A comparative analysis of the use of hypermedia in the form of popup windows versus textual integration as a means of reducing cognitive load
Sandra D. Fingall, Capella University, United States
Capella University . Awarded
This study explored the use of hypermedia in the form of popup windows as an alternate method of presenting material in nonlinear learning environments. The study sought to determine whether this presentation method could effectively reduce the level of cognitive load placed on learners’ processing systems. A group of 64 participants comprised of faculty and staff, high school students, and former students from a private school in Georgia were divided into two groups. Each group was presented with a module featuring interpersonal relationships and conflict. The group treatment differed only in the manner in which the module was presented. The control group received their learning module in a traditional online linear text format. The experimental group received their module in a nonlinear format with popup windows activated by embedded hyperlinks. The popup windows contained definitions and explanations of key terms. Each group was given a short test before and after the learning module followed by a cognitive load self-rating scale. The study results challenged the expectation that students would experience higher gains in learning scores when using the nonlinear content modules with popup windows than their faculty counterparts. The results revealed that faculty and staff members experienced higher gains in learning scores when using the popup windows. Also exposed was the difference in cognitive load assessment. Students reported lower cognitive load in the linear module than in the nonlinear module while in contrast faculty and staff reported higher cognitive load in the linear module than in the nonlinear hyperlinked module. These findings suggest that adult learners may benefit from popup windows. Also, practical implications exist for instructional designers of programs targeting non-traditional students. The use of popup windows provides the advantage of increasing learner autonomy. This freedom does not come without cost; cognitive load is an associated cost. Within the human cognitive architecture exists a very limited short-term or working memory. Although the findings of this study indicate advantages in using popup windows for adult learners, the collateral cost of elevated cognitive load cannot be ignored. Designers of instruction for nonlinear learning environments are continually faced with these ongoing challenges.
Fingall, S.D. A comparative analysis of the use of hypermedia in the form of popup windows versus textual integration as a means of reducing cognitive load. Ph.D. thesis, Capella University.
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