Multimedia instruction for individual and collaborative interactive learning environments : a cognitive load approach



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This study sought to identify factors that optimize individual and collaborative cognitive processing in complex learning environments. Across two laboratory sessions, the effects of manipulating instructional sequence delivery (high cognitive load vs. low cognitive load) of a simulation-based game and learning condition (individual vs. collaborative) were examined on retention and transfer of instructional content. The instruction was a set of tutorials for preparing novice students to use Aspire, a simulation-based game, developed by Cisco, that teaches entrepreneurial and computer networking skills within the industry of information technology. An instructional sequence by learning condition interaction was found on transfer, but not retention, measures. For delayed transfer performance, individuals who received high load instruction experienced cognitive overload that exceeded their cognitive capacity. Collaborative students were able to collaborate with each other in a way that reduced the high cognitive load imposed by the instructional sequence; thus, they were able to process the instructional content across their collective working memory. Individual students were not able to reduce the cognitive load imposed by the instructional sequence; thus, they had less working memory capacity for processing the instructional content. Collaborative students who received the low load instruction also demonstrated lower motivation than those who received high load instruction. Taken together, these findings support the notions of individual and collective working memory processing differences. This study holds implications for leveraging technology to design learning environments that aid students in attaining collaborative skills and knowledge needed for the 21st century.