An investigation into the cognitive effects of instructional interface visualisations.
Akinlofa, Olurotimi Richard
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An investigation is conducted into the cognitive effects of using different computer based instructions media in acquisition of specific novel human skills. With recent rapid advances in computing and multimedia instructional delivery, several contemporary research have focussed on the best practices for training and learning delivered via computer based multimedia simulations. More often than not, the aim has been cost minimisation through an optimisation of the instructional delivery process for efficient knowledge acquisition. The outcome of such research effort in general have been largely divergent and inconclusive. The work reported in this thesis utilises a dual prong methodology to provide a novel perspective on the moderating effects of computer based instructional visualisations with a focus on the interaction of interface dynamism with target knowledge domains and trainee cognitive characteristics. The first part of the methodology involves a series of empirical experiments that incrementally measures/compares the cognitive benefits of different levels of instructional interface dynamism for efficient task representation and post-acquisition skilled performance. The first of these experiments utilised a mechanical disassembly task to investigate novel acquisition of procedural motor skills by comparing task comprehension and performance. The other experiments expanded the initial findings to other knowledge domains as well as controlled for potential confounding variables. The integral outcome of these experiments helped to define a novel framework for describing multimodal perception of different computer based instruction types and its moderating effect on post-learning task performance. A parallel computational cognitive modelling effort provided the complementary methodology to investigate cognitive processing associated with different instructional interfaces at a lower level of detail than possible through empirical observations. Novel circumventions of some existing limitations of the selected ACT-R 6.0 cognitive modelling architecture were proposed to achieve the precision required. The ACT-R modifications afforded the representation of human motor movements at an atomic level of detail and with a constant velocity profile as opposed to what is possible with the default manual module. Additional extensions to ACT-R 6.0 also allowed accurate representation of the noise inherent in the recall of spatial locations from declarative memory. The method used for this representation is potentially extendable for application to 3-D spatial representation in ACT-R. These novel propositions are piloted in a proof-of-concept effort followed by application to a more complete, naturally occurring task sequence. The modelling methodology is validated with established human data of skilled task performances. The combination of empirical observations and detailed cognitive modelling afforded novel insights to the hitherto controversial findings on the cognitive benefits of different multimodal instructional presentations. The outcome has implications for training research and development involving computer based simulations.