In modern educational environments, dynamic visualizations such as animations are increasingly used for presenting change-related information. Due to their great appeal and acclaimed benefits to show dynamic processes in real-time, animations have quickly become one of the most popular instructional materials. However, much evidence indicates that animation-based instruction is frequently no more effective than learning from static graphics. Especially inexperienced learners may have difficulties or experience high processing demands when trying to understand animations that depict multiple changes. In such complex animations, the process of locating task-relevant information may require a high amount of ineffective working memory load, because highly salient but irrelevant elements need to be suppressed to avoid unnecessary visual searches. The aim of this dissertation was to investigate whether guiding learners’ attention to an animation’s relevant parts by cueing them would help learners to extract task-relevant information from an animation, use this information for further processing and hence promote learners’ understanding of the animation. Studies were conducted in which cued and uncued animations without textual explanations were compared, presentation speed of the animation was varied, and eye tracking methodology was applied to gain more insight into how and when cueing supports learning. Furthermore, the influence of cueing was investigated when the animation was studied with explanations, either provided to learners in a narration or generated by the learners themselves. One of the main outcomes of the studies is that cueing is necessary to guide learners’ attention to relevant parts of an animation without text but that it is insufficient to foster learning. On the other hand, active processing of the animation with explanations only leads to improved learning if the animation contains cues. So, the combination of cueing to improve the design of the animation and active processing to increase learners’ engagement with the animation is highly effective for promoting learning from an animation that shows multiple simultaneously occurring changes.

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G.W.C. Paas (Fred) , R.M.J.P. Rikers (Remy)
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Department of Psychology

de Koning, B. (2009, December 16). Attention cueing in an instructional animation. Retrieved from