Date of Award

6-27-2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communications Media

First Advisor

Allen Partridge, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Mark J. Piwinsky, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Jay Start, Ph.D.

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to gather information about how individuals from two different cultural dimensions (Hofstede, 2001) score on three differently designed e-learning modules. Specifically, this investigation sought to understand whether individualist undergraduate and graduate students learn differently from instructional content designed according to the coherence principle than collectivist undergraduate and graduate students. Each of the three e-learning modules shared the same instructional content: time travel. A post-test measured retained knowledge in subjects from both cultural dimensions on each of the three differently designed e-learning modules. The coherence principle of multimedia instruction stipulates that the addition of extraneous audio, images, or text impairs learning. The interpretation of results presented in this dissertation contextualize the interaction of the coherence principle and the cultural background of the subjects as they relate to post-test scores as well as to applied multimedia design. Key contributions included the following findings: 1. The cultural and linguistic composition of the multimedia designer is perhaps just as important to consider as the intended learner audience; 2. The choice to present abstract information (such as a timeline) may be predicated by one’s cultural background. This in turn may have contributed to lower achievement among collectivists than individualists for a sub-section of the post-test; 3. Consistency (in terms of volume, tonality, and genre) in the arrangement of non-essential audio adjuncts coupled with interesting instructional content may have neutralized the potential for decreased learning in both cultural groups; 4. The results for both collectivists and individualists for each respective control and experimental groups suggest modifications to the traditional coherence principle albeit given the limited scope of this investigation. One normative standard of multimedia design does not apply to a group of culturally and linguistically diverse learners. A flexible coherence principle requires the multimedia designer to do more work than design and develop instructional content; attention must be given to the cultural and linguistic composition of the intended audience. If such knowledge is unknown, however, it is advisable to adhere to the traditional coherence principle given the results from the controls for both cultural groups.

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