LEARNING A PROCEDURAL TASK WITH ANIMATION: A COMPARISON BETWEEN HIGH AND LOW SPATIAL LEARNERS
 
Tsang, H.L. and Chau, W.L., The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR
 
Many previous studies have shown that, contrary to common beliefs, animated instructional materials do not lead to better learning outcomes than static pictures; or they only help learners with high visuo-spatial abilities. The present study is the first of a series of experiments looking into reasons underlying these intriguing phenomena. It aims at investigating if the absence of superior facilitatory effects of animations in previous studies is due to high demand of visuo-spatial processing of the tasks adopted. Participants were divided into low and high spatial ability learners (36 and 40 respectively) on the basis of their performance on tests of visualization ability, visual memory and spatial orientation. Task demand for visuo-spatial processing was manipulated by changing the number of steps required in unfamiliar paper folding tasks. Participants learnt the simple and complex tasks with the aid of animation (animated) and video stills (static). Preliminary data showed that the animated group had higher percentage of correct steps and needed less assistance than the static group. Besides, low visual spatial ability learners benefited more from animation than high ones, especially in learning a simple task. These findings are inconsistent with those of previous studies (e.g., Mayer & Sims,1994; ChanLin, 2000). Implications of the findings for designing animated instructional materials will be discussed. Further studies will investigate if low spatial ability learners are limited by at the perceptual or the processing stage.