Hypermedia as an Educational Technology: A Review of the Quantitative Research Literature on Learner Comprehension, Control, and Style

Andrew Dillon, Ralph Gabbard
1998 Review of Educational Research  
By virtue of its enabling rapid, nonlinear access to multiple forms of information, hypermedia technology is considered a major advance in the development of educational tools to enhance learning, and a massive literature on the use of hypermedia in education has emerged. The present review examines the published findings from experimental studies of hypermedia emphasizing quantitative, empirical methods of assessing learning outcomes. Specifically, the review categorizes this research into
more » ... e themes: Studies of learner comprehension compared across hypermedia and other media effects on learning outcome offered by increased learner control in hypermedia environments, and the individual differences that exist in learner responses to hypermedia It is concluded that, to date, the benefits of hypermedia in education are limited to learning tasks reliant on repeated manipulation and searching of information and are differentially distributed across learners depending on their ability and preferred learning style. Methodological and analytical shortcomings of the literature limit the generalizability of all findings in this domain. Suggestions for addressing these problems in future research and theory development are outlined In recent years, the emergence of digital documents has progressed from word-processed text, through stand-alone hypermedia, to the World Wide Web. With each new stage of technological development, the lessons learned from user studies of previous technologies tend to be overlooked. With one eye on the future, many educators and literary scholars are predicting nothing less than a paradigm shift in the manner in which we understand the learning experience and the education process as a result of hypermedia technologies in general and the World Wide Web in particular. For example, Landow (1992) writes: "Electronic linking shifts the boundaries between one text and another as well as between the author and the reader and between the teacher and the student" (p. 33). In a similar vein, Dryden (1994) argues that hypermedia environments can indeed promote the appreciation of literature (and of texts in other disciplines) as they nurture the growth of the learner in intellect and spirit. [Furthermore,] hypermedia has the potential to transform the structure of both classrooms and entire institutions-schools and universities-and to make the teaching and practice of literate thinking and behavior a truly democratic enterprise that respects and serves the needs of both the individual learner and the larger community of learners. (p. 284) We would like to acknowledge the insightful comments of the anonymous reviewers and Carl Grant, who suggested changes, raised caveats, and caused us to focus the emphasis of this review considerably.
doi:10.2307/1170600 fatcat:25zxkm2cajcmfk4sdn5vjx5l7a