Instructional Science

, Volume 38, Issue 5, pp 471–485 | Cite as

Learning from animation enabled by collaboration

  • Cyril RebetezEmail author
  • Mireille Bétrancourt
  • Mirweis Sangin
  • Pierre Dillenbourg


Animated graphics are extensively used in multimedia instructions explaining how natural or artificial dynamic systems work. As animation directly depicts spatial changes over time, it is legitimate to believe that animated graphics will improve comprehension over static graphics. However, the research failed to find clear evidence in favour of animation. Animation may also be used to promote interactions in computer-supported collaborative learning. In this setting as well, the empirical studies have not confirmed the benefits that one could intuitively expect from the use of animation. One explanation is that multimedia, including animated graphics, challenges human processing capacities, and in particular imposes a substantial working memory load. We designed an experimental study involving three between-subjects factors: the type of multimedia instruction (with static or animated graphics), the presence of snapshots of critical steps of the system (with or without snapshots) and the learning setting (individual or collaborative). The findings indicate that animation was overall beneficial to retention, while for transfer, only learners studying collaboratively benefited from animated over static graphics. Contrary to our expectations, the snapshots were marginally beneficial to learners studying individually and significantly detrimental to learners studying in dyads. The results are discussed within the multimedia comprehension framework in order to propose the conditions under which animation can benefit to learning.


Multimedia Animation Learning Collaboration Dynamic mental model 



We are grateful to Gaëlle Molinari and the three anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful and helpful comments on the first version of this paper, and to Peter Gerjets and Katharina Scheiter who greatly improved the final version through multiple comments and proposals. This research was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (grant #11-68102.02).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cyril Rebetez
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mireille Bétrancourt
    • 1
  • Mirweis Sangin
    • 2
  • Pierre Dillenbourg
    • 2
  1. 1.Tecfa, Faculty of Psychology and Educational SciencesUniversity of GenevaCarougeSwitzerland
  2. 2.Craft, Federal Institute of Technology of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland

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