This research investigates whether information technologies, such as automated question answering (QA), can add interactivity into a multimedia-based e-learning system, as well as how this type of virtual interaction affects the effectiveness of e-learning. Based on a review of multiple learning theories and technologies, an exploratory model for studying the effectiveness of interactive e-learning, Learning with Virtual Mentors (LVM), is proposed and a prototype system is developed to implement the LVM model. A series of studies, including a controlled experiment and surveys, have been conducted to explore the relationships among the core constructs of the LVM model: learning phases, system interactivity, learning activity, and learning outcomes. Findings indicate that virtual interaction positively impacts student behaviors by encouraging students to interact more and increasing student satisfaction with the learning process; however, the correlation between virtual interaction and actual learning performance is limited. Consequently, the LVM model needs to be further explored and developed.