Academic journal article International Journal of Instructional Media

The Effects of Navigational and Generative Activities in Hypertext Learning on Problem Solving and Comprehension(1)

Academic journal article International Journal of Instructional Media

The Effects of Navigational and Generative Activities in Hypertext Learning on Problem Solving and Comprehension(1)

Article excerpt

HYPERTEXT AND LEARNER CONTROL

In these times of rapidly expanding technology, hypermedia instructional programs are becoming commonplace in the educational and business markets. Learners of all ages have increasing access to technologies such as CD-ROMs and the World Wide Web, which have the potential to provide seemingly limitless amounts of information (Shotsberger, 1996). In contrast to more traditional technologies that simply "deliver" information, current computerized learning environments offer greater opportunities for interactivity and learner control (Allen & Otto, 1996; Kozma, 1991; Land & Hannafin, 1996).

One such format, hypertext, is receiving much attention both in terms of use and research (Barab, Bowdish, & Lawless, 1997; Gall & Hannafin, 1994; Heller, 1990; Nielson, 1990; Spiro & Jehng, 1990). In hypertext systems, the information and representation system is organized around a network of multimedia nodes that are connected by various links (Heller, 1990). Nodes refer to the information units being displayed (e.g., paragraphs of texts, pictures, sets of questions), while links refer to the connections among the nodes. Hypertext programs may simply offer sequencing and pace control, or they can allow the learner to choose the content, change the actual document, and even engage in generative activities.

Whereas students reading a traditional textbook are expected to read through the information in a manner designated by the author, hypertext environments allow the learner to decide which, and in what order, information will be accessed (Becket & Dwyer, 1994; Kinzie & Berdel, 1990). While using hypertext, learners are able to make navigational choices by activating "clickable" areas, allowing them to "jump" from one location to another (Gall & Hannafin, 1994). As such, the user is elevated from reader to reader/author, responsible for configuring the space in accordance with his or her unique goals and intentions (Barab et al., 1997; Jonassen, 1991). Although such texts are becoming increasingly commonplace in both business and educational markets (for example, the use of interactive CD-ROMs and the World Wide Web), the research related to the benefits of these environments is clearly divided.

Predicated on the assumption that learner control is an important aspect to effective learning (Merrill, 1975; Reigeluth & Stein, 1983), many hypertexts have been designed to leverage learner control (Kinzie & Berdel, 1990; Marchionini, 1988). Learner control is central to those activities, such as navigating through a hypertext environment, in which the learner decides the pacing, sequencing, content chosen, instructional method, and/or amount of advisement while learning (Niemiec, Sikorski, & Walberg, 1996).

The research related to affect has consistently found students with larger quantities of learner control to judge the instruction more favorably (Hannafin & Sullivan, 1996; Morrison, Ross, & Baldwin, 1992). Relatively few studies have examined whether students perceive themselves to have more control when using hypermedia systems than when using traditional texts. One such study carried out by Becket and Dwyer (1994) found that students using hypertext networks scored higher on self-determination than students who used reading packets. However, increased affect does not necessarily lead to increased learning.

In spite of the intuitive and theoretical appeal of hypertext environments, empirical findings yield mixed results with respect to the learning benefits of learner control over programmed-control instruction (Goforth, 1984; Kinzie & Sullivan, 1989; Niemiec et al., 1996; Steinberg, 1989). While some studies have found increased benefits of learner-controlled instruction (Gray, 1987; Hannafin & Sullivan, 1996; Kinzie, Sullivan, & Berdel, 1988), others have found that students with high degrees of learner control performed less effectively than those receiving program control (Pollock & Sullivan, 1990; Ross & Rakow, 1981). …

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