Aamir, 2017). Already Aristotle claimed the importance of emotional communication and combined progress in computer sciences, and psychology is developing emotion sensitive systems from perceptional, interpretational, and expressional perspective (Robinson, 2009). Arguing that we’ll probably never fully understand the human mind, machines will never have a real human emotional capacity. Therefore, blended approaches to social interactions in general and education and learning in specific may balance advantages and risks best and allow for maximum learning success (Conradty& Bogner, 2016).

Photo credit: geralt (


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  • I wonder how this will affect the prevalence of dementia, which is shown to be slowed by interactions and memory related skills like learning new languages.

    • Thank you for your interesting comment. I think Human-Computer Interactions (HCI) can be designed to be promising assistance for people with cognitive difficulties and dementia. Zhuang et al. (2013) conducted a study with the result that HCI based cognitive training led to improvements (albeit not statistically significant) in attention, memory, and language.
      I see a lot of potential in the use of assistive technology for helping senior citizens in their daily activities (e.g. through Internet of Things technologies such as RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and Near Field Communication (NFC) tags/sensors) by building in reminder functionality into everyday objects (An user-centered approach, 2017; Martina, Henrik, & Peter, 2017). Research shows that the promotion of acceptance of ambiance technology and robots is essential. Cruz-Sandoval, Favela, and Sandoval (2018) found that adding music to the interaction with a social robot did contribute to a better connection.
      Thanks again for your input, and I hope the above provided you with some valuable information too.

  • I remember from my long life when personal computers were just being brought into use. I thought about it and how it seemed that it would change the way human beings interacted with each other. Not being able to physically see each other at the time, it seemed that perhaps because the things like body language would be lost, that we would react more rationally. It also seemed that learning could be improved because we could perhaps absorb more material in a multi-dimensional way than we could from reading books.

    I think however that I was wrong about so many things about computers. Just as people today can sit behind the wheels of their cars and feel invisible as they take whatever actions they want to do, so people can sit behind computers and believe that they are also invisible in their actions. I so see a lot of benefits from computers in assistive technology and learning, and I see them in use for many different things. But we must not lose the human touch in learning ever, no matter what the technology may be capable of achieving.

    I realize this is a highly simplified response to what is written here, but though it is simple, I think it touches on the essence of the issue. Thank you for this good article. We are not robots. We are human beings, and as such, we must always hold that first and foremost as sacred.

  • Thank you Mathias for a succinct and balanced appraisal of the use of computer interaction in learning.

    It feels so relevant as I power through the design and completion of learning resources to put on-line for my degree students since adopting the “flipped” learning pedagogy for this academic year and questioning how this will impact on the teacher-learner relationship.

    • Many thanks for your feedback and all the best with your learning facilitation. Whether online, blended, or F2F:

      “Tell me and I forget,
      teach me and I may remember,
      involve me and I learn.”

      • Benjamin Franklin
  • I love that quote of Benjamin Franklin. I believe it is possible to create meaningful connections via Internet, as you know 😉
    For me, being able to help my neighbors in need via technology (email, chat-options, blogging) is just perfect. I always found it hard to memorize information. In a live conversation, I often struggle to remember the knowledge I have. Email gives me time to look up the exacts info I want to share/tell.
    In addition, it is faster, so I can reach out and connect with more people than I could ever do in ‘real’ life.
    As much as still lots of people are trying to deny…the virtual world is part of our world and thus as real as anything else.

    • Great points, Patty. It is the same for me; I appreciate to have time to think before I respond. The online world is also monetized like the real world. The biggest companies don’t own land or real estate anymore; they own online platforms. Airbnb is a good example. And the online space and economy affect people’s lives very directly, why media literacy and responsible online behavior is vital. Thanks!