Presentation of software instruction has been supported by manuals and textbooks consisting of screen captures, but a multimedia approach may increase learning outcomes. This study investigated the effects of modality (text, audio, or dual) on the achievement and attitudes of college students learning a software application through the computer. Participants in this study were presented with three variations of instruction over a software application. Differences between text only, audio only, and dual modality conditions were measured by achievement on a posttest, and attitudes toward instruction were collected by survey. Results from the research indicated no significant effects were found in the Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) for the modalities in test scores. However, statistical significance was found in two of the attitude items. First, dual modality was preferred in learning computer applications. Second, audio did not appear to assist the learner in remembering factual information. These results assist instructors and corporate trainers in presenting software applications effectively and efficiently in their respective occupations.
E-learning has potential for corporate, K-12 education, preservice teacher education and inservice professional development in providing an effective model of instruction in software applications. Instruction in software applications at the educational level is generally taught by textbook and on-site classroom professors with Infocus projectors; however, the Internet has provided the bridge in reaching learners outside the classroom walls. Instruction, online and on site, tends to rely heavily on textbook usage in teaching software concepts and textbooks tend to use screen shots to visually guide the learner. What is lacking in many online courses is a multimedia approach, which can be provided through a variety of software tools. Exploring through research, the design and delivery of presenting instruction electronically for teaching software applications is the focus of this study.
Textbooks and software manuals with screen shots are the most common ways of teaching students to learn software programs. To effectively learn a software program, a student must be able to navigate through the program and produce the desired results of a particular task given to them. Screen shots in software manuals support development of a mental model, identification and location of screen objects, and verification of screen states (Gellevij, Van der Meij, de Jong & Pieters, 2002). The use of text-picture combinations in studies conducted by Gellevij, et al. (2002) found no increase on the cognitive load and an increase in effectiveness and efficiency in student learning. Clearly, screen shots in manuals aid the learner, but would the addition of audio with graphics (screen shots) further increase learning efficiency over just text and graphics?
Research studies in multimedia learning have indicated that learning outcomes are higher when visual materials are accompanied by audio over text alone (Moreno & Mayer, 2001). This rise in increased learning with the addition of audio is known as the modality principle (Mayer, 2001). Mayer's findings through a variety of research studies found that students with multimedia messages tend to learn more with spoken text over printed text. Paivio's dual-coding theory is the underlying support of lowering the cognitive load by presenting content through the auditory and visual channels (Mayer, 2001). There is growing support that providing instruction through more than one modality has a positive effect on student learning (LeeSing & Miles, 1999).
Students who learn through textbooks or software manuals use text and graphics only. The implications of dual coding research suggest that adding audio with screen shots over text with screen shots might increase learner efficiency. …