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Activate the stimuli receptors: Reducing cognitive overload by analyzing the impact of multimedia elements

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In recent years, a large number of learning management sites (LMs) have emerged in the higher education sector, but these systems are generally not well-maintained. Most of the time the burden falls upon the lecturers to populate and maintain the content on these sites. The problem is, most of these online environments are built around complex learning tasks, mostly containing many interacting multimedia elements. These elements represent pieces of information, information-rich or information-poor, that needs to be processed by the brain simultaneously. This article focuses on: (i) the use of multimedia elements in LMSs, and (ii) how the interaction of multimedia elements used in LMs contribute to workload (or cognitive load) induced on the students. The main focus will form around redundant information, contiguity of elements, coherence, segmentation and signaling. This article proposes an adaptation of Meyer’s cognitive theory of multimedia learning to reduce cognitive load on Learning Management sites.
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Activate the stimuli receptors: Reducing cognitive overload by
analyzing the impact of multimedia elements
Gordon Matthew
Koos De Villiers
North-West University
South Africa
Gordon.Matthew@nwu.ac.za
Koos.DeVilliers@nwu.ac.za
Abstract: In recent years, a large number of learning management sites (LMs) have emerged in
the higher education sector, but these systems are generally not well-maintained. Most of the time
the burden falls upon the lecturers to populate and maintain the content on these sites. The
problem is, most of these online environments are built around complex learning tasks, mostly
containing many interacting multimedia elements. These elements represent pieces of information,
information-rich or information-poor, that needs to be processed by the brain simultaneously. This
article focuses on: (i) the use of multimedia elements in LMSs, and (ii) how the interaction of
multimedia elements used in LMs contribute to workload (or cognitive load) induced on the
students. The main focus will form around redundant information, contiguity of elements,
coherence, segmentation and signaling. This article proposes an adaptation of Meyer’s cognitive
theory of multimedia learning to reduce cognitive load on Learning Management sites.
Keywords: Learning Management Systems,Cognitive Load Theory,Instructional
Design,Multimedia Learning
Background
In a previous study, we show how different multimedia elements had an influence on site visits. We compared two,
similar modules, with different number of site visits on a learning management site (LMs) (De Villiers & Matthew,
2019). The aim of the study was to determine which multimedia elements (or lack thereof) may have contributed to
differences in site visits between these module sites.(De Villiers & Matthew, 2019). We categorized the various
multimedia elements used on these sites, into four categories based on their functionality on the LMs. These
categories included Look-and-Feel, basic structural elements, dynamic structural elements, and interactive elements
(De Villiers & Matthew, 2019). We discovered that certain combinations, types and ratios of multimedia elements
contributed to more student interaction, participation and visits to the LMs. These elements included:
Text segmentation + headings
Picture-to-text ratio
Different types of videos used
Hyperlink functionality
Interactive tool usage (Comment section or forum)
The previous research, however, only focused on the basic effects of these elements and did not delve deeper into
the cognitive aspects that these elements induce, that may have also resulted to lesser site visits for one LMs
compared to the other. A central challenge facing designers of multimedia instruction is the potential for cognitive
overload—in which the students’ intended cognitive processing exceeds their available cognitive capacity.
Cognitive load theory (CLT) originated in the field of Cognitive Psychology, but has in recent years, migrated to
Educational Psychology and Instructional Design. CLT “is mainly concerned with the learning of complex
cognitive tasks …” and “… the relationship between working (short-term) and long-term memory and the effect of
their relationship on learning and problem solving ...” (Pass, Renkel & Sweller, 2004:11; Diao, Chandler & Sweller,
2007:237). Relating to this theory, the cognitive theory of multimedia learning (Mayer, 2002) combines the initial
components associated with information processing and cognitive load (working and long-term memory) with
aspects that relate specifically to multimedia elements (processing of visual and auditory elements).
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The problem with working memory is not only that working memory capacity is different for each individual, but
also that the working memory has limited capacity to process information. Its processing capabilities are limited to
only two or three items of information simultaneously (Kirschner, 2002), and it can only store up to seven items at a
time or nine chunks of data. Furthermore, it is only capable of handling information for a maximum of twenty
seconds (Van Merriënboer & Sweller, 2005; Baddely, 1986). There is, however, a way around these limitations
posed by the working memory, by the means of the long-term memory. Long-term memory is believed to have an
unlimited storage capacity, and thus a permanent record of everything that we have ever learned. The storage of
information in long-term memory is assumed to be based on association, as different items are related to one another
based on the current context being perceived (Ericsson & Kintsch, 1995). Therefore, large amounts of information
stored in the long-term can be retrieved through connections made between, for example different multimedia
elements.
