2002 Denver Annual Meeting (October 27-30, 2002)

Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 2:45 PM


HOWELL, Paul D., Dept. of Geological Sciences, Univ of Kentucky, 101 Slone Bldg, Lexington, KY 40506-0053, phowell@uky.edu

Assessment of online and computer-based training has proven difficult and fraught with complications. In many cases, "no significant difference" has been reported between online and lecture-based, college-level classes, while other studies have shown significant differences: with both positive and negative results. In large part, these studies have focused on whole classes taught on- or off-line, rather than on the individual components of the learning environments for these classes (materials, media, communication opportunities, etc.). Such assessment complicates experimental design by aggregating many variables that are not assessed individually.

This study specifically examines one aspect of multimedia in geoscience learning, by asking "Does interactivity in multimedia influence student learning?". Although it is important to gauge student responsiveness to the assessed medium ("Did you like this?"), this study focuses on assessing whether student engagement through interactivity influences learning at some level. Insofar as possible, the experimental design eliminates differences in study materials and study environment except for the nature of the media used, using either interactive or static illustrations with comparable knowledge content. We have created Flash multimedia illustrations that are interactive (student input is required to reveal all the information) and comparable static images that illustrate the same concepts, and include explanatory text materials accompanying the illustrations. We have created a variety of these materials in order describing introductory geology concepts, in order to assess their impact on undergraduate college students with little or no previous geology experience. The study design utilizes three different sets of materials (paper text with printed images, online text with static media, online text with interactive media), used with different groups of students, and several assessments of student abilities (pre- and post-testing, questions designed to assess the depth of student understanding, etc.). These materials are undergoing assessment with several groups of students this semester, and we will present the preliminary results of our findings at the meeting.