The Impact of Textual Display Strategies on Learning from Electronic Presentations

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Virginia Tech

An increasing number of students are learning in classrooms that employ electronic presentations designed in PowerPoint and other similar software programs. The design of the slides in such electronic presentations has an impact upon student learning, and ample recommendations are made within the literature as to specific strategies that serve as presumed best practices for the design of those slides that will best facilitate learning. While most of such recommended strategies are well supported by cognitive theory – they are considered to positively impact learning by contributing to decreased cognitive load, leveraged dual coding, and facilitated active processing, for example – many of them are not supported by empirical evidence that they do in fact enhance learning. Some of the recommended best practice strategies unsupported by empirical evidence include the use of progressive disclosure, dimming, and highlighting of text instead of full disclosure of text. Through the development and use of four separate electronic presentations, each of which was designed to employ one of these specific strategies (full disclosure, progressive disclosure, dimming, and highlighting), this study examined the impact of such strategies on student learning. The findings of this study indicate that significant differences are not evident in learning among the four different strategies. As such, this initial foray into the examination of the effectiveness of these four strategies indicates that any of the four strategies may be used with equal impact in the design of electronic presentations by instructors who want to help foster student learning.

Electronic presentations, instructional message design, textual display