The effect of leads on cognitive load and learning in a conceptually rich hypertext environment
The purpose of this experiment was to determine whether leads affect cognitive load and learning from conceptually rich hypertext. Measures of cognitive load included self-report of mental effort, reading time, and event-related desynchronization percentage of alpha, beta, and theta brain wave rhythms. Conceptual and structural knowledge tests, as well as a recall measure were used to determine learning performance. Measures of learners' reading ability, prior knowledge, and metacognitive awareness were employed to establish the effect of individual differences on cognitive load and learning from traditional and lead-augmented hypertext. Results demonstrated that while leads appeared to reduce brain wave activity associated with split attention, processing of redundant information contained in hypertext nodes may have increased extraneous cognitive load, and decreased germane load that is required for learning to take place. Whereas the benefits of leads relative to cognitive load and learning may have been mediated by the redundancy effect, learners with better developed metacognitive skills tended to use leads as a tool to review information in the linked nodes while revisiting content in the primary text passage. Limitations of the currently available cognitive load measures are discussed as applied to direct assessment of this theoretical construct.