Learning from Static and Dynamic Visualizations: What Kind of Questions Should We Ask?
Many recent research studies have compared dynamic visualizations with static graphics in the expectation that one of these display types is superior to the other. The research reported here challenges this black-and-white view by focusing instead on whether the aim of the intended learning is to produce a perceptual or a cognitive mental representation of the subject matter. For learning at the perceptual level, dynamic visualizations were supposed to be superior whereas at the cognitive level, learning from static graphics was expected to be more effective. In order to test these hypotheses, two learning experiments were conducted. Regarding learning at the perceptual level, dynamic visualizations led to posttest performance similar to that from static graphics, but required less mental effort. Regarding learning at the cognitive level, dynamic visualizations and static graphics also led to similar performance. However, dynamic visualizations and sequentially presented static graphics emphasizing temporal information led to better learning results than simultaneously presented static graphics emphasizing spatial information. It is concluded that instead of relying on the traditional simplistic distinction between static and animated displays, a more fruitful approach to the design of learning environments may be to consider how much emphasis should be put on the temporal as opposed to the spatial aspects of the content to be learned.
KeywordsMental Model Temporal Information Static Graphic Mental Effort Perceptual Learning
We would like to thank Radu Georghiu for the technical production of the learning material that was used within the studies. We are also grateful for the help of our student assistants Sabine Boysen, Lena Buescher, and Katharina Allgaier in collecting the data for our studies. Furthermore, we would like to thank Dr. Christoph Mengelkamp for critical discussions and helpful suggestions concerning the studies.
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