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Digital instructional tools develop rapidly, and they can create novel learning experiences. Still, adoption of new formats is often expensive, and their efficacy is untested. Whiteboard animations are an increasingly popular form of educational media. Although recent research in the development of whiteboard animations is rich, there is a lack of understanding of learner experiences with this type of animation. The purpose of this study is to provide concrete scientific evidence for the impact on retention and subjective experiences of enjoyment, engagement, and challenge. We recruited participants from Amazon's Mechanical Turk (N = 621; 239 females). We used a between-subjects design with participants assigned randomly to one of four instructional conditions: whiteboard animation, electronic slideshow (i.e., sequential images with narration), audio (i.e., narration) only, and text only. For learning experiences, we also introduce a novel behavioral measure of engagement alongside participant self-reports by eliciting continuation values with diminishing compensation. Using repeated measure ANOVAs to test effect of lesson format on subjective experiences and one-way ANOVAs to test the effect of lesson format on retention, we found that whiteboard animations have a positive effect on retention, engagement and enjoyment, although we do not rule out the possibility that some of this result is due to novelty.
Overall, we found significant positive effects of the use of whiteboard animation in conveying physics lessons. These findings are consistent with studies on the effects of emotional design on learning and subjective experiences. They address the call to understand how affective and motivational factors can be incorporated with cognitive factors for better understanding of how people learn from multimedia presentations. While encouraging, these findings suffer from some shortcomings: the lessons are all in one topic area, and the narration is, from the outset, conceived with animation accompaniment in mind, which may unfairly represent the other formats. This is a general enigma of media comparison studies; if you use the same material in all contexts, it may skew in favor of the context for which it was originally designed. If you don't use the same material you cannot guarantee uniformity of experience. We are conducting a follow up study to test the generality of our findings using RSE videos. RSE videos are whiteboard animations over direct audio from TED talks. This will generalize our findings in two important ways: (1) across topic domains, and (2) across “input material.” Unlike the Minute Physics videos, TED talks cover a vast array of topic areas. A potential limitation of existing multimedia principles is their focus on STEM fieldsdour follow-up study will provide a direct response to this concern. Second, since the material is taken from TED talks, there is no potential for inherent bias of the content in favor of animations. A positive result would provide strong evidence for the broad applicability of animations across different content domains for education.