One size does not fit all: older adults benefit from redundant text in multimedia instruction
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The multimedia design of presentations typically ignores that younger and older adults have varying cognitive strengths and weaknesses. We examined whether differential instructional design may enhance learning in these populations. Younger and older participants viewed one of three computer-based presentations: Audio only (narration), Redundant (audio narration with redundant text), or Complementary (audio narration with non-redundant text and images). Younger participants learned better when audio narration was paired with relevant images compared to when audio narration was paired with redundant text. However, older participants learned best when audio narration was paired with redundant text. Younger adults, who presumably have a higher working memory capacity (WMC), appear to benefit more from complementary information that may drive deeper conceptual processing. In contrast, older adults learn better from presentations that support redundant coding across modalities, which may help mitigate the effects of age-related decline in WMC. Additionally, several misconceptions of design quality appeared across age groups: both younger and older participants positively rated less effective designs. Findings suggest that one-size does not fit all, with older adults requiring unique multimedia design tailored to their cognitive abilities for effective learning.
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