Benefits of inserting support devices in electronic learning environments

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    ronments: Towards a research framework. Computers in Human Behavior, 22, 389411.]. In view of

    tated to help

    Derry, Renkl, and Wortham (2000) derived principles to useworked-out examples in instructional settings. In all these casesan instructional intervention was regarded to be functional whenthe adequate use of the intervention resulted in more or more ef-cient learning.

    These instructional interventions, more specically support de-vices, can target different aspects of the learning process. The de-

    Aleven, Stahl, Schworm, Fischer, &Wallace, 2003; Clarebout & Elen,2006). Although these reviews do show that the use of support de-vices is often problematic, the link with specic learner characteris-tics such as prior knowledge (Martens, Valcke & Portiers, 1997) orlearning style (Lee & Lehman, 1993) remains unclear. Additionally,research on learner control also does not provide evidence for anunivocal positive effect of learner control on learning. These studiessuggest that learners do not use or sub-optimally use support(Friend & Cole, 1990; Goforth, 1994; Williams, 1996). Adding sup-port devices to a learning environment, and leaving the decision* Corresponding author.

    Computers in Human Behavior 25 (2009) 804810

    Contents lists availab


    eviE-mail address: (G. Clarebout).Instruction assumes that learning is enhanced throughmeans ofwell-targeted support. This is illustrated by different review stud-ies, stipulating the conditions in terms of the learner, the task, andthe context under which a specic kind of support can be calledfunctional. Dillon and Gabbard (1998), for instance, specied theconditions under which hypermedia can be benecial for learnercomprehension; de Jong and van Joolingen (1998) analyzed thepower of computer simulations for science learning and Atkinson,

    However, Clark and Estes (2002) reveal that not all support in alearning environment is necessarily functional, and hence benecialor helpful for learners learning process. This may be due to a poordesign of the support device, or the learners use the support device.Support can only be functional when adequately used by the learn-ers (e.g., Rothkopf, 1971;Winne, 1982). Review studies provide evi-dence that learners often use support inadequately or not at all, andin many cases not as intended by the instructional designers (e.g.,learningmay happenwithout any instruction, the effects of instruc-tion on learning are often benecial and easy to observe (p. 3).1. Introduction

    Gagn, Briggs, andWager (1988) sman undertaking whose purpose is t0747-5632/$ - see front matter 2008 Elsevier Ltd. Adoi:10.1016/j.chb.2008.07.006establishing a solid research agenda on the optimization of the use of instructional interventions and sup-port devices, this article discusses three experimental studies, each dealing with different aspects of sup-port device use. In a rst study, the impact on support device use of different types and numbers ofadjunct aids was investigated. In a second study, the inuence of advice on support device use in an openlearning environment is studied, while also considering various learner related variables. A third studyaddresses the use of support devices in a text-based environment.The results of the three studies reveal that the amount of support device usage is limited and that even

    advice on the use of the support device cannot always enhance this use. Studies 1 and 2 revealed that thetype of support devices inuenced the amount of usage. With respect to learner characteristics, studies 2and 3 revealed no signicant effect of self regulation. Students mastery orientation on the other hand didinuence the support device usage. Reasons for the low usage of support devices are addressed in thediscussion.

    2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

    hat Instruction is a hu-people learn. Although

    vices can compensate for domain specic knowledge (e.g.,dictionary and information lists); induce cognitive processes (e.g.,navigation map and concept maps) or metacognitive processes(e.g. reection sheets). The latter two are also often referred to asscaffolds (Brush & Saye, 2001; de Jong, 2006; Hannan, Land, & Oli-ver, 1999).cational Research, 73, 277320; Clarebout, G., & Elen, J. (2006). Tool use in computer-based learning envi-Benets of inserting support devices in e

    Geraldine Clarebout *, Jan ElenCenter for Instructional Psychology and Technology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belg

    a r t i c l e i n f o

    Article history:Available online 23 August 2008

    a b s t r a c t

    Research on support devicinadequate way such that iF., & Wallace, R. (2003). Hel

    Computers in H

    journal homepage: www.elsll rights reserved.ctronic learning environments

    age reveals that support devices are seldom used, and if used often in anno longer a learning opportunity [Aleven, V., Stahl, E., Schworm, S., Fischer,eking and help design in interactive learning environments. Review of Edu-

    le at ScienceDirect

    man Behavior

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  • terized as having a passive learning style when they onlyselected the information offered, showed indifference and had

