The effect of gamification elements on novice users’ cognitive load while learning software applications via e-learning systems

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Copyright: Darejeh, Ali
The complex structure of software applications can increase cognitive load and render tools incomprehensible. Since few studies have been conducted that focus on facilitating the learning of software applications for novice users, this thesis proposed a teaching solution by applying three elements of gamification including the use of Narrative, Interactivity and Avatar. The goal was to apply these gamification elements in an e-learning system and evaluate the effects on learners’ cognitive load while learning to use software tools with low and high element interactivity. Cognitive load theory was used as a guiding research principle. To this end, three integrated experiments were designed with the total of 160 participants. A mixture of objective and subjective quantitative measurement methods was used to measure cognitive load. For the subjective measurement, participants were asked to complete a self-reported difficulty Likert scale questionnaire. For the objective measure, participants performance including the following five factors was assessed: test task performance marks; test task performance speed; mouse movement distance; number of left and right clicks while finding the test task solution; time duration of reading each tutorial. In the first experiment, narrative which is a core element of gamification science, was selected as a procedure that can provide practical knowledge to software learners while impacting cognitive load by providing a familiar theme in worked-examples. The results showed that an e-learning system with a familiar narrative could decrease cognitive load in comparison to the no-narrative and unfamiliar narrative systems. In the second experiment, the effect of interactivity on delivering narrative-based content was evaluated by comparing animation versus interactive animation. The findings revealed that interactive animation was superior to the animation-based version which is in accord with embodied cognition theory. Finally, the third experiment evaluated the effect of a talking avatar versus plain audio on cognitive load in narrative-based e-learning systems that used interactive animation. The findings indicated that the talking avatar increased cognitive load during learning which is in accord with the redundancy effect.
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Darejeh, Ali
Marcus, Nadine
Sweller, John
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PhD Doctorate
UNSW Faculty