Effect of summarizing scaffolding and textual cues on learning performance, mental model, and cognitive load in a virtual reality environment: An experimental study (2023)


Virtual reality (VR) is a digital environment that simulates highly realistic three-dimensional visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, and interactive experiences (Di Natale et al., 2020), which increases students' positive feelings and facilitates their entire involvement in learning activities (Ustun, Karaoglan-Yilmaz, & Yilmaz, 2020). VR technology has increasingly been used in various disciplines, such as science (Boda & Brown, 2020; Huang, 2019; Parong & Mayer, 2018), history (Parong & Mayer, 2021), language (Acar & Cavas, 2020; Xie et al., 2019), biology (Pande et al., 2021), and medical education (Taggar, Foster, Li, & Bhagavath, 2022; Ustun, Karaoglan-Yilmaz, & Yilmaz, 2020), resulting in enlarged learning engagement, knowledge transfer, empathy, and learner agency (Calvert & Abadia, 2020; Shim, 2023; Villena-Taranilla et al., 2022; Xie et al., 2019). With the development of advanced technology, the immersion and interactivity of virtual reality have been greatly improved, yet it has not yielded desirable learning performance (Luo, Li, Feng, Yang, & Zuo, 2021; Wu et al., 2020). Several studies have argued that VR applications with low-cost head-mounted displays (HMDs) are more competitive in teaching practice (Geng et al., 2018; Vishwanath et al., 2017). Wu et al. (2020) and Luo et al. (2021) reached a similar conclusion after conducting a literature review and finding that the overall learning effect (Hedge's g) of immersion virtual reality (IVR) was smaller than that of desktop virtual reality (DVR).

The cognitive affective model of immersive learning (CAMIL) stated that “it is not the medium of IVR that causes more or less learning, but rather that which instructional strategy used in an IVR lesson” (Makransky & Petersen, 2021, p. 940). Summarizing, as a generative strategy, is commonly used in learner-oriented interventions and is considered as an effective instructional strategy. However, there is no consensus on its effectiveness in the IVR environment. The summarizing strategy requires learners to extract the main ideas from a lesson and make associations between related experience and existing knowledge with newly acquired knowledge stored in memory (Fiorella & Mayer, 2015). Existing studies have shown that generating a summary could enhance academic efficacy (Peterson & Roseth, 2016), students’ comprehension (Cordero-Ponce, 2000; Fiorella & Mayer, 2016), academic writing (Khazaal, 2019), and reading achievement (Hamida et al., 2012). However, most studies were conducted in traditional classrooms with non-immersive simulation interventions, while the effectiveness of VR-based teaching has been controversial. Parong and Mayer (2018) found that summarizing after VR instruction yielded positive impacts on science learning performance, while some scholars found that the summarizing strategy did not improve biology comprehension in colleges (Zhao et al., 2020). Additionally, most studies focused on summarizing strategies that were usually used with adult students (Parong & Mayer, 2018; Zhao et al., 2020). For young children who have difficulties identifying the main ideas in materials (Brod, 2021), whether summarizing strategies work for them has not been sufficiently investigated.

Applying visual cues in the presentation may guide learners’ attention to critical instructional material and enhance the effectiveness of summarizing strategies (Alpizar et al., 2020). However, visual cues may alleviate the pressure that young students to struggle to identify critical information on their own, as cues are utilized to guide learners to relevant information concerning the overall structure, simultaneously increasing essential processing (Mayer & Fiorella, 2014; Wang et al., 2020). Existing studies have investigated the positive effect of various cues, such as highlighting or underlining text in the document (Xie et al., 2019), using pointing gestures in 2D instructional videos (Pi et al., 2019), and adding visual cues in 3D animated videos (Huk et al., 2010). However, most research on cues was conducted with university students, whereas little research has been conducted with elementary school students (Alpizar et al., 2020; Zhang et al., 2023). Additionally, whether learners incur additional cognitive load in an IVR environment with added cues needs to be further explored.

