Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Reading Subtitles and Taking Enotes While Learning Scientific Materials in a Multimedia Environment: Cognitive Load Perspectives on EFL Students

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Reading Subtitles and Taking Enotes While Learning Scientific Materials in a Multimedia Environment: Cognitive Load Perspectives on EFL Students

Article excerpt

Introduction

Learning science concepts with the aid of multimedia can facilitate learning, especially for complex learning content (Mayer, 2009; Mayer, 2011; Mayer & Moreno, 1998; Mayer & Moreno, 2002). Therefore, multimedia with animations has been widely used to support learning in domains such as earth science (Chang & Yang, 2010), physics (Mayer & DaPra, 2012; Mayer & Moreno, 2002), and chemistry (Chang & Yang, 2010). Most of the success in multimedia learning can be well explained using the working memory model (Baddeley, 1992), which asserts that there are two separate but interconnected audio and visual channels for processing speech-based information and visual images, and Paivo's dual-coding theory (Clark & Paivio, 1991), which distinguishes between two semantic memory systems, one for pictures and another for words. Learning multimedia materials with both narration (spoken text) and subtitles (written text) can cause a split-attention effect (Mayer, Hegarty, Mayer, & Campbell, 2005). This phenomenon is consistent with cognitive load theory (Chandler & Sweller, 1991) in that that mental integration of written text and graphics will overload working memory and hamper learning. These studies mainly focus on multimedia learning using learners' native language. Few studies have researched issues in an EFL learning context. Some research has provided positive evidence regarding the effect of subtitles for EFL learners. For example, Mitterer and McQueen (2009) suggest that foreign subtitles were beneficial for foreign learners in creating lexical interference.

In the age of Web 2.0, an increasing number of science materials are shared (e.g., TED Talks), and online courses (e.g., MOOCs) are easy to access. Therefore, teachers are very excited about introducing science multimedia materials originally produced with English to their EFL students. However, scientific knowledge involving abstract concepts is not always comprehensible, especially in a foreign language context. Fortunately, thousands of volunteers have contributed to translating and editing on-screen subtitles (e.g., TED Talks) based on the belief that translated subtitles would promote the programs and the understanding of complex scientific concepts for non-native users. Does viewing subtitles really ease cognitive load and increase understanding when the language is not the users' native language? Or are subtitles an extra source of cognitive load that can possibly split non-native users' attention while attending to visual information such as animation? On the other hand, over the past decades, research on multimedia learning has shifted from media for information delivery to a student-centered paradigm in which learners control their pace of learning. People can stop, resume, or review multimedia materials (e.g., videos) as many times as they need. Nevertheless, limited working memory still poses an obstacle to their learning processes. Note-taking in the multimedia learning environment may serve as an extension of working memory to assist students with mentally processing learning materials (Newton, 2000) and to serve as an external cognitive aid (Makany, Kemp, & Dror, 2009). Currently, some modern annotation tools (Hwang, Wang, & Sharpies, 2007) for streaming video materials have been developed to accommodate this urgent need. Due to the individual differences in note-taking skills, note-taking does not work for everyone. Moreover, when taking notes using software (enotes), people need to simultaneously receive and process the information as well as handle the software interface, which is places demands on cognitive abilities (Kiewra, 1987; Piolat, Olive, & Kellogg, 2005). However, few studies have discussed the effect of note-taking from the cognitive load perspective and the theory of multimedia learning. Using a group of non-biology major EFL undergraduate students, the present study explores the effect of reading subtitles and enote-taking when using multimedia materials to learn "brain anatomy and cognitive functions. …

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