Carleton University (CANADA)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2019 Proceedings
Publication year: 2019
Pages: 2807-2811
ISBN: 978-84-09-08619-1
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2019.0753
Conference name: 13th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 11-13 March, 2019
Location: Valencia, Spain
Many educators are calling for a “deeper” coverage of learning material, which involves an increased consideration of how concepts interact with each other. Existing textbooks emphasize covering a broad range of concepts in relative isolation from one another, which makes them unsuitable for this “deep” approach to education. We think this may be a byproduct of the linear format of traditional textbooks. Concepts have a non-linear structure (i.e. they are hierarchical and multidimensional), and we think a non-linear textbook format would be better able to support the “deep” approach to education.

Our design was guided by the cognitive science literature on knowledge representation and organization. Our non-linear format deviates from the standard linear format in two ways. First, we separate content into two types: core and peripheral. Core content corresponds to domain concepts, and peripheral content corresponds to concepts which ground the domain concept in one of several ways. Second, content is arranged non-linearly: core items are situated inside a hierarchy, which acts as a table of contents, and peripheral content is situated to the left, right, and underneath core content. Our format more explicitly communicates the relations between
concepts, thereby reducing extraneous cognitive load, which frees up mental resources for learning.

Our research questions were:
1. Can we create a non-linear electronic textbook that accords with cognitive science models?
2. Does non-linearity better support learning when compared to linear textbooks?
3. Do users prefer the proposed non-linear or the standard linear format?

We believe that we have designed a prototype to answer these questions. Preliminary work and consultations with two Human-Computer Interaction and usability specialists suggests that we will be able to accomplish all three of our goals. In the next stage of development we plan to implement a functional prototype of this design
using JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. Ultimately, we wish to conduct a user study comparing this prototype for a non-linear electronic textbook with a linear control (i.e. a standard online textbook) in term
Educational technology, education, cognitive science, human-computer interaction, information visualization.