Learning from animation enabled by collaboration
Animated graphics are extensively used in multimedia instructions explaining how natural or artificial dynamic systems work. As animation directly depicts spatial changes over time, it is legitimate to believe that animated graphics will improve comprehension over static graphics. However, the research failed to find clear evidence in favour of animation. Animation may also be used to promote interactions in computer-supported collaborative learning. In this setting as well, the empirical studies have not confirmed the benefits that one could intuitively expect from the use of animation. One explanation is that multimedia, including animated graphics, challenges human processing capacities, and in particular imposes a substantial working memory load. We designed an experimental study involving three between-subjects factors: the type of multimedia instruction (with static or animated graphics), the presence of snapshots of critical steps of the system (with or without snapshots) and the learning setting (individual or collaborative). The findings indicate that animation was overall beneficial to retention, while for transfer, only learners studying collaboratively benefited from animated over static graphics. Contrary to our expectations, the snapshots were marginally beneficial to learners studying individually and significantly detrimental to learners studying in dyads. The results are discussed within the multimedia comprehension framework in order to propose the conditions under which animation can benefit to learning.