Dr. Nathan Garrett Publishes in A-Level Journal and presents at the American Accounting Association Conference

Dr. Nathan Garrett, Associate Professor of Information Technology at Woodbury University, had his paper, “Segmentation’s Failure to Improve Software Video Tutorials,” accepted by the British Journal of Educational Technology. BJET is rated as an “A” journal by the Australian Business Dean’s Council. The paper tested a variety of videos, finding which formats helped students learn Excel conditional formatting. The best videos gave users control over the pacing of instruction, contradicting earlier findings.

Following is an abstract of his paper:

Segmentation reduces learners’ cognitive load by inserting system-controlled pauses into instructional animations and video.  However, many previous studies focus on conceptual knowledge, and do not allow users control over the pacing of instruction. This two-part experiment attempted to validate segmentation in the context of procedural software instruction by applying it to an Excel conditional formatting tutorial. Learners assigned to segmented video failed to show either improved knowledge transfer or decreased cognitive load.  Instead, learners using the videos were able to successfully use the pause and rewind features to manage their own cognitive load. This study shows the importance of providing users with control over the pacing of instruction, and with testing educational theories when applying them in a new context.

Professor Garrett also recently presented his research on Excel tutorials at the American Accounting Association’s first online meeting. The presentation, “Inflexible Thinkers: Results from an Excel Tutorial System,” showed students’ struggles with Excel formulas. While they were able to learn formulas in isolation, students had difficulty combining multiple formulas to solve problems.

This presentation reports on the second year of results from an interactive Excel formula trainer. Formula Trainer shows students how to write formulas through an adaptive browser-based system. The site walks students through basic math features, as well as a summary, text, date, and conditional functions.

Analyzing student activity logs from three different institutions shows that a major source of difficulty is brittle and inflexible learning. While most students can easily use an arithmetic operation or function in isolation, they struggle to combine them. For example, while most can easily increase a number by a decimal, many struggle to decrease it by a percentage. Similarly, using a mathematic operation inside of a ROUND function increases its difficulty.

Overall, students struggle with critical thinking and problem solving. Professor Garrett’s session shows examples of concepts that students find difficult, mapped into testable Knowledge Components. Participants leave with a better understanding of student struggles, and ideas on how to better teach Excel.

A video summary of the presentation can be found below.