    Humon the use with the learners rests on the assumption that learnersare good judges of their own learning process. This may constitutethe core of the problem. Researchers seem to agree that learnersmay often lack the capacity to make adequate learning decisions(Clark, 1990; Hill & Hannan, 2001; Horz, Winter, & Fries, 2009).Learners, when confronted with support alternatives, regularlymake poor choices (Clark, 1990). Similarly, Perkins (1985) pointedout that learners who are provided with learning opportunities inlearning environments do not always grasp them. He suggests threeconditions that may increase the probability that opportunities aretaken, or that support devices will be used: (1) the opportunity isthere; (2) learners recognize the opportunity, and (3) learners aremotivated to use the support devices.

    1. The opportunity is there: the support devices provided are func-tional to students learning process; their use results in betterlearning. As already mentioned, Clark and Estes (2002) indi-cated that this is not always the case. Typical examples of stud-ies in which the functionality of a support device can bequestioned are, studies that ask students to use a supportdevice to communicate while sitting in the same room (e.g.,Janssens, Erkens, & Kanselaar, 2007; Munneke, Andriessen,Kanselaar, & Kirschner, 2007).

    2. Learners recognize the opportunity: the support devices pro-vided to the learners are recognized as functional. Studentsknow the relation between the support devices and their learn-ing, and know how to handle the support devices to foster theirlearning (Elen, Lowyck, & Proost, 1996). This knowledgeabilityentails, therefore, both students knowledge about the supportdevices and their self-regulating skills. Learners self-regulatingskills refer to the extent, learners are capable of monitoring andadjusting their learning process (Clark, 1990). High self-regu-lated learners are typically more capable to determine when aspecic support device may be benecial for their learningcompared to low self-regulators. Problemsmay also occur whenstudents lack knowledge about the support devices and, hencemay misinterpret the intentions behind the support devices(Winne, 1985, 2004). Winne (1985, 2004) refers to this problemas students not being calibrated to the learning environment.There is a mismatch between a learners judgment of a (featureof) a task, and the externally determined measures of (the fea-ture of) the task This was for instance, the case in a study intropical medicine (Clarebout, Elen, Lowyck, Van den Ende, &Van den Enden, 2004). Thinking aloud protocols revealed thatstudents did not use the support devices because they thoughtusing the devices would imply cheating. The program develop-ers, however, purposely included those support devices to fos-ter the acquisition of diagnostic skills. Similarly, Marek,Griggs, and Christopher (1999) revealed that students knowl-edge of a specic adjunct aid moderated the effect of the learn-ing environment. Respondents in this study indicated a weakinclination to use adjunct aids since, according to their knowl-edge, these aids required more elaborate study activities.

    3. Learners are sufciently motivated to use the support devices:support devices will only be used when learners are willing toinvest effort in the task (Salomon, 1984). In addition to the will-ingness to invest effort, students goal orientation may also playa role. In Ryan and Pintrichs study (1997) for instance, masterygoal oriented students students who are motivated to developcompetencies, to master the task believed that using supportdevices would be benecial for their well-being, and thereforethey were more likely to use them. Performance goal orienta-tion with a focus on demonstrating competencies compared

    G. Clarebout, J. Elen / Computers into others seemed to be linked to suboptimal use of supportdevices and a negative attitude towards the support devices(e.g., perceiving help-seeking support devices as a threat toa narrow focus. The encouragements seem to affect those stu-dents only that fell in between these extremes. Only for theneutral learners encouragements had positive effects.

    In view of establishing a solid research agenda on the optimiza-tion of the use of support devices, and hence the benets of inte-grating support devices in learning environments, thiscontribution discusses three studies, each dealing with a differentaspect of support device usage. In a rst study, the TechnologyManagement (TM)-study, the impact of the type and number of ad-junct aids on their use was investigated. A second study, the Drink-ing Cup study, studied the inuence of advice on the use of supportdevices, while also considering metacognition as part of studentsself-regulation skills. While in these two studies Perkins (1985)conditions were considered in the design, a third study, the Obesitystudy, explicitly addresses them in the research questions. Thethree studies all report on the use of support devices in electroniclearning environments, with non-embedded support devices. Ineach case, learners decide about the use of the devices. The overallresults of these studies together with suggestions for further re-search are described.

