Any Cognitive Load Theorists in the House?

September 18, 2010

I’m thinking about conducting an experiment that measures the attitudes of novice computer users, who are at least 65 years old, before and after they receive basic computer instruction that eventually enables them to do something social on the Internet (like check e-mail).  

I will design the online instruction (extremely short e-learning courses) according to best practices in Cognitive Load Theory (CLT), as I understand it. For instance, I will make sure the learners’ working memories are not overtaxed by “extraneous cognitive loading” (i.e. crap they shouldn’t have to think about while they are trying to concentrate). 

Because these subjects haven’t used computers before, they won’t have any long-term memory (other than pre-existing beliefs and attitudes) that they can tap into. Therefore, to learn what I’m trying to teach them, they will need to process a lot of new information. The more complex the information, the higher their “intrinsic load” or brainpower to keep up.

Let’s say I randomly divide the learners into two groups. One group takes the e-learning course in pairs and the other group takes the course individually. Do you think the people who worked in pairs will have a better attitude about using computers when the course is over? If so, why?

  1. Because their working memory will practically double and they will be able to process much more information as a result. 
  2. Because, together, they are more likely to overcome common fears the elderly often have about “breaking computers” and such.
  3. Some other reason entirely (Please let me know)
  4. Actually, I don’t think there will be a difference.
  5. I think the group working alone will have a better attitude.

As an Instructional Design novice, I welcome your feedback. I have no idea if this research topic even makes sense!

Entry Filed under: Cognitive Load Theory,Experiment. Posted in  Cognitive Load Theory ,Experiment Tags: , .

1 Comment Add your own

  •    Marlies  |  September 20th, 2010 at 9:12 am     

    Thank you to Professor Evmenova for providing feedback on my idea. She pointed out that I would need to get at least 30 people in each group to run a correlational analysis. And if the target learners really had no experience with computers at all, wouldn’t it be hard for them to take an online course.

    I definitely need to think harder about who these people are and how to find them. Maybe they have a computer at home, but are uncomfortable using it, for instance. Hmm.

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