Animation of Complex Data Communications Concepts May Not Always Yield improved Learning Outcomes
Keywords130306 Educational Technology and Computing
080602 Computer-Human Interaction
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AbstractThe field of data and computer communications networking uses an array of abstract concepts such as encapsulation, protocol data units, virtual circuits etc. to describe and explain the underlying processes. Various studies, together with our own observations, strongly indicate that students often find these concepts difficult to learn, as they cannot easily be demonstrated. A number of academics have described the animation tools they have developed to illustrate such concepts and almost invariably they comment on the favourable reactions their efforts receive from their students. However, it is difficult to find examples that anchor the design of their animation offerings in the principles of good instructional design and few conduct rigorous evaluations to see if there has been a genuine and measurable improvement in student understanding of the basic concepts being illustrated. Our work does both. We have designed an animation tool on virtual circuits which takes cognizance of contemporary work on instructional design, particularly the work of Mayer (2003). Two versions of the animation were produced, one with narration and the other with narration and additional on-screen text. We randomly assigned 110 first year undergraduate students to view a version of the animation. A pre and post test was used to determine if, in fact, improved learning actually occurred and which version of the animation produced the better outcome. Initial analysis of results indicates no statistical difference between the scores for the two versions and suggests that animations, by themselves, do not necessarily improve student understanding.