Academic journal article Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia

The Use of Comprehension Aids in a Hypermedia Environment: Investigating the Impact of Metacognitive Awareness and Epistemological Beliefs

Academic journal article Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia

The Use of Comprehension Aids in a Hypermedia Environment: Investigating the Impact of Metacognitive Awareness and Epistemological Beliefs

Article excerpt

         This is a descriptive study that analyzes learners' use of
         comprehension aids such as objectives, a glossary, and links
         between pages in a hypermedia tutorial. Students read a short
         hypermedia tutorial on the topic of E. coli. Relationships
         between the use of the comprehension aids and individual
         characteristics such as metacognitive awareness and
         epistemological beliefs were evaluated. It was hypothesized
         that the more metacognitively skilled learners and those with
         more sophisticated beliefs about learning would use the aids
         more frequently. The findings indicate that the uses of some
         comprehension aids are significantly related to some
         epistemological beliefs (e.g., innate ability, omniscient
         authority, and quick learning) and certain types of
         metacognitive knowledge (e.g., regulation of cognition).


JI. of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia (2003) 12(3), 275-289

Hypermedia tutorials are widely used in classrooms throughout the country. While the textbook is still the primary source of course content, hypermedia documents are frequently supplementing and in some cases replacing the book. Web pages are an example of hypermedia--artifacts displayed by a computer that use multiple media and click-able links to present related information. With the increasing popularity of the Internet as an educational tool, learners are being asked more frequently to use hypermedia materials to access information and learn important concepts. These instructional materials often provide a variety of comprehension aids to assist the reader. The most common aid is a glossary that can be accessed by clicking on a hyperlinked word to see the definition or a representative image. Others include a list of objectives, advanced organizers, self-test questions and links to related text. Hypermedia formats provide the opportunity to access these aids "when needed." In other words, they will not appear unless the learner chooses to see them. It is assumed that the inclusion of these tools can improve comprehension.

Learning With Hypermedia

Research on learning in a hypermedia environment is becoming more prevalent and what has been learned largely comes from research concerned with outcomes rather than approaches. For example, Mayer (2001) developed a set of multimedia learning principles, which are based on research comparing student achievement after using a variety of tutorials. Much of Mayer's research is based upon multimedia tutorials on topics such as the formation of lightning or how a tire pump operates. After viewing these tutorials with a variety of interventions, participants in these studies are asked to recall as much as possible (near transfer) and apply what was learned to new situations (far transfer). This line of research is typical in multimedia studies where outcomes are emphasized while processes (i.e., approach to learning) and learner characteristics are controlled.

A review by Dillon and Gabbard (1998) explored the hypermedia research literature with a focus on learning comprehension, learner control, and style (i.e., learner characteristics). The reviewed studies used, almost exclusively, achievement measures as dependent variables. They concluded that there is substantial evidence that individual characteristics such as ability, passive/active dispositions, field independence/dependence tendencies and deep/shallow processors play a role in learning from hypermedia instruction (Dillon & Gabbard, 1998). There is a strong need to understand why these characteristics may impact comprehension in a hypermedia environment.

One possible source of variability in the successful use of a hypermedia tutorial is the use of comprehension aids. Like traditional textbooks, hypermedia instructional materials often contain comprehension aids such as advanced organizers, lists of objectives, a glossary and self-check questions. …

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