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>Learning Tasks
Learner Characteristics
Performance Tests
Sissel Guttormsen Schär
Samuel Schluep
Updated: 2004-05-05
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Learning Tasks: Design appropriate learning tasks.

Characteristics of the learning task include how people are instructed (or induced, supported) in attending to the information, rehearsing it, and actively elaborating it. Knowledge about the effects of learning tasks from several studies has been applied as guidelines for how to use media for the design of appropriately learning tasks.

Encourage learners to actively process the information.

A variety of multimedia studies have been performed in this area, so there is strong empirical support for this design principle. Learning appears to improve when the learning task encourages the learner to actively process the information. Reading text may also cause the learner to more actively process the information than simply hearing verbal narration. Similarly, materials that force learners to figure out confusing information may cause them to more actively process the information, which thereby improves learning performance. On the other hand, simple repetition of the information does not encourage learners to actively process the information and does not necessarily improve learning. [Najjar01] [Guttormsen98]

Support understanding of meaning rather than structural aspects.

The type of active processing is important. For example, processing the structural characteristics of each word in a list is not as effective as processing the meaning of the word. [Najjar01]

Support learners to focus on meaning rather than appearance.

It is possible that tasks that encourage the learner to actively process and integrate the information may focus their attention on the information and cause them to process the information more elaborately. This appears to be especially true when the processing focuses on the meaning of the information rather than its appearance, and when the processing integrates the information being studied. Information that is processed in this way is easier to connect with long-term memories, may improve retrieval, and may therefore result in improved learning. [Najjar01] [Guttormsen98]

Support learners in constructing and integrating the information to own knowledge entities.

Processing tasks that encourage learners to integrate the information they are studying seem to improve learning. Several studies found that periodically asking learners to answer questions about the information they had just reviewed led to improvements in learning performance. Tasks that do not encourage learners to integrate the information may actually worsen learning performance. [Najjar01] [Guttormsen00a] [Guttormsen98] [Duffy92]


Duffy, T.M., Jonassen, D.H. (1992). Constructivism and the Technology of Instruction: A conversation. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.


Guttormsen Schär, S. (1998). Implicit and explicit learning of computerised tasks. The role of the computer user-interface and task saliency. Zürich: University of Zürich.


Guttormsen Schär, S. and Krueger, H. (2000). Using new learning technologies with multimedia. IEEE MultiMedia Magazine. 2000 (July-September 2000).


Najjar, L.J. (2001). Principles of educational multimedia user interface design. In Andrews, R.W.S.D.H (ed.). Readings in training and simulation. Santa Monica, CA, pp. 146-158.

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