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The relationship of scaffolding on cognitive load in an online self-regulated learning environment

, University of Minnesota, United States

University of Minnesota . Awarded


Scaffolding learners in self-regulated learning environments is a topic of increasing importance as implementation of online learning grows. Since cognitive overload in hypermedia environments can be a problem for some learners, instructional design strategies can be used to decrease extraneous load or encourage germane load in order to help learners effectively use their cognitive resources. A scaffolding strategy to support learning in potentially confusing environments is to provide high level information in advance of the learning tasks in the form of an instructional organizer.

In 2007–2008, 244 participants completed an online self-directed brief health education course on sexual health randomly receiving one of three pictorial graphic organizer scaffolds, concept, procedural, or metacognitive, in advance of the start of the course. Participants rated the course's cognitive burden and their intentional efforts as very low. The low burdens suggest that the online course was easy to use and navigate and the tasks were minimally challenging. Consistent with prior research, these results confirm that organizers are useful to reduce extraneous cognitive load only when multimedia environments are confusing or disorganized, concepts and material are unfamiliar, and learning materials are challenging. Analysis of learning and reflection outcomes indicate that even in a low-burden course, use of a metacognitive organizer might be beneficial in supporting short and longer term reflection. No significant differences were seen with a learning outcome.

Keywords: Self directed learning; Instructional organizers; Cognitive load; Online health education intervention; HIV prevention; Internet; Men who have sex with men


Danilenko, E.P. The relationship of scaffolding on cognitive load in an online self-regulated learning environment. Ph.D. thesis, University of Minnesota. Retrieved February 23, 2020 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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