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A comparison of parallelism in interface designs for computer-based learning environments

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In this paper we discuss an experiment that was carried out with a prototype, designed in conformity with the concept of parallelism and the Parallel Instruction theory (the PI theory). We designed this prototype with five different interfaces, and ran an empirical study in which 18 participants completed an abstract task. The five basic designs were based on hypotheses of the PI theory that for solving tasks on screens all task relevant information must be in view on a computer monitor, as clearly as possible. The condition with two parallel frames and the condition with one long web page appeared to be the best design for this type of task, better than window versions that we normally use for our computer simulations on the web. We do not only describe the results of the abstract task in the five conditions, but we also discuss the results from the perspective of concrete, realistic tasks with computer simulations. The interface with two parallel frames is the best solution here, but also the interface with long web pages (‘virtual parallelism’) is a great favourite in practice when doing realistic tasks.

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