The effect of individual differences on learning outcomes through hypermedia-based instruction
This research investigated the effects of hypermedia instruction on learning
outcomes in the context of individual differences in learning styles. It showed that
hypermedia-enhanced instruction in an undergraduate engineering course, implemented
within a learner-centred framework, resulted in a significantly improved academic
achievement, as compared with traditional instruction. In addition, in exit surveys students
reported preference for the hypermedia-enhanced learning and teaching environment, and
high levels of satisfaction with it.
A survey of faculty teaching strategies provided a context for the findings,
revealing low levels of faculty educational development and low use of student-centred
strategies and instructional technology. A mismatch was identified between learning
preferences of the majority of students in the study and the reported prevalent traditional
teaching. The research showed that students whose learning needs were not consistently
supported by traditional instruction underachieved in such an environment.
Improved academic achievement in the study was linked to an increased
accommodation of student learning styles. Hypermedia-assisted environment was
particularly effective in improving academic performance of the previously under-achieving
students who disproportionately had learning styles that were not congruent with the
traditional instruction in their learning environment prior to taking the course in the study.
Not only was the achievement gap between them and their previously higher-achieving
peers reduced, differences in distributions of learning styles between these two populations
were significantly reduced as well.
This study contributes to the state of existing research on the impact of technology
on learning, where few empirical studies are conducted in authentic settings, particularly in
engineering education. In addition, the research offered significant support to the construct
validity of the Felder Model of Learning Styles, and to the reliability analysis of its
Though this research dealt with engineering education, its findings extend beyond
it. While educational technology is often seen as a panacea for problems in education, the
literature suggests that it is most effective within the learner-centred pedagogical paradigm,
and when thoughtfully integrated into the instructional design. The results support this point
of view and confirm that pedagogical considerations should precede any discussion of how
technology can enhance teaching.