As part of virtual micro courses that will be taking place throughout the semester, Carnegie Mellon faculty will be giving virtual lectures open to the CMU-Q community. DJ Brasier, Associate Teaching Professor and Assistant Department Head for Graduate Affairs in Biological Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University will be speaking on, “What is the optimal distribution of assets in an online learning module”.
In this study we investigated the optimal placement of animations and practice and feedback exercises with respect to each other and to static text and graphics in an online DNA replication module. We randomly assigned students in a first-semester introductory biology course for freshman biology majors and non-majors to one of four online modules with animations and practice exercises (assets) either embedded with the text & images or saved until the end after all the text & images. Although we expected to find that embedding assets with text & images would improve learning outcomes, we were surprised to find that outcomes did not change with the location of these assets with respect to the text & static images. Instead, we found that co-location of exercises with animations were correlated with the biggest student learning gains, independent of where these assets appeared relative to the static text and static images. This held true both for immediate posttest scores and delayed application questions on a midterm exam. Our findings could have potential implications for how to best design online learning modules that feature multiple assets.