The cognitive effects of design principles on academic performance of students using Web-based instruction
Johnson, David Patrick
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Delivering instruction over the Web has become a critical educational tool. The increased reliance on Web-based instruction (WBI) raises concerns about how to effectively design instruction using this medium. Limited empirical inquiry into this relatively new and rapidly growing area has resulted in a shallow research base to consult for guidance. The Gestalt Laws of Perception represent an organized set of principles which can be used to govern the visual design and organization of instructional materials. Gestalt theory provided the theoretical framework for this study. A convenience sample of 55 participants was used, consisting of 22 males and 33 females. The accessible population for this study was graduate and undergraduate students enrolled in Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses at a large public southeastern university. Participants were randomly assigned to treatment and comparison groups. A pilot study, consisting of 12 participants, was used to confirm content validity, internal reliability, and improve the main study. The study consisted of a WBI module and posttest. Students in the treatment group accessed a WBI module created with Gestalt design principles. The comparison group accessed a WBI module (identical in lesson content) created with an absence of Gestalt design principles. No compelling evidence was obtained to indicate that the experimental application of Gestalt laws to the design of WBI had a statistically significant effect on: (a) academic performance (test scores), (b) time-on-task, (c) lesson module hit rates, (d) academic performance of graduate students, or (e) students with high or moderate GPAs. Conversely, undergraduates who used WBI created without Gestalt design principles statistically outperformed all other cohorts. This finding suggests that WBI designed using Gestalt design principles may not be effective in improving academic performance among undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in CTE courses.