Furthermore, most studies have evaluated VR-based instruction in terms of academic performance (e.g., recall, comprehension, retention, transfer), behavior, and emotion (Klingenberg et al., 2020; Luo et al., 2021), and few studies have focused on learners’ mental model. Here the mental model refers to a particular type of mental representation that can predict and explain phenomena and concepts in the world (Chen et al., 2015; Johnson-Laird, 1983; Lucas & Mai, 2022; Sharma, 2022) and that plays an important role in the development of learners' thinking. Moreover, the improvement in the mental model acquired in various simulated environments was inconsistent. For example, Chen et al. (2015) found that a dynamic 3D representation mode with spatial visualization rotation can significantly enhance learners' atomic orbital mental model, while the opposite finding was obtained in a 2D representation mode (Tuckey et al., 1991). It seems that whether learners' mental model can be improved in an immersive VR environment requires further research.

The purpose of this study was therefore to conduct a randomized experiment to explore the effectiveness of summarizing scaffolding and textual cues on learning performance, mental model, and cognitive load in a VR setting. This study also investigated the interaction effects of summarizing strategies and textual cues.

Section snippets

Summarizing strategy

Summarizing is an instructional strategy in which learners restate the main ideas of a lesson in their own words and is often used to help learners comprehend learning material. It is often used for lessons that are presented orally (e.g., lectures) or lessons that are presented with multiple media (e.g., slides, narrative animations, or printed text with illustrations). As one of the instructional strategies (summarizing, mapping, drawing imagining, self-testing, self-explaining, teaching, and


The participants were 152 fourth- and fifth-grade students (76 boys and 76 girls) from a suburban elementary school. The average age of the participants was 9.59 years (SD=0.49, min: 9, max: 10). Before the experiment, we obtained written informed consent from all the parents of the participants. The research protocol was approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB). Before the experiment, informal interviews were conducted with science teachers, as well as with several randomly selected

Learning performance

The analysis of the prior knowledge test showed that there was no significant difference in prior knowledge among the four conditions (C1: M=11.21, SD=3.86; C2: M=12.03, SD=3.71; C3: M=11.57, SD=4.18; C4: M=12.79, SD=4.10; F (3,148)=1.133, p=.338). We further analyzed the total score, retention, and transfer determined from the performance test. As shown in Table 2, the factorial ANOVA results indicated significant main effects of textual cues in three dimensions: total


This study investigated the effects of textual cues and summarizing scaffolding on students' learning performance, mental model, and cognitive load in a virtual reality environment with a randomized experiment. The statistical results supported the effectiveness of textual cues and summarizing scaffolding, and revealed the interaction between the two strategies. The specific findings on the effects of the two strategies on learning are discussed in detail below.

(Video) Evidence-Based Principles for Designing Effective Multimedia Instruction

Credit author statement

WenHao Li: Conceptualization, Methodology, Writing – Original Draft, Funding acquisition. Qinna Feng: Formal Analysis, Investigation, Writing – Original Draft, Visualization. Xiya Zhu: Investigation, Formal Analysis, Data Curation. Qiuchen Yu: Writing – Reviewing and Editing, Qiyun Wang: Writing – Reviewing and Editing, Supervision.


This work was supported by the Collaborative Innovation Center for Informatization and Balanced Development of K-12 Education by MOE of China and Hubei Province. [grant number xtzd2021-003].

Declaration of interest

There is no potential conflict of interest.

Recommended articles (6)

  • Research article

    A review of using multilevel modeling in e-learning research

    Computers & Education, Volume 198, 2023, Article 104762

    Improving e-learning involves various levels of supports. Accordingly, researchers usually adopt complex research designs with a multilevel structure or repeated measurements to capture a heuristic view of learners’ perceptions, comprehension, and behavior in e-learning settings. A total of 76 studies with Hierarchical Linear Modeling (HLM) as a multilevel modeling technique in 13 major e-learning journals from January 2000 to September 2022, published in the Web of Science, were reviewed. We assessed the applications of the following key criteria: reasons for using HLM, data characteristics, sample characteristics, model characteristics, variables used in the research, software use, and main technology used in the research. The results revealed that two-level models and random-intercept models are mostly used in multilevel model building. Moreover, most e-learning studies included two-level random intercept models with “students” as sampling units of analysis in Level 1, and “cognitive learning” (i.e., examination score, learning achievement) as the dependent variable in Level 1. Based on our review results, we provide suggestions and potential applications of using multilevel modeling in e-learning studies.

