Graphical Overviews Structure Online Learning: Evidence from Eye-Tracking


Previous research has examined the use of graphical overviews as a way to structure students’ self-regulated, online learning. Although findings have suggested that graphical overviews can improve learning from online content, there has been little direct evidence as to why this benefit may occur. In this research, eye tracking and verbal protocols were gathered as 26 pre-service teachers used a graphical overview or keyword interface to choose online resources for an educational task. Fixation times and pupil diameter were analyzed as measures of cognitive effort; results demonstrated that pupil diameter was significantly lower when participants used the graphical as compared to the keyword interface. Protocol analysis was used to examine the depth of processing during search and evaluation; results showed that participants using the graphical overview engaged in deeper analysis of domain content. Results provide evidence for the importance of graphically-based cognitive offloading during “searching to learn” tasks.

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