Generally, two types of cognitive load is imposed on students when they interact with multimedia elements: intrinsic
and extraneous cognitive load. The first has to do with the manner in which the students interact with the task given
to them. Intrinsic cognitive load (ICL) includes the nature of the material (or task) as well as the expertise, prior
knowledge and cognitive abilities of the learner (Sweller, Van Merriënboer & Pass, 1998). The amount of ICL
experienced is also dependent “on the number of elements that must be processed simultaneously in working
memory …” (Van Merriënboer & Sweller, 2005) indicating the difficulty of that material or task. Learner task
interaction plays an important role when structuring and designing a learning management site.
The second type of cognitive load that students can experience is based on the presentation format of the task (or
multimedia elements). Extraneous cognitive load (ECL) does not facilitate comprehension and learning, but can be
raised or lowered by external factors (Van Merriënboer & Sweller, 2005). ECL generally results from an
unnecessarily high degree of element-interactivity in the working memory, which leads to irrelevant cognitive
activities activities not directed to schema acquisition or automation (Schnotz & Kürschner, 2007). Generally,
ECL occurs when a task needs to be completed under unfavorable conditions or environments and where the task
difficulty is not aligned with the student’s level of expertise. In other words, if effective learning is to take place
during this task, the amount of ECL imposed will have to be reduced. ECL generally occurs due to the following
conditions or principles: (i) the presence of redundant information, (ii) contiguity of elements, (iii) coherence, (iv)
segmentation and signaling. In this paper we will argue that the interaction between certain interactive elements and
the presentation format of the LMs may contribute to less site visits due to cognitive overload. This paper will
investigate the specific contributors to cognitive load on an LMs.
Literature review
The main premise of the cognitive load theory (CLT) is that the brain’s information processing system consists of
two information delivery systems. One is used for processing visual information and the other is used for processing
auditory information. Relating to this theory, the cognitive theory of multimedia learning (Mayer, 2002) combines
the initial components associated with information processing and cognitive load (working and long-term memory)
with aspects that relate specifically to multimedia elements (processing of visual and auditory elements). The
information from these systems are captured by the sensory memory (basically your eyes and ears) and then sent to
the working memory to be processed (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. The cognitive theory of multimedia learning
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Figure 1 illustrates the steps in processing multimedia presentations (Mayer, 2002). The model consists of sections
that illustrate the different memory stores. Sensory memory processes the pictures and/or printed text as visual
images and spoken words and other sounds as auditory images within a limited time (Mayer, 2002). In the working
memory, all of the organizing, manipulation and processing of information is done, although this is only temporary.
In Figure 1, the left side of the working memory represents the basic multimedia elements as used in a multimedia
presentation (visual images and sounds) and the right side represents the knowledge that was generated from the
working memory (different models for visual and auditory information) (Mayer, 2002). The box on the right (long-
term memory) presents the storage area for information (Mayer, 2002). “Unlike working memory, long–term
memory can hold large amounts of knowledge, over long periods of time, but to actively think about material in
long-term memory it must be brought into working memory” (Mayer, 2002). This model can be adapted to explain
how multimedia elements, on a learning management system, contribute to cognitive load and multimedia learning.
Adaptation of Meyer’s cognitive theory of multimedia learning for Learning Management
Systems
The argument can be made that Meyer’s cognitive theory of multimedia learning can be adapted to more than one
context of learning. Learning Management Systems (LMS) however differ from regular multimedia presentations as
it creates the perfect conditions for interactive, self-paced learning. Due to this, careful consideration of task- and
learner interaction with the learning environment needs to be made when constructing LMs. For this reason, aspects
regarding tasks and learners as well as the different effects of cognitive load caused by various multimedia element
interaction, has been added to Meyer’s cognitive theory of multimedia learning (see Figure 2). Furthermore, the
inner-workings of working memory have been simplified to separate processing and selecting sections. This was
done to illustrate the cognitive load caused by the interaction between multimedia elements e.g. split attention effect.
