Evaluation of cognitive loads imposed by traditional paper-based and innovative computer-based instructional strategies.J Vet Med Educ. 2010 Winter; 37(4):353-7.JV
Strategies of presenting instructional information affect the type of cognitive load imposed on the learner's working memory. Effective instruction reduces extraneous (ineffective) cognitive load and promotes germane (effective) cognitive load. Eighty first-year students from two veterinary schools completed a two-section questionnaire that evaluated their perspectives on the educational value of a computer-based instructional program. They compared the difference between cognitive loads imposed by paper-based and computer-based instructional strategies used to teach the anatomy of the canine skeleton. Section I included 17 closed-ended items, rated on a five-point Likert scale, that assessed the use of graphics, content, and the learning process. Section II included a nine-point mental effort rating scale to measure the level of difficulty of instruction; students were asked to indicate the amount of mental effort invested in the learning task using both paper-based and computer-based presentation formats. The closed-ended data were expressed as means and standard deviations. A paired t test with an alpha level of 0.05 was used to determine the overall mean difference between the two presentation formats. Students positively evaluated their experience with the computer-based instructional program with a mean score of 4.69 (SD=0.53) for use of graphics, 4.70 (SD=0.56) for instructional content, and 4.45 (SD=0.67) for the learning process. The mean difference of mental effort (1.50) between the two presentation formats was significant, t=8.26, p≤.0001, df=76, for two-tailed distribution. Consistent with cognitive load theory, innovative computer-based instructional strategies decrease extraneous cognitive load compared with traditional paper-based instructional strategies.