    2. Study 1: Technology Management study

    The Technology Management study (TM)-study focuses on theuse of different types of adjunct aids and specic learner relatedvariables. First, the study addresses the use of different types of ad-junct aids. Adjuncts aids are dened as instructional interventionsinserted in (electronic) text books in view of supporting learnersinformation processing. Adjunct aids have already been intensivelystudied (see for instance, Grabowski, 2004; Rothkopf, 1996). Re-views (Andr, 1979; Mayer, 1979) generally reveal positive results.However, positive results can only be broad about when the ad-junct aids actually induce cognitive processes (Andr, 1979), andare needed by the target group (Schnotz & Bannert, 2003). In mostof these studies the effects on learning of one particular type of ad-junct aid have been studied (e.g., Andr, 1979; Mayer, 1979). How-ever, designers and developers of instructional text typically insertmultiple and different types of adjunct aids in their material.Hence, the study described here is an attempt to gain more insightin the use of multiple and different types of adjunct aids.ones self-worth). Furthermore, mastery goal orientation seemsto increase the probability of requesting help, whereas a perfor-mance goal orientation seems to be linked to asking for theright answer (Newman, 1998; Ryan, Pintrich, & Midgley,2001). Since using support devices can be seen as a form of helpseeking, one may assume that goal orientation will also affectthe use of support devices.

    4. While Perkins (1985) focuses mainly on the functionality of thesupport devices and learner related variables, some studieshave been performed on the enhancement of the use of supportdevices (e.g., Carrier, Davidson, Williams, & Kalweit, 1986; Lee &Lehman, 1993). In these studies, students who received instruc-tional cues or encouragement to use a specic support device,used the support device more often compared to studentswho did not receive these cues or encouragement. In theirstudy, Lee and Lehman (1993) found an interaction effect withlearning style. Learners were characterized as having an activelearning style when they exhibited curiosity; initiative and awide focus when selecting information. Learners were charac-

    an Behavior 25 (2009) 804810 805The main research question in this study was: What is the com-bined impact of the number and nature of the aids on the use ofadjunct aids?

  • 2.1. Method

    2.1.1. ParticipantsParticipants were 203 students (98% female) attending under-

    graduate classes at a public university in central South Africa. Allstudents were majoring in education and volunteered to partici-pate in the study. Students could gain a limited number of extrapoints by participating in the study.

    pected that adapted advice will lead to more (adequate) use ofthe support devices, and hence to better performance.

    5 Examples + 5 Questions

    Table 2Frequency and proportional time spent (Percentage) on adjunct aids

    Type of adjunct aid Frequency Proportional time spent

    Mean SD Mean SD

    Examples 1.78 2.40 2.15 3.34Questions 1.61 2.63 1.43 2.20Figures 2.23 3.15 1.07 1.60

    Total 5.63 5.32 4.65 4.51

    806 G. Clarebout, J. Elen / Computers in Human Behavior 25 (2009) 8048102.1.2. Design, instruments, and procedureAn experimental design was used with amount of aids (ve, ten

    or fteen) and type of aids (questions, examples or gures) as inde-pendent variables (see Table 1), and use of adjunct aids as depen-dent variable (expressed in frequency of access and proportionaltime spent on adjunct aids). Additionally, learning gains werelooked at by comparing the scores on a pre-test with the scoreson a post-test.

    The instructional material was based on a chapter on technol-ogy management by Newby, Stepich, Lehman, and Russell (1996).The text was presented on a computer, distributed over 21 pages.Access to adjunct aids except for the control group was gainedby clicking on labeled buttons on the computer screen. Studentsuse of and time spent on using adjunct aids were registeredthrough log les (Access database).

    The 203 students participated in sessions, each with up to 30students. When entering the computer room, rst the pre-testwas administered, next students had to enter their name on thecomputer (for logging purposes), and could start studying the texton computer in one of eight conditions. Participants were ran-domly assigned to one of the conditions. After reading the text apost-test was administered. This session took about 50 min.

    2.2. Results

    Descriptive statistics (Table 2) show that on average, the ad-junct aids were access...


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