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The Internet is comprised of an infinite amount of web pages that vary in their combination of text, illustrations, animation, and narration, and as such may be considered a collection of individual multimedia presentations. Mayer and colleagues have identified that some types of multimedia formats (redundancy, extraneous material, and placement of information) increase the cognitive load required to learn the material contained within the presentation (e.g., Mayer & Anderson, 1991; Mayer, Heiser, & Lonn, 2001; Moreno & Mayer, 1999: Moreno & Mayer, 2002). In studies conducted by Mayer and colleagues, the multimedia presentations used were typically short in duration (e.g., 30 or 180 seconds) and program-controlled; thus, they did not provide learners with the opportunity to read the information at their own pace or to review self-selected information (e.g., Mayer, Mathias, & Wetzell, 2002; Moreno & Mayer, 1999). This poses a problem when generalizing the findings to naturalistic learning situations available when learners use the Internet, because being able to control one s learning is characteristic of the Internet. Therefore, Mayer et al. s conclusions that learners may experience cognitive overload when reading information on a web page once may not be true when learning from the Internet, because learners can review the material multiple times (Mayer et al., 2001, 2002; Mayer & Moreno, 2002). In support of these conclusions, however, researchers have observed that students with limited domain knowledge rarely reread sections of text when interacting with a closed hypermedia environment (Lawless, Brown, Mills, & Mayall, 2003). Therefore, there is the possibility that learners may interact with individual web pages in the same way as they interact with a single multimedia presentation. Moreover, since learner control is a disadvantage for less knowledgeable learners (Shin et al., 1994), it is likely that such learners would perform most poorly when interacting with the Internet. Therefore, factors such as redundancy, extraneous material, and placement of information may not only influence learning for viewers of multimedia but also for viewers of websites. However, until researchers directly examine the impact of these factors when learners with limited domain knowledge use the Internet, we cannot be certain whether the negative learning outcomes are generally true of this resource.
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An example of a poorly designed multimedia presentation is one that includes redundant information. Mayer, Heiser, and Lonn (2001), for instance, 258
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Domain Knowledge and the Internet investigated whether the performance of college students with low domain knowledge would be negatively impacted when multimedia contained redundant information. Novices were exposed to one of two 140-second multimedia presentations. One group was shown how lightning works by using animation and narration only. The remainder of the participants viewed the same presentation but with the inclusion of on-screen text, a duplication of the narration. Performance on both recall and problem-solving transfer tests were superior when the on-screen text was not included. This same pattern of results was found when the multimedia presentation s length was increased twofold (Moreno & Mayer, 2002). As knowledge increases, however, performance differences due to formatting tend to disappear (Kalyuga, Chandler, & Sweller, 2000). Specifically, trade apprentices performed the same on recognition tests regardless of whether they were exposed to the material using illustration-text-and-narration, illustration-and-text, illustration-and-narration, or illustration only (Kalyuga et al., 2000). When knowledge becomes high, however, experts tend to do better when provided with the illustration only in comparison to the illustration-and-narration. Kalyuga and colleagues (2000) claim that for experts the narration provides the same information as the illustration and thus is classified as redundant information. In effect, the narration, if attended to, increases the cognitive load for these learners. Mayer et al. (2001) suggested that the detrimental effects associated with redundant information is attributable to the allocation of cognitive resources to processing both the narration and the on-screen text as separate sections of information. This may require more cognitive resources than is available; learners, therefore, especially novices, may quickly experience cognitive overload. Highly knowledgeable learners, on the other hand, may be able to recognize and ignore repetitive information, allowing them to efficiently process the material.
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