Figure 2. The cognitive theory of multimedia learning as adapted from Meyer (2002)
Within a previous study (De Villiers & Matthew, 2019) we found that certain multimedia elements and combination
of elements increased participation on LMs. However, how these elements contributed to increased participation is
still unknown. Our hypothesis is that the increase of participation on LMs can be ascribed to reduced cognitive load
caused by the interaction of multimedia elements. In this paper we will argue that the interaction between certain
interactive elements and how the presentation format of the LMs might have contributed to less site visits due to
cognitive overload. Within the following section we will discuss the specific contributors to cognitive load caused
by multimedia element interaction on LMs. The discussion will include: (i) the segmentation and signaling of
information, (ii) coherence, (iii) the presence of redundant information, and (iv) contiguity and split-attention of
elements.
Signaling and segmenting
When constructing an LMs the designer need to carefully consider how elements will be presented and how it will
impact selecting relevant information. In Figure 3 the multimedia presentation and the selecting process of the
working memory will be key contributors for increasing cognitive load. For example when an LMs has no clear
structure and the student is unable to differentiate between relevant and non-relevant information. This may cause a
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cognitive overload. One way to reduce cognitive load in this scenario is to make use of signaling and segmentation
techniques.
Figure 3. The impact of signaling and segmentation on cognitive load
Signaling refers to cueing of learners with visual signals to guide them through certain, logical processes (e.g. giving
directions on how to complete a task). The inclusion of signaling minimizes the processing of extraneous (or
irrelevant) information (Clark & Mayer, 2016). Within an LMs the use of buttons, icons and highlighting techniques
(bold, italic and underline) can be used as signaling techniques to guide students through content and highlight
relevant information (see Figure 4). Furthermore the consistent use of these elements for specific tasks can also
decrease cognitive load.
Figure 4. Example of the use of icons, buttons and highlighting techniques on an LMs
Segmenting, on the other hand, refers to the deliberate inclusion of pauses either within a multimedia element or in
the e-learning environment itself, to group relevant segments of information together and segment the content into
logical sections. This lets learners reflect on one section of the content before moving on to the next one and in
return minimizes the processing of extraneous information by the working memory. Evidence for this hypothesis
was found in a study where students who viewed segments of a narrated animation depicting the process of lightning
formation outperformed those presented with the whole narrated animation on retention, visual–verbal matching and
transfer tests (Mayer, Moreno, Boire, & Vagge, 1999). In an LMs headers, sub-headers, section borders, section
breaks and highlighting techniques can all be used to segment and group information to reduce cognitive load (see
Figure 5). Adding structure and strategically planning the structure of an LMs helps learners to process large amount
of information in a logically structured manner. The idea is to group information into easily digestible chunks to
facilitate learning and information retention.
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Figure 5. Example of the use of headers, sub-headers, section borders and section breaks on an LMs
Coherence
Lecturers creating and designing LMs need to take into account the coherence of various multimedia elements used
on a site. According to CLT the information one receives from your eyes and ears (sensory memory) is sent to the
working memory through separate processing channels (Moreno & Mayer, 2000). When an LMs is over-populated
with the same type of multimedia elements (e.g. text, pictures and diagrams) that channel, in this case visual
processing, will be overloaded (Moreno & Mayer, 2000). This will affect the students selection of relevant
information that will impact processing and retention. Thus, designers need to use a variety of multimedia elements
which is carefully selected to accommodate both information processing channels of the working memory without
overloading one or both processing channels (see Figure 6). Lastly there needs to be an integration of the various
elements on an LMs to ensure that information scaffolds to compliment the learning process.
Figure 6. The impact of coherence on cognitive load
Mayer (1999) has used the term coherence effect to refer to situations in which adding words or pictures to a
multimedia presentation results in poorer performance on tests of retention or transfer. By simply adding pictures to
words does not guarantee an improvement in learning because not all multimedia presentations are equally effective
(Mayer, 2002). Previous research has shown that, when adding extra sentences and illustrations to an explanation of
content (known as seductive details) to make it more interesting and entertaining, learners have poorer retention and
transfer of the content information (Renninger et al, 1992; Mayer, Bove, Bryman, Mars, and Tapangco, 1996). This
is known as the coherence effect, which forms the basis of Coherence Theory. The theory states that “any additional
material (including sound effects and music) that is not necessary to make the lesson intelligible or that is not
integrated with the rest of the materials will reduce effective working memory capacity and thereby interfere with
the learning of the core material.” (Moreno & Mayer, 2000). This is based on the idea that auditory adjuncts can
overload the auditory channel of working memory, which leaves the learner less working memory capacity to build
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and connect both verbal and auditory representations and can result in poorer performance and less retention of
information (Moreno & Mayer, 2000).
