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M. Nakamura, C. Suzuki

Future University Hakodate (JAPAN)
Learning with multimedia can be cognitively demanding as learners have to process and organize information presented in two different forms (e.g., words and illustrations). Signaling is a technique used to ease learner’s cognitive load and thus enhance learning (Mayer, 2014) by inserting attention-guiding cues (e.g., underlines, arrows) to important part of the material. While empirical evidence demonstrates overall effectiveness of signaling when tested independently, few studies have examined learner’s working memory capacity (WMC), which may affect the way learners utilize such cues. Furthermore, the available literature that addressed WMC as a factor has shown mixed results (Doolittle & Alstaedter, 2009; Skuballa, Schwonke, & Renkl, 2012). The present study aimed to further on this issue, namely, the effects of WMC and signaling on multimedia learning.

In an experiment, 52 university students viewed a narrated slideshow for learning in one of the signaling conditions. In the ‘color’ condition, part of the illustration that narration was mentioning was highlighted in red. ‘No color’ was a control condition. Prior to the learning session, the Automated Operation Span task was administered to measure participants’ WMC. Post-viewing learning outcome was assessed through a comprehension test consisting of recall and retention tasks.

Preliminary results of ANOVA and multiple regression analyses found a weak effect of WMC showing an advantage of high-WMC learners over low-WMC learners. The effect of WMC remained even after controlling for participants’ prior-knowledge on the learning material. No effect of signaling was observed. Overall, the results demonstrate that individual differences in WMC, which is assumed to represent an ability to control attention (Engle, 2002), influence performance in multimedia learning. Although further studies are necessary, the lack of signaling effect is also consistent with the literature that shows that multimedia principles may not always be applicable possibly affected by various learner characteristics (Mayer, 2014).

[1] Engle, R. W. (2002). Working memory capacity as executive attention. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 11, 19-23.
[2] Doolittle, P. E, & Altstaedter, L. L. (2009). The effect of working memory capacity on multimedia learning: Does attentional control result in improved performance? Journal of Research in Innovative Teaching, 2, 7-25.
[3] Mayer, R. E. (2014). Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning. New York: Cambridge University Press.
[4] Skuballa, I. T., Schwonke, R., & Renkl, A. (2012). Learning from narrated animations with different support procedures: Working memory capacity matters. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 26, 840-847.