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Personalizing the design of computer-based instruction to enhance learning

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This paper reports two studies designed to investigate the effect on learning outcomes of matching individuals' preferred cognitive styles to computer-based instructional (CBI) material. Study 1 considered the styles individually as Verbalizer, Imager, Wholist and Analytic. Study 2 considered the bi-dimensional nature of cognitive styles in order to assess the full ramification of cognitive styles on learning: Analytic/Imager, Analytic/ Verbalizer, Wholist/Imager and the Wholist/Verbalizer. The mix of images and text, the nature of the text material, use of advance organizers and proximity of information to facilitate meaningful connections between various pieces of information were some of the considerations in the design of the CBI material. In a quasi-experimental format, students' cognitive styles were analysed by Cognitive Style Analysis (CSA) software. On the basis of the CSA result, the system defaulted students to either matched or mismatched CBI material by alternating between the two formats. The instructional material had a learning and a test phase. Learning outcome was tested on recall, labelling, explanation and problem-solving tasks. Comparison of the matched and mismatched instruction did not indicate significant difference between the groups, but the consistently better performance by the matched group suggests potential for further investigations where the limitations cited in this paper are eliminated. The result did indicate a significant difference between the four cognitive styles with the Wholist/Verbalizer group performing better then all other cognitive styles. Analysing the difference between cognitive styles on individual test tasks indicated significant difference on recall, labelling and explanation, suggesting that certain test tasks may suit certain cognitive styles.

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