Yesterday, I reported on the results of an experiment into the impact of Powerpoint custom animation on learning. I’ve now been given permission by the authors (Dr Stephen Mahar and colleagues) to publish samples of the screencasts used in the research.

Summary of the experiment

The purpose of the experiment was to test the hypothesis that:

incrementally introducing information on PowerPoint slides via custom animation decreases student learning over having all information shown on the slide at the same time.

Two screencasts were prepared – one animated and one non-animated. The screencasts are designed to teach basic technical information about internet security.

93 students were split into two groups. One group saw the animated version and one group saw the non-animated version. The students were tested on their knowledge before seeing the slides (five weeks beforehand) and just after seeing the slides. The test was composed of multichoice questions.

The samples published below are just under 3 minutes long whereas the originals were 17 minutes 30 seconds.

Non-animated version

Animated version

The results

Jan Schultink asked in the comments of yesterday’s post how the researchers calculated how much more the students had learnt. Here’s more detail on that:


Cognitive load

As I said in yesterday’s post, I think that the animation in this slideshow is generally simple. I don’t think the results of this research can be dismissed on the basis that the animation was flashy and distracting (with the exception of the zooming Dialog box).

However, I think the researchers didn’t adequately take into account the cognitive load (load on working memory) imposed by other features of the screencasts. Specifically:

  1. Having to read bullet-points at the same time as listening to a narration
  2. The lack of silence during the animations.

Guidelines for use of custom animation

I’m not ready to throw out custom animation on the basis of this research. But I think that animation has to be used carefully. In the next few weeks, I’ll review other relevant research and write a post with suggested guidelines on custom animation.

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