Visual Complexity Online and Its Impact on Children's Aesthetic Preferences and Learning Motivation

Visual Complexity Online and Its Impact on Children's Aesthetic Preferences and Learning Motivation

Hsiu-Feng Wang (Department of e-Learning Design and Management, National Chiayi University, Chiayi Hsien, Taiwan) and Julian Bowerman (School of Design, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, China)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/IJVAR.2018070104

Abstract

In the past, when most computers were workplace tools, researchers in the field of HCI predominately focused on practical aspects of computing, such as usability and efficiency. Now, with more and more computer technologies entering the home and other areas of life, such as schooling and informal education, an increasing number of researchers are exploring subjective issues related to computing. This research explored the relationship between visual complexity, aesthetics and learning motivation with respect to children's learning websites. It took the form of an experiment involving children aged 10 to 11 years-old viewing homepages designed for them. In the experiment, the children were divided into three groups. One group was shown homepages of a low level of visual complexity, another group was shown homepages of a medium level of visual complexity and another group was shown homepages of a high level of visual complexity. At the end of the experiment, the children were asked questions about the homepages; the questions were on the topics of aesthetics and motivation. In addition to exploring the relationship between visual complexity, aesthetics and learning motivation, the research tested Berylne's theory of preference: a theory that purports that people prefer medium level stimuli to high or low-level stimuli. The results of the experiment showed that children preferred aesthetics of a medium level of visual complexity, Berlyne's theory was thus supported. The results also revealed that aesthetic preference and learning motivation were correlated. These findings have implications for designers of children's learning websites as they suggest that by manipulating visual complexity, a user's viewing pleasure can be enhanced or depreciated.
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1. Introduction

As the Internet becomes more sophisticated, people are increasingly turning to it as a resource for learning. Indeed, many educational organizations now host websites. However, for these websites to be valuable, they need to be usable and appealing, in addition to being informative. Yet, while much research has been conducted into the operational aspects of cyberspace, such as web security (Dadkhah, Seno & Borchardt, 2017) and how virtual worlds can be integrated into learning websites (Griol and Callejas, 2017; Guzzetti and Stokrocki, 2013), less research has been conducted into subjective aspects. One subjective aspect that has receive some attention is visual appearance. Research in this area includes investigations into first impressions (Iten, Troendle & Opwis, 2018; Jiang, Wang, Tan & Yu, 2016); how online aesthetics affects people’s perceptions of product offerings (Wang, Minor and Wei, 2011); and the importance of aesthetics with respect to mode of use (Schaik & Ling, 2009). Although more research is needed in this area, a growing body of work suggests that aesthetics plays an important role in engendering user appeal online (Lopatovska, 2015; Chang, Chih, Liou and Hwang, 2014).

One factor that is well documented as having an impact on website aesthetics is visual complexity (Pandir & Knight, 2006; Michailidou, Harper, & Bechhofer, 2008). However, it should be noted that this finding is almost exclusively based on studies with adults. Indeed, few studies have involved children and little is known of the impact visual complexity has on children’s preferences towards learning websites created for them.

Another point that requires clarification is whether a correlation exists between a child’s aesthetic preference for a learning website and his/her learning motivation. Although learning motivation has been studied by numerous researchers, investigations have predominately looked at its relationship to non-aesthetic issues such as interest (e.g. Bergin, 1999; Pintrich, 2003), self-efficacy (e.g. Hidi & Renninger, 2006; Gaffney, 2011), and self-determination (e.g., Deci & Ryan, 1985; Deci, Koestner, & Ryan, 1999). Few studies have investigated website aesthetics with respect to children’s learning motivation.

To address the gap in the literature, this study investigates visual complexity, aesthetic preference and learning motivation in the context of learning websites for children.

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