Investigating the presentation and format of instructional prompts in an electrical circuit analysis computer-based learning environment

Jana Reisslein, Robert K. Atkinson, Patrick Seeling, Martin Reisslein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Research has shown that providing instructional prompts in computer-based learning environments designed to support example-based learning fosters learning. In computer-based environments, where learners interact only with a computer and do not have access to direct support from a teacher, learners need to be provided with instructional prompts or just-in-time help intended to encourage more active example processing during learning. This study investigated whether it was more beneficial to provide the learners access to on-demand (self-regulated) help after they committed an error in problem solving or for the learning environment to regulate the presentation of instructional help externally. Furthermore, two different presentational formats - textual and pictorial - of instructional prompts were examined. This study was conducted with a computer-based learning environment that introduced high school students without any prior content-specific knowledge to the principles of parallel and series circuit analysis. Textual prompts facilitated practice problem solving notably better than pictorial prompts. Overall, textual-based prompts produced a large effect on near transfer. A significant format of prompts by academic ability interaction was discovered on near transfer. In particular, lower-ability learners scored significantly better when given textual prompts; whereas, their higher-ability counterparts performed equally well with both formats. Moreover, learners provided with externally regulated prompts reported significantly more positive attitudes toward the prompts in general compared to learners in the self-regulated conditions. Finally, continuous motivation was significantly stronger in learners who viewed textual prompts than in their counterparts in the pictorial prompt groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)531-539
Number of pages9
JournalIEEE Transactions on Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2005


  • Backward fading
  • Computer-based learning environment
  • Electrical circuit analysis
  • External control
  • High school
  • Instructional prompts
  • Learner control
  • Pictorial format
  • Textual format


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