Designing Online Courses Using the Interaction Equivalence Theorem




course design, interaction equivalency theorem, literature review, interaction, costs


Many theories have contributed to design an online course, such as Gagne’s nine levels, Garrison, Anderson and Archer’s Community of Inquiry, or even Siemens’s Connectivism. In 2003, Terry Anderson has theorized about the equivalency between student-student, student-content and student-teacher interactions. He named it the Interaction Equivalency Theorem and many studies have been developed to validate its principles. In this paper we do a Literature Review to analyze the results of the different studies about Interaction Equivalency Theorem. Moreover, with these results we foresee to bring contributions to the course design process, namely developing and delivering education that is cost affordable for all of us, based on the interaction intensity.


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Author Biography

Pedro Barbosa Cabral, LE@D - Universidade Aberta

Investigador Integrado no Laboratório de Educação a Distância e e-Learning (LE@D), Universidade Aberta, onde se encontra a desenvolver projetos relacionados com a educação digital e aberta. Finalizou o doutoramento em Educação, especialidade Educação a Distância e e-Learning, na Universidade Aberta, em 2015 e, no mesmo ano, muda-se para a Delf University of Technology nos Países Baixos como especialista na área de e-Learning, onde desenvolveu vários projetos relacionados com os Massive Open Online Courses. Atualmente é Professor Auxiliar Convidado na Universidade Aberta.


Anderson, T. (2003). Getting the mix right again: An updated and theoretical rationale for interaction. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 4(2). doi:

Anderson, T. (2010). Theories for Learning with Emerging Technologies. In G. Veletsianos (Ed.), Emerging Technologies in Distance Education (pp. 23-40). Edmonton: Athabasca University Press

Bernard, M. R., Abrami, P. C., Borokhovski, E., Wade, C. A., Tamim, R. M., Surkes, M. A., & Bethel, E. C. (2009). A meta-analysis of three types of interaction treatments in distance education. Review of Educational Research, 79(3), 1243-1289

Byers, A. S. (2010). Examining learner-content interaction importance and efficacy in online, self-directed electronic professional development in science for elementary educators in grades three – six. (Tese de Doutoramento). The Faculty of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia, EUA.

Cabral, P. B. (2015). Interação em diferentes cenários pedagógicos no ensino superior online. (Tese de Doutoramento). Universidade Aberta, Portugal.

Cabral, P. B., & van Valkenburg, W. (2018). How about increasing the student-student interaction in a MOOC to provide a more satisfying educational experience? Comunicação apresentada no MOOC-MAKER Global Symposium. Retirado de:

Markewitz, L. (2007). Student-Student Interaction in an Online Continuing Professional Development Course: Testing Anderson’s Equivalency Theorem. (Dissertação de Mestrado). Athabasca University, Canada.

Miyazoe, T. (2009). LMS-based EFL Blended Instructional Design: Learning Community, Learning Styles, and Online Written Interaction. (Tese de Doutoramento). International Christian University, Japão.

Miyazoe, T., & Anderson, T. (2010a). The Interaction Equivalency Theorem. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 9(2), 94-104. Retirado de:

Miyazoe, T., & Anderson, T. (2010b). Empirical research on learners’ perceptions: Interaction Equivalency Theorem in blended learning. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, 2010/I. Retirado de:

Padilla Rodriguez, B. C., & Armellini, A. (2014). Applying the interaction equivalency theorem to online courses in a large organisation. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 13(2), 51-66.

Padilla Rodriguez, B. C., & Armellini, A. (2015). Expanding the Interaction Equivalency Theorem. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 16(3), 298-317. Retirado de:

Rhode, J. F. (2008). Interaction Equivalency in Self-Paced Online Learning Environments: An Exploration of Learner Preferences. (Tese Doutoramento). Capella University, EUA, UMI 3291462