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An empirical study to assess the impact of mobile touch-screen learning on user information load

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posted on 2023-08-30, 16:09 authored by John Talbot
This study evaluated cognitive task load imposed on adult mobile-learners studying the subject of human anatomy. Touch-screen computers were originally conceptualised as a replacement for textbook learning and there are electronic versions of many popular anatomy books available for smartphones and tablets. However, Human Computer Interaction is known to increase cognitive load in the user, which could present a barrier to learning. To date there have been no empirical studies performed to measure differences in cognitive load between mobile-learners and textbook learners, particularly using a representative demographic for distance-learners. The research was designed to answer the following question: Is there a statistically significant difference in the level of task load experienced by a learner when undertaking an interactive multimedia learning activity delivered by a mobile touch-screen device compared to that experienced by a learner undertaking an equivalent non-interactive learning activity? Cognitive load is quantifiable, so the study employed a cross-sectional, experimental, two-armed controlled trial to measure and compare differences in levels of self-reported task load between two parallel, balanced groups of learners during a learning activity. The learning task was to memorise the foramina and associated structures found in the human skull-base. The NASA Task Load Index was used to measure six dimensions of task load namely; mental, physical and temporal demand, performance, effort and frustration. The experimental group used mobile devices, the control group studied a labelled photograph. The results of the study provide an original contribution to knowledge in that they demonstrate that smartphone-learners experienced a significantly lower task load than non-interactive learners, whereas tablet-learners did not. Mobile-learners reported significantly lower levels of mental demand and effort than non-interactive learners. Smartphone learners reported significantly lower levels of net task load, mental demand, physical demand and effort than tablet-learners. It was concluded that effective use of multimedia may ameliorate any cognitive load placed on users by the device and that smartphones may provide a better platform for this type of m‑learning than tablet computers.



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