Coherence on an LMs refers consistency in design, layout and structure (look and feel). When creating an LMs the
designer need to think about the look and feel of the site and replicate the same look and feel on all pages. This does
not only include the identity of the module but also the structuring op information on a page (see Figure 7). For
example, if a diagram is used on the left side of the page the accompanying explanation always needs to be on the
right side. This structure then needs to be followed for all pages for that module. Strategically structuring pages to
maintain consistency with the use of elements will reduce cognitive load for the learner. Repeated structure builds
schemata of processing certain types of information on an LMs. When learners are familiar with how information is
structured on a site, cognitive load is reduced as the structure is stored in the long-term memory and can be
automatically identified and processed. This frees up working memory capacity to facilitate learning of content.
Figure 7. Example of the use look and feel as well as structure throughout a module site
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Redundancy effect
LMs provide designers with various options to convey information using multimedia elements. However, designers
tend to add information based on what they perceive to be sufficient for learning. In this regard the same information
is presented on an LMs. As lecturers need to ensure that they provide information that accommodates both
experienced and novice learners. Presenting the same information using different multimedia elements to
accommodate the different learning styles and experiences may affect learners in different ways. For example
simplifying complicated concepts for novice learners may add additional cognitive load to experienced learners, due
to the redundancy of information (expertise reversal effect). Therefore lecturers need to carefully structure and add
information to an LMs as it may counteract learning due to the redundancy of the same information in different
modes (see Figure 8).
Figure 8. The impact of redundancy effect on cognitive load
The redundancy effect usually occurs when an individual’s expertise is higher than is needed to complete a task. For
example, if a learner’s level of expertise is advanced (regarding the subject content) and the learner is given a
diagram (which is completely understandable on its own) together with a text explaining the diagram, the text will
be deemed to be redundant information for understanding the diagram and will hurt the student’s learning ability
(Chandler & Sweller, 1991). Kalyuga, Chandler, and Sweller (1998; 1999) have used the term redundancy effect to
indicate learning situations in which “eliminating redundant material results in better performance than when the
redundant material is included” (Kalyuga et al., 1998, p. 2). This also means that certain combinations of multimedia
elements in specific scenarios, may have different effects on intrinsic and extraneous cognitive load due to the
redundancy effect.
Because intrinsic cognitive load (ICL) has to do with learner expertise and element interactivity, the redundancy
effect can cause ICL to increase when a learner is confronted with complex element-interactivity (CEI). CEI
generally occurs when the element-interactivity of a task is too complex for the individual’s working memory to
process, and this results in exaggerated interactivity between relevant information (as a result of an over-
complicated design). This usually occurs for novice learners, as they do not possess a sufficient amount of prior
knowledge to deal with the complexity of the information provided. The cognitive load imposed on working
memory then prohibits learning and may result in cognitive overload. Cognitive overload refers to the occurrence
when the working memory can be overloaded with information and not function as effectively as needed in which
case no learning can take place.
The effect of redundancy on extraneous cognitive load (ECL) generally occurs during designs that have low
element-interactivity (LEI) or when superficial information needs to be processed. LEI, for example can occur when
a learner is given two sources of the same information to learn, one after the other, and both sources are of
equivalent intelligibility (perfectly aligned with the learner’s level of expertise). The fact that both sources of
information are equally understandable results in extraneous cognitive load, because the second source of
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information is deemed unnecessary for learning. Kalguya, Chandler and Sweller (1998) reason that processing
unnecessary information is irrelevant for learning and that the corresponding cognitive load counts as extraneous.
The same can happen on an LMs site when text is used to explain a concept and a video is embedded on the site also
explaining the concept. The duplication of information in different modes thus increases extraneous cognitive load.
