HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH IN E-MATERIALS? CASE STUDY IN ENGINEERING
This study investigates learning experience related to different e-materials of 1st year electrical engineering students at Tampere University of Applied Sciences. The study was carried out after students had participated in their first academic period studies. As several courses included vast variety of e-learning materials, such as short videos and automatically assessed online exercises, the authors wanted to explore, how do students experience the utilization of them. Especially, is there already too much e-materials and how high cognitive load do the students experience.
The students’ overall learning experience related to utilization of educational technology was explored with online survey. In addition, log data from Moodle learning management system (LMS) was analyzed in order to explore students’ learning activity in two similar courses with almost same materials, but with different assignment timings. The course materials consisted of automatically assessed online exercises and short educational video clips.
A total of 69 students participated in this study, in which 90% responded to an online survey after first period studies. It appears that students found videos slightly more useful than computer assessed exercises. Based on the responses, four-fifths of the students found learning with the videos somewhat or very useful. 60% of respondents found learning with automatically assessed exercises somewhat or very useful. In addition, 60% of respondents preferred to learn with videos, whereas 40% preferred to learn with automatically assessed exercises.
Learning requires cognitive processing. However, human brain has a limited short-term memory capacity. Learning with diverse e-materials has a potential to cause cognitive overload. Therefore, the authors wanted to explore students’ own experiences of cognitive load related to e-materials. Thus, students’ learning experiences and their experiences and feelings of cognitive load were investigated.
Three-quarters of respondents reported that they felt sufficient or slight cognitive load during first period studies. A half of the respondents felt that the amount of videos was sufficient. However, one-third prefers to have even more videos.
The results also indicated that assessment and deadlines strongly affect students’ studying activity. In fact, based on log files of Moodle LMS, the learning activity peaks appeared mostly before assessments or deadlines.
Based on the results, the cognitive load was not felt too high and the amount of e-materials could be even higher. Therefore, a teacher should consider utilizing educational technology, short videos and automatically assessed online exercises. Also, to help the students to share their workload more evenly, regular and continuous assessment should be considered instead of a massive final exam.