Upload, Download, Overload!: An Empirical Study of Online Design and Organization Factors that impact Learning Outcomes and Reports of Overload

Upload, Download, Overload!: An Empirical Study of Online Design and Organization Factors that impact Learning Outcomes and Reports of Overload

Lena Paulo Kushnir (University of Toronto, Canada) and Kenneth Berry (University of Toronto, Canada)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 32
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1933-3.ch004
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Abstract

Students often complain of overload in online learning environments. Discussions here consider online design and organization factors that might contribute to students’ reports of overload. This study explored predictions that 1) students’ past online experience, 2) the organization of online environments and relevance of online material with which students work, and 3) the level of task difficulty impact (a) student learning outcomes, (b) students’ reports of overload, and (c) students’ perceptions of having enough time to complete assigned course work. A total of 346 participants were tested in two experiments that manipulated the organization of the online environment and the material that students had to learn. Experiment 1 tested how the organization of the online environment impacted learning outcomes. Findings suggested that online environments that are overly busy and that contain irrelevant information (i.e., stimulus-rich or “stimulus-noisy” online environments) had a negative impact on experienced, savvy online learners, but no impact on students less experienced with online learning environments. Surprisingly, results here suggest that overload affected only experienced students. Experiment 2 tested how the organization of the online material (that students had to learn) impacted learning outcomes. Findings suggested that online learning environments that used hypertext to organize material had a negative impact on student learning outcomes, misconceptions of information, and perceived overload. This chapter examines literature that considers design and organization factors that can impact online learning, and considers design strategies for online teaching environments and strategies for avoiding factors that can leave students feeling overloaded.

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