The presentation of extraneous (i.e., irrelevant or unnecessary) information may hamper learning with multimedia. The present study examined whether people can learn to ignore unnecessary information with increasing experience with the task and whether this depends on the layout of that information. In two experiments, participants learned about the process of mitosis from a multimedia slideshow, with each slide presenting a combination of expository text and a picture on one of the stages in the process. Slides either contained no unnecessary text (control condition) or unnecessary text (i.e., merely describing the picture) either integrated in the picture (integrated condition) or presented underneath the picture (separated condition). Knowledge about the studied mitosis phase was tested immediately after each slide using a cloze test. Across Experiments 1 and 2, we did not find a reliable negative effect of the unnecessary text on cloze test performance. As a result, the question of whether task experience would reduce or eliminate that negative effect could not be answered. The eye movement data did confirm, however, that participants attended less to the unnecessary information with increasing task experience, suggesting that students can adapt their study strategy and learn to ignore unnecessary information.

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Journal of Computer Assisted Learning
Department of Psychology

Rop, G., Schüler, A., Verkoeijen, P., Scheiter, K., & van Gog, T. (2018). Effects of Task Experience and Layout on Learning from Text and Pictures with or without Unnecessary Picture Descriptions. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 34(4), 458–470. doi:10.1111/jcal.12287