Although redundant information can prohibit information, research has shown that this is not always the case (Clark
& Mayer, 2016). By implementing redundant information in specific situations it may not overload the learner’s
visual information processing system (Clark & Mayer, 2016). The following situations have been identified by Clark
and Mayer (2016) as situations where redundant information does not prohibit learning:
1. In situations where there are no pictorial presentations (i.e. animation, video, photos, graphics, illustrations,
etc.) but only text.
2. In situations where there is enough time for a learner to process the pictorial presentations (text and
graphics are presented sequentially and at a slower pace).
3. In situations where the learner needs to use up all the cognitive resources to understand narration than
printed text. This is especially important for non-native speakers of the narration.
4. In situations where only a few selected keywords are given next to a graphic.
Redundancy on an LMs can easily occur due to the interactive and scaffolding nature of content in various contexts
(contact sessions, discussions, prior knowledge, etc.). Furthermore redundancy can take place when supplemental
information is added to explain or revise difficult concepts discussed in previous modules or contact sessions.
Multimedia elements therefore need to be carefully used on an LMs not to repeat the same information. For
example, if a concept is repeated to provide context to understand a new concept, the lecturer should rather add a
video explaining the concept or a link to previous sites, rather than adding text (see Figure 9). On an LMs students
have control to engage with the content. In this example novice learners will be able to watch the video or go to the
relevant LMs to revise the concept, while the experienced learner can choose not to watch the video or visit the site.
In this regard redundancy is reduced due to self-paced learning. It is important that the LMs is designed in such a
way to provide a road map for both experienced and novice learners to ensure that the learning experience is
enhanced through easy navigation to relevant content based on the learners needs.
Figure 9. Example of the use of supplementary instruction to explain a new concept
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Contiguity or split attention effect
On an LMs, split attention can easily happen due to the interactive nature thereof. When relevant information
describing a concept is separated by time and space, information needs to be kept in the working memory to make
sense of a concept. This can easily happen on an LMs due to viewing restrictions caused by various factors (design
of platform, page layout or device used to access LMs). Furthermore, the interactive capabilities of platforms
(scrolling, links, embedded material, etc.) can increase cognitive load experienced by a learner (see Figure 10).
Figure 10. The impact of contiguity and split attention on cognitive load
In the early 90’s, Mayer and Anderson (1992) proposed an instructional design principle, known as the contiguity
principle, which implies that for multimedia instruction to be as effective as possible, verbal and non-verbal
elements should be presented in the same time and space. This usually occurs when individuals have to split their
attention, to integrate different sources of information displayed at different times, in order to complete a given task.
Here the extraneous cognitive load is caused by the individual needing to apply more cognitive effort to keep the
information in working memory because of limitations to the processing time of working memory. This increase of
cognitive effort results in a high cognitive load on working memory, which means a lower performance on the task.
The result of this principle is a spatial (space) and temporal (time) contiguity effect.
Spatial contiguity effect (also known as the proximity or split attention effect) states that the closer the verbal
information and the corresponding visual information are to each other, the easier it is for a learner to find and
understand relevant information (Mayer, 1999). The temporal contiguity effect, on the other hand, refers to an
improvement in learning when both visual and verbal materials are presented simultaneously rather than
successively (Mayer, 1999).
Figure 11. The impact of redundancy effect on cognitive load
The rationale for the spatial contiguity principle, as formulated by Mayer, is that physical proximity of
corresponding words and pictures lowers the need for visual search: “When corresponding words and pictures are
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far from each other on the page or screen learners have to use cognitive resources to visually search the page or
screen for corresponding words and pictures (see Figure 11).
Although this principle seems to be quite straight forward, it is still one of the most common mistakes that occur in
e-learning environments (Clark & Mayer, 2016). Some of the violations of the contiguity effect are as follows:
When the picture and corresponding text are separated due to scrolling from one element to the next.
When feedback to a task is displayed on a separate screen than the task was completed on.
When hyperlinks open into another browser window that covers the related information.
When the directions to complete a task is put onto a separate screen then the task itself.
When a video or animation is played in one half of the screen, while the explanatory text is on the other
half of the screen.
The explanation of numbered elements is on another screen than the elements themselves.
When a section of content includes a narration on the content, which is followed by a n animation or video.
Different icons are used for the same type of multimedia elements (e.g. same icon for videos and
animations).
