Animation of complex data communications concepts may not always yield
improved learning outcomes.
Greg Dowling, Alan Tickle, Karen Stark, Jillian Rowe, and Meredith Godat
Queensland University of Technology
GPO Box 2434, Brisbane, QLD 4001
The field of data and computer communications
networking uses an array of abstract concepts such as
encapsulation, protocol data units, virtual circuits etc. to
describe and explain the underlying processes. Various
studies, together with our own observations, strongly
indicate that students often find these concepts difficult to
learn, as they cannot easily be demonstrated.
A number of academics have described the animation
tools they have developed to illustrate such concepts and
almost invariably they comment on the favourable
reactions their efforts receive from their students.
However, it is difficult to find examples that anchor the
design of their animation offerings in the principles of
good instructional design and few conduct rigorous
evaluations to see if there has been a genuine and
measurable improvement in student understanding of the
basic concepts being illustrated.
Our work does both. We have designed an animation tool
contemporary work on instructional design, particularly
the work of Mayer (2003). Two versions of the animation
were produced, one with narration and the other with
narration and additional on-screen text. We randomly
assigned 110 first year undergraduate students to view a
version of the animation. A pre and post test was used to
determine if, in fact, improved learning actually occurred
and which version of the animation produced the better
outcome. Initial analysis of results indicates no statistical
difference between the scores for the two versions and
that animations, by themselves, do not
necessarily improve student understanding.
Keywords: multimedia, animation, evaluation, data