One of the primary considerations when constructing educational materials, including video, is cognitive load. Cognitive load theory states that not all the information from sensory memory (i.e. what we see and hear), is stored and processed in the working memory due to its limited capacity. It is this limited information in working memory that gets encoded in long-term memory. Educational material needs to be effectively designed and delivered to efficiently use this limited working memory and hence maximize the learner outcomes.

The cognitive load theory is well explained in an article by Cynthia J. Brame

“Cognitive Load Theory suggests that any learning experience has
three components.

The first of these is intrinsic load, which is inherent to the subject under study and is determined in part by the degrees of connectivity within the subject. The common example given to illustrate a subject with a low intrinsic load is a word pair (e.g., blue = Azul), whereas grammar is a subject with a high intrinsic load due to its many levels of connectivity and conditional relationships.

The second component of any learning experience is germane load, which is the level of cognitive activity necessary to reach the desired learning outcome- e.g., to make the comparisons, do the analysis, elucidate the steps necessary to master the lesson. The ultimate goal of these activities is for the learner to incorporate the subject under study into a schema of richly connected ideas.

The third component of a learning experience is extraneous load, which is a cognitive effort that does not help the learner toward the desired learning outcome. It is often characterized as the load that arises from a poorly designed lesson (e.g., confusing instructions, extra information), but may also be a load that arises due to stereotype threat or imposter syndrome. These concepts are more fully articulated and to some extent critiqued in an excellent review by de Jong (2010)

In an article by Richard E. Mayer & Roxana Moreno (2003): Nine Ways to Reduce Cognitive Load in Multimedia Learning, Educational Psychologist, 38:1, 43-52, there are some well-researched load reduction methods as shown below to better manage the cognitive load and thus maximize learning outcomes.

Off loading – It is suggested to balance the load on visual and verbal channels to help the learner better process the information from each channel separately.

For example, a two-minute animation depicting the steps in lightning formation along with concurrent on-screen text describing the steps in lightning formation creates what Sweller (1999) called a split-attention effect because the learner’s visual attention is split between viewing the animation and reading the on-screen text.

BrainAlive’s FOCII provides feedback on the offloading implementation in any multimedia content. FOCII uses machine learning models to assess the effective split of content between visual and verbal channels.

Segmenting – Segmentation is the breaking down of content into bite-size segments, thus providing learners the time and capacity to organize and integrate the existing words and images before the next set demands the learner’s attention for selection.

For example, in a narrated animation where the information content is rich and the pace of presentation is fast, learners may not have enough time to engage in the deeper processes of organizing the words into a verbal model, organizing the images into a visual model, and integrating the models. Thus by the time the learner selects relevant words and pictures from one segment of the presentation, the next segment begins, thereby cutting short the time needed for deeper processing.

FOCII provides feedback on the optimal speed and segmentation recommendation based on the context and learner profile.

Weeding – Weeding is the process of eliminating interesting but extraneous material to better direct the learner’s processing towards outcome-driven materials.

For example, suppose a learner clicks on an explanation in a multimedia encyclopedia, and he or she receives a narrated animation describing the steps (which requires essential processing) along with background music or inserted narrated video clips of damage caused by lightning (which require incidental processing), will lead to the learner using limited cognitive resources on incidental processing, thus leaving less cognitive capacity for essential processing.

FOCII provides feedback on the presence of various such weeds that result in unproductive use of the learner’s cognitive capacity. The feedback includes assessment of background music, verbal impact, and complexity of learner words, and more.

Alignment and synchronization – It is a process of aligning the image and corresponding narration both in space and time to minimize learner incidental processing consumed at searching and mapping visual and verbal elements.

For example, misalignment of words and pictures on the screen, such as presenting an animation in one window with concurrent on-screen text in another window elsewhere on the screen or misalignment in the narration and graphic display leads to cognitive overload caused by incidental processing rather than essential processing.

FOCII measures the misalignment in spatial and temporal misalignment between verbal and visual elements of multimedia material.

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