Instructional designers must give careful consideration to the type of the visual presentation they elect to incorporate into their computer-based instruction (CBI). Although learners may initially be captivated by the aesthetic appeal of animated graphics in CBI programs because of their novelty, this effect eventually wears off and the instruction must stand on its own. Studies in this field suggest that visuals, whether animated or static, facilitate learning only when their attributes are selectively applied in congruence with the specific learning requirements of the given task.
This study was designed to examine the effectiveness of several discrete visual presentation techniques deployed in a CBI environment. Three versions of a lesson were developed that consisted of identical interfaces and narration describing a jewelry making process known as lost wax casting. Although virtually every aspect of the treatments was identical, the graphical presentation differed across the three versions. The first treatment incorporated static graphics, the second consisted of animations, and the third used video. Prior to working with their respective lesson, this study’s participants were evaluated on their spatial ability. After completing the instruction, the participants were asked to complete several pencil-paper measures including a cognitive load index, an attitude survey, and an instrument containing retention and transfer items.
As predicted, students presented with animated instructions on the casting process outperformed their peers exposed to these instructions conveyed via static graphics in terms of both transfer and retention. Moreover, the animated students’ performance was also superior to their counterparts presented with videos of this process. This study also found that students with high spatial ability outperformed students with low spatial ability regardless of the presentation mode they experienced, which is consistent with the literature on multimedia learning.
In sum, this study contributes to the growing body of literature involving the media selection and rationale for using various visual presentations in multimedia environments. As this study suggests, the future of instructional design involving CBI is dependent upon the ability to construct effective learning environments that are universally conducive to a wide variety of learners who may possess multiple levels of abilities and aptitudes.