To reduce cognitive load caused by split attention and the contiguity of multimedia elements concepts that need
processed simultaneously, needs to be presented either on the same page or at the same time. Designers of LMs need
to carefully consider the placement of information rich sources to limit the processing of the working memory.
Conclusion and future work
This article proposes a conceptual, theoretical framework to provide insight into the processing of multimedia
elements and cognitive load. In order to do this, Meyer's cognitive theory of multimedia learning was adapted to
incorporate multimedia elements used on Learning Management sites. Additions to Meyer’s theory included aspects
of the task, the learner and the interaction between the task and the learner. In a previous study, we found that the
interaction of different multimedia elements did increase student participation and visits to the LMs. This article
hypothesizes that multimedia elements alone did not contribute to site visits, but that the cognitive load caused by
the interaction of these multimedia elements may also have influenced site visits. This article conceptualizes how the
interaction of different elements affect cognitive load and discussed possible reasons LMs design can contribute to
cognitive load.
Signaling and segmenting of information was found to have an effect on the processing of information. By making it
easier for students to distinguish between relevant or non-relevant information, greatly lowers the cognitive load that
they may experience. This can be done by either using buttons or icons to indicate important information or by
simply dividing the information into easily understandable and relevant segments. By using the same layout and
design for the all the site of a specific module can greatly reduce the extraneous cognitive load imposed on the
students. When there is constant change in the placement of multimedia elements or how the sites look and feel, this
adds additional information that needs to be processed by the working memory, which leaves little room for
processing relevant information.
When using multimedia elements it is important to keep in mind what your audience is, as novice students process
and interact with information differently than an expert student would. For example, when novice students have to
interact with sites that have a lot of multimedia elements, they do not possess a sufficient amount of prior knowledge
to deal with the complexity of the information provided. Whereas expert students will find it easy to make sense of
the information presented to them, due to their prior knowledge on the subject. When presenting information to
students, it is also important to keep in mind when and where relevant pieces of information is presented. When
information needs to be kept too long in the working memory to find other relevant information, that information
can be lost in the process and no learning can take place. Al these examples are means to reduce the extraneous
cognitive load and facilitate learning.
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By keeping in mind the interaction of multimedia elements designers can reduce the processing of irrelevant or
redundant information (caused by coherence, signaling, segmentation, redundancy, split attention) and promote
effective learning strategies. The aim of this framework is to determine how the placement of multimedia elements
and the design of an LMs contribute to site visits and student performance. This conceptual theoretical framework
will be evaluated in a future study using eye-tracking methodology by analyzing students’ behavior and eye-
movement when interacting with an LMs. By doing this the interaction and perceived cognitive load on various
multimedia elements will provide insights on the effectiveness of the design of an LMs in order to ultimately design
a diagnostic tool for creating efficient LMs. The value of this study is to empower lecturers to construct smart
intentionally designed learning management systems that not only increase student participation, but facilitates
effective learning.
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Learning Management System sites (LMSs) have, in recent years, been more frequently used by universities to provide students with relevant, subject specific content. However, LMSs are generally created by lecturers, whose design experience is solely based on intuition, which can lead to insufficient student participation. Statistics from two similar communication modules (COMS123 & KCOM318), with different designs, had a different number of site visits. This was assumed to be caused by the design and multimedia elements used on these sites. Different multimedia elements such as typography, graphical images, video, etc. were analyzed based on specific criteria. The findings suggest that text segmentation, headings, the picture-to-text ratios, different video types, hyperlink functionality and the use of interactive tools may have contributed to more site visits for a particular site. This study therefore suggests that attention needs to be given to these elements when designing LMSs for students.
