I recently came across some research that was done on how much people actually remember from PowerPoint slides and got to thinking... Might these findings also have some application to online content written for delivery via a learning management system like eCampus?
a poverty of attention.”
—Herbert Simon, Nobel Prize laureate
Dr. Carmen Simon of Rexi Media has published a white paper on the subject titled "Are You Memorable?"
The Isolation Effect
"One of the ways to enable content to stand out and be potentially more memorable is to make it incongruent with the rest of the context in which it is provided. This technique is known as the distinctiveness or isolation effect in memory."— Are You Memorable? Rexi Media
The study took a deck of 20 PowerPoint slides containing one point per slide and displayed them to research subjects in different ways. One deck was text only. Another included neutral images with the text. Another replaced the neutral images with emotional ones. Still other decks isolated some information by changing something every so many slides.
The study found that no matter how they presented the slides, people remembered an average of 4 slides. That's it. 20%. They did see a statiistically significant difference in the recall of slides after neutral images were added. But still the actual recall rate was the same—4 slides.
The thing that stuck out most for me, though, was that isolation effect placement did make a difference in which slides got remembered most. It didn't work with just any arrangment in the deck. They tried every 3rd slide, every 4th slide, etc. and got no change. But, when they placed the isolated information every 5th slide, those particular slides (5, 10, 15, 20) were recalled at a higher rate than the others. When slides were changed in the 3rd or 4th positions they were actually remembered less!
Now, I'm familiar with the idea that 7 plus or minus 2 was the number of things people can store in short-term memory. I've also heard that 3 is the maximum points m ost people can remember. This study, though, led the researchers to conclude that there's some kind of magic in the 4±1 combination when it comes to long-term memory.
So, should we consider this when constructing the pages of a learning module in eCampus? Certainly seems like an idea worth trying. So how many pages will people remember from your online course?