Cognitive Overload

Last week I attended a conference down the road at University of Manitoba. There was a mention of the issue of cognitive overload. I had viewed an online tutorial held in the COPPUL repository ( that was over 5 minutes long. I had felt (not based on any research – just my own reaction) that these “viewlets” (built with Qarbon’s ViewletBuilder in this case), should be short and each one should only try to cover one or two points. One reason is that most people don’t really want to learn how to use “a databases system”  – they want to figure out how to make it work to solve a problem.

Why they should be short – cognitive overload. Research to back to up – Multi-media based Worked-out Examples: Learning Computer Applications by using On-Screen-Videos

“The starting point to improving the effectiveness of video tutorials is the lack of transfer and passive receptive attitude while watching videos. To accomplish this, the tutorial must be divided into small, meaningful blocks. This segmentation of the solution of a worked-out example has been very successful in other learning formats (e.g. learning of solving probability problems (Catrambone & Holyoak, 1990)). Knowledge transfer can be fostered by making sub-goals in solution procedures salient either by visually isolating them or by assigning a label. The tendency of learners to learn the solution procedures as a fixed chain of steps that has to be applied as a whole is counteracted, and they are enabled to reassemble the meaningful building blocks while solving new problems.


About Karen Keiller

I am the University Librarian at Lakehead University.
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