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In 2 experiments, Ss studied an animation depicting the operation of a bicycle tire pump or an automobile braking system, along with concurrent oral narration of the steps in the process (concurrent group), successive presentation of animation and narration (by 4 different methods), animation alone, narration alone, or no instruction (control group). On retention tests, the control group performed more poorly than each of the other groups, which did not differ from one another. On problem-solving tests, the concurrent group performed better than each of the other groups, which did not differ from one another. These results are consistent with a dual-coding model in which retention requires the construction of representational connections and problem solving requires the construction of representational and referential connections. An instructional implication is that pictures and words are most effective when they occur contiguously in time or space. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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In a series of 3 experiments, college students who read a summary that contained a sequence of short captions with simple illustrations depicting the main steps in the process of lightning recalled these steps and solved transfer problems as well as or better than students who received the full text along with the summary or the full text alone. In Experiment 2, taking away the illustrations or the captions eliminated the effectiveness of the summary. In Experiment 3, adding text to the summary reduced its effectiveness. Implications for a cognitive theory of multimedia learning are discussed; implications for instructional design pertain to the need for conciseness, coherence, and coordination in presenting scientific explanations. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Students viewed an animation depicting either the process of lightning formation or how car brakes work and listened to a corresponding narration describing the steps. The entire animation and narration were presented at the same time (concurrent), the entire narration was presented before or after the entire animation (successive large bites), or short portions of the narration were presented before or after corresponding short portions of the animation for each successive portion of the presentation (successive small bites). Overall, the concurrent and successive small bites groups performed significantly better than the successive large bites groups on remembering the explanation in words (retention), generating solutions to transfer problems (transfer), and selecting verbal labels for elements in a line drawing (matching), but they did not differ significantly from each other. Results are consistent with a dual-process model of working memory in which learners are more likely to construct connections between words and corresponding pictures when they are held in working memory at the same time. The purpose of this research is to examine theory-based design principles for promoting constructivist learning in multimedia environments. To address this goal, it is neces-sary to clarify what is meant by multimedia environments, constructivist learning, and theory-based design principles, and to specify predictions concerning ways of designing multimedia environments for constructivist learning.
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Traditionally, Cognitive Load Theory (CLT) has focused on instructional methods to decrease extraneous cognitive load so that available cognitive resources can be fully devoted to learning. This article strengthens the cognitive base of CLT by linking cognitive processes to the processes used by biological evolution. The article discusses recent developments in CLT related to the current view in instructional design that real-life tasks should be the driving force for complex learning. First, the complexity, or intrinsic cognitive load, of such tasks is often high so that new methods are needed to manage cognitive load. Second, complex learning is a lengthy process requiring learners motivational states and levels of expertise development to be taken into account. Third, this perspective requires more advanced methods to measure expertise and cognitive load so that instruction can be flexibly adapted to individual learners needs. Experimental studies are reviewed to illustrate these recent developments. Guidelines for future research are provided.
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The coherence principle is important because it is commonly violated, is straightforward to apply, and can have a strong impact on learning. This chapter summarizes the empirical evidence for excluding rather than including extraneous information in the form of background sound, added text, and added graphics. What is new in the chapter is some updating of the growing research base, but the main conclusion remains the same: Adding interesting but unnecessary materials to e-learning can harm the learning process. The chapter explores the merits of adding extra sounds, pictures, and words that are intended to make multimedia environments more interesting to the learner. The authors recommend avoiding adding extraneous sounds or music to instructional presentations, especially in situations in which the learner is likely to experience heavy cognitive processing demands. Much of the research reported in the chapter deals with short lessons delivered in a controlled lab environment. e-Learning
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How can students be helped to understand scientific explanations of cause-and-effect systems, such as how a pump works, how the human respiratory system works, or how lightning storms develop? This chapter reviews some encouraging evidence that multimedia learning environments can promote constructivist learning that enables problem-solving transfer. It begins with a description of a multimedia learning scenario, a cognitive theory of multimedia learning, and a set of design principles that lead to constructivist learning. Then, results from more than 40 studies are reviewed. In combination, these studies explore the conditions under which multimedia environments promote problem-solving transfer of scientific and mathematical principles. The concluding section addresses the problem of how multimedia instructional messages can be designed to promote problem-solving transfer.
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The authors tested the recommendation that adding bells and whistles (in the form of background music and/or sounds) would improve the quality of a multimedia instructional message. In 2 studies, students received an animation and concurrent narration intended to explain the formation of lightning (Experiment 1) or the operation of hydraulic braking systems (Experiment 2). For some students, the authors added background music (Group NM), sounds (Group NS), both (Group NSM), or neither (Group N). On tests of retention and transfer, Group NSM performed worse than Group N; groups receiving music performed worse than groups not receiving music; and groups receiving sounds performed worse (only in Experiment 2) than groups not receiving sounds. Results were consistent with the idea that auditory adjuncts can overload the learner's auditory working memory, as predicted by a cognitive theory of multimedia learning. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)