Learner control in an interactive learning environment
Lane, David M.
Doctor of Philosophy
The emergence of computer-based interactive learning environments has presented us with many unanswered questions. The current research examined learner control in an interactive learning environment from two perspectives. In Part I, three experiments were conducted to compare simulation-based interactive learning with expository learning in learning statistics. In Experiment 1, interactive learning was compared to textbook-based expository learning. Interactive learning was structured in two different ways so that learners received either directive or nondirective guidance while interacting with the simulation. Compared to expository learning, learner control resulted in slightly improved but much more consistent performance on a knowledge test as well as more positive affect towards learning. In Experiment 2, learner control was compared to simulation-based expository learning. In each learning condition, half of the participants were further asked to predict simulation outcomes during the learning process. Interactive learning resulted in significantly higher response accuracy on the knowledge test than did expository learning. It also improved learners performance on a transfer test for those with medium lower cognitive ability. Making predictions was more beneficial for interactive learning than for expository learning. Experiment 3 examined the effects of interactive learning over time. The expository learning group was yoked with the interactive learning group by passively observing their interaction with the simulation. Participants were tested either immediately after learning or after a one-week delay. Performances of the interactive learning group remained stable over this period of time. However, learner control did not improve learners performance compared to expository learning. Reasons for this finding were discussed. In Part II, two iterations of user testing were conducted to examine user interaction with the Connexions Web-based learning environment. User interaction was considered an integral part of learner control in such a complex environment. Usability information gathered from user testing was used to aid the software development effort. The current research supported the idea that learner control can lead to better learning than expository learning but emphasized the importance of learning structure and potential aptitude-treatment interaction in simulation-based interactive learning. These findings have implications for larger-scale interactive learning environments, such as Web-based learning, as well.
Cognitive psychology; Technological education