Design and Evaluation of Mobile Learning from the Perspective of Cognitive Load Management

Design and Evaluation of Mobile Learning from the Perspective of Cognitive Load Management

Wenhao David Huang (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA) and Jeanette Andrade (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6046-5.ch022
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Abstract

Considering the ubiquitous presence of mobile devices around the globe, designing mobile interfaces into learning systems has quickly become a norm to better disseminate information to the intended audience. Existing design frameworks, however, have not fully addressed the unique features of mobile learning environments grounded in proven pedagogical frameworks. As these mobile environments enable learners to shift their cognitive engagement between virtual and physical settings, this transition from one setting to another presented new challenges to cognitive learning processes due to excessive distractions learners may encounter. With these new challenges in mind, this chapter first reviews design and learning theories grounded in cognitive load management and social learning. Then the chapter proposes a preliminary mobile learning design framework to augment existing design thinking and practice.
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Introduction

The advancement of mobile learning technologies have provided abundant opportunities for learners around the world to identify, search, retrieve, apply, evaluate, and synthesize information “on the go.” Learning, to a large extent, will be transformed into multiple “anytime and anywhere” events that can be fully controlled by the learners. In other words, temporal as well as spatial constraints will no longer be relevant for the learning processes to occur. Earlier research has embraced this seemingly boundary-less framework for mobile learning.

Recent studies on mobile learning further demonstrated diverse interests by covering topics related to gender difference, game-based learning, user-centered human-computer interface in mobile contexts, design recommendations for small screens, and applying Android apps in formal education settings. While all these examples largely illustrate the diversity of mobile learning in various learning contexts, the majority of mobile learning studies to date rarely address issues related to learners’ cognitive processing that are vulnerable to many extraneous stimuli from both virtual as well as physical environments. Consequently several challenges have emerged that discount the potential impact of mobile learning that could permeates through conventional educational boundaries in our societies.

To address the aforementioned concern, this chapter intends to first identify the strengths and weaknesses inherent with mobile learning grounded in a review of recent scholarly work with a specific grounding in Cognitive Load Theory. Second, the chapter will identify the emerging challenges that could impede a ubiquitous integration of mobile learning across educational levels that are mostly bounded by techno-centric perspectives as opposed to sound pedagogical rationales anchored in cognitive learning processing. Finally the chapter will propose a design framework to address the lack of emphasis on cognitive processing in mobile learning environments.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Transactional Distance: Transactional distance is the collection of perceived psychological, cognitive, and affective distances between learners and instructors in distance learning environments. Such distance can impact learning engagement as well as the attainment of intended learning outcomes.

Design Framework: A design framework, in the context of this chapter, is a deliberate arrangement of prescribed design processes and components for developing instructional and learning systems. Both the processes and components should be grounded in proven learning theories or instructional science.

Epistemological Beliefs: Learner’s personal philosophy concerning acquisition of knowledge, which can change over time depending upon one’s personal life experiences.

Situated Cognition: Situated cognition is an instructional design approach that embeds learning processes in authentic performance environments, which significantly reduces the challenge of transferring learning in the classroom to performing on the job.

Social Presence: One feels a sense that others are present due to intimacy and immediacy factors in a learning environment.

Cognitive Load: In the context of technology-enabled learning, cognitive load refers to the perceived amount of mental effort investment upon interacting with the learning tasks.

Mobility of Learning: This term refers to the transformation of learning processes and environments enabled by mobile technologies and applications that deliver learning experiences beyond traditional boundaries of formal and informal education.

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