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Reading on paper and computer screen, what are the differences?

There are significant differences between how people read a text on a computer-screen in comparison to a printed page. Studies show that when somebody reads a printed page she often reads word by word and row after row. While web pages research  shows that 79% of the participants in a test instead scan the text. The participants of the test stopped at specific words and phrases, and jumped further downwards the web-text. A later study shows that the share that scans digital texts is even larger when people read e-mail-newsletters. Which consequences do these results lead to for eLearning and for eBooks?

Background: The conclusion of the studies mentioned above that was performed by Nielsen Norman Group is that longer texts for the computer screen should be structured in a scan-friendly format. This means for instance marked keyword, relevant subtitles and one idea per section. In addition the number of the words in the text is very important and they recommend not more than half or rather even a smaller amount of words in comparison to a similar printed text. Instead the text should be complemented by hyperlinks and illustrations.

The test-results above can seem logical, thus not only that computers, tablets and smartphones, can provide conditions for using interactivity and multimedia etc, but to create an effective reading and learning environment those functions should be used. Unfortunately, too many producers have got stuck in the same problem which the early filmmakers did in the beginning of 20th century.

The first film producers created films as similar to a theater performance as they could. A fixed camera was placed by the scene and the actors were acting in front of it. After some time the producers found out that they could move the camera so the scenes could be filmed from different angles. Later they also realized that the film story did not have to follow a strict timeline but it could be cut into episodes that drove the story forward. Today, traditional educational materials and other books are being digitized in the same spirit where printed pages are being copied to a digital form. Practically that means for a majority of the readers a word-by-word-reading method in a scanning format.

Visual perception: Reading a printed page the effectiveness of learning depends on the student’s perception as well as interpretation skills of the text. Concerning a well structured website, for instance an eLearning module, the effectiveness of learning origins from visual perception, which means how the student interacts with the material. The studies consist of scanning texts, navigating forward to deeper knowledge and solving tasks that often generate immediate feedback etc. This is generally a much more active form of learning and more senses are involved.

Learning design in practice: In addition to this Olimpius Istrate, the author of the study “Visual and Pedagogical design of eLearning content”, gives the following advice for the development of eLearning modules. Since the content is interactive and multimedia-based, in other words it requires concentration and to some extent it is unpredictable, the structure should be characterized by predictability and regularity. It should consist of standardized design so the students can intuitively navigate and easily find relevant information. Olimpius Istrate, researcher at the Centre for Innovation in Education (TEHNE Romania), recommends finally that no more than 25-40% of each computer screen should consist of text. Accordingly there are important differences between a well-structured book page and a page for the computer screen which should support learning.

Written by
LarsGöran Boström©

Next week my new book with the title Learning Design in Practice for Everybody will be launched. The book includes four parts, first an introduction to learning design is presented including the latest trends, then I gradually building up the knowledge and practical skills by describing tools to use for emphatic human-centred and efficient learning design. In the third part the 6i model is presented that is focusing on best practice to succeed with your learning design project and it also works well for managing other forms of creative projects. While the fourth part focus on the Learning Designer, and today’s and future prospects within the field. The new section Learning Design here on eLearningworld can be seen as the fifth part of the book where continually stories, reviews and sponsored content will be published, for more information click here. To stay updated, let’s  connect on Linkedin and/or follow me on Twitter

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