The influence of occupational therapy students' characteristics when learning with interactive multimedia.
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This study was undertaken to assist with the development and introduction into the occupational therapy curriculum of an interactive, multimedia learning resource. The radical changes from traditional teaching/learning methodologies, focusing on instructor presentation, to a more learner active role could disadvantage some students. For instance, having to access information independently and problem-solve utilising material presented electronically may add considerable cognitive demands to the learning task. Many factors influence an individual learning in computerised interactive learning situations and these include motivation, previous experience, and a range of learner characteristics. The last factor includes styles of functioning which impact on both the interpretation of processes and the appraisal of performance levels. In many previous studies researching the use of media and learning, these factors have been isolated and their impact on user performance and attitude measured. However, with interactive multimedia, several elements combine to make research concentration on individual variables questionable. These elements include the range and mix of media used, the interactivity possible, and the degree of user control. Therefore, this exploratory study sought to establish some of the learning characteristics which combined to form statistical models in a range of participant navigational tasks. Multiple regression analysis was employed to determine the ways that individuals with differing personal characteristics make navigational decisions while browsing and problem-solving when utilising interactive learning materials. Case studies were employed to illustrate extreme cases. Personal characteristics measured included technological experience, cognitive style, learning style, computer awareness and computer anxiety. This research indicated that significant numbers of occupational therapy students displayed a tendency towards field-independent cognitive style, activist and reflector learning styles, and an aversion to the use of computer technology. Awareness of these strengths and weaknesses and their impact on multimedia navigation can assist both students and educators to plan strategies to maximise the effectiveness of learning materials. Statistically significant models were identified for five of the six dependent navigation variables measured although their predictor strength was low. Of the independent variables, age, cognitive style, computer thoughts, and prior computer experience all occurred in two or more of the statistically significant models for the navigation performance dependent variables. The dependent variable forming the strongest statistical model was attitudes towards the learning package, representing 38% of the variance.
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