    (Video) Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty Full Audiobook English || Jay Shetty's Best Enlightenment Book
  • Research article

    Effects of practice schedules in video tutorials for software training

    Computers & Education, Volume 199, 2023, Article 104786

    The present study assessed the effectiveness of video-based tutorials for software training in which three practice schedules (i.e., blocked, interleaved and hybrid) were systematically varied. Forty-nine participants studied the video tutorials and engaged in task practice to learn advanced formatting tasks for Word. The conditions were compared for processing of the videos and effectiveness judgments. Also, self-efficacy and knowledge development were assessed. No effect of practice schedule was found on video processing measures (i.e., total time, unique play time, replays). Self-efficacy development was positive and significant. For untrained items this development favoured the hybrid over the interleaved practice schedule. Effectiveness judgments were favourable and similar for the three conditions. Both conceptual and procedural knowledge development (during and after training) was significant. No effect of practice schedule on these developments was found.

  • Research article

    “The influence of technological designs on teachers’ and students’ meaning-making: Semiotic chains configuring teaching and learning activities”

    Computers and Education Open, Volume 4, 2023, Article 100136

    (Video) OUHK - Measuring self-regulatory Processes During Learning with Advanced Learning Technologies

    The relationships between digital technologies and the realization of teaching and learning activities have received increased attention in interdisciplinary research. Knowledge of the connections between technological designs and users’ meaning making in semiotic chains is, however, still partial. Teachers’ and students’ remediation of technological designs through cognitive processing was studied in this paper to gain insights into semiotic chain configurations. Data consisting of video recordings, interviews, and observations were processed with quantitative content analysis and learning analytics strategies. The findings suggest that the technological design's visualized functions greatly affect the semiotic chain configuration when integrated with their users’ meaning making in lower-level actions. Technological designs seem to buttonize meaning making, and teaching and learning activities become technologized. Scaled cognitive processes can provide insights into differentiated meaning making according to the technologies, and perspectives on paralanguage are proposed.

  • Research article

    Video outperforms illustrated text: Do old explanations for the modality effect apply in a learner-paced fifth-grade classroom context?

    Computers & Education, Volume 199, 2023, Article 104775

    The modality effect occurs when people learn better from a combination of pictures and narration than from a combination of pictures and written text. Despite the strong empirical results in earlier studies, the modality effect has been less prominent in later studies of children in learner-paced settings. However, the generalizability of these results in practice may be limited because the studies included notable differences compared to a classroom context. The present study examined the modality effect in a learner-paced classroom context. In a within-subjects experiment, fifth graders learned from illustrated texts and videos and completed pre-, post-, and delayed tests on two science topics. The video group outperformed the illustrated text group in retention, delayed retention, cognitive load, and efficiency measures but there were no statistical differences in transfer. In both learning conditions, the cognitive load was moderate and did not correlate with any learning outcomes. The results suggest that while the modality effect can occur in a learner-paced classroom context, it may not be based on the avoidance of cognitive overload. Alternative explanations concerning the differences in settings and materials between classroom contexts and modality effect research are discussed.

  • Research article

    (Video) Best Practices for Literacy Learning in Place

    Promoting musical instrument learning in virtual reality environment: Effects of embodiment and visual cues

    Computers & Education, Volume 198, 2023, Article 104764

    While virtual reality (VR) provides a great potential for musical instrument learning, little attention has been paid to the instructional design in creating a VR musical instrument. Previous research has suggested that high embodied interaction or added visual cues (e.g., distinctive colors, flashing areas) on VR-based musical instrument may aid students' learning. In this study, we investigated the feasibility and efficacy of the embodied design (low and high level of embodiment; LoEmb and HiEmb) and visual cues (low and high level of visual cues; LoViz and HiViz) on students' musical instrument learning. Four corresponding virtual Chinese dulcimers (Yangqin) were thereby designed. A sample of 112 university students participated in our study, and they were randomly assigned into the four conditions (LoEmb & LoViz, LoEmb & HiViz, HiEmb & LoViz, and HiEmb & HiViz). Results showed that the LoEmb design benefited students' completion rate, the HiViz improved students' playing rhythmic accuracy. Both LoEmb and HiViz decreased students' playing errors and improved their overall performance. Moreover, we found that the HiViz and HiEmb designs had a combined effect on reducing students’ cognitive load and improving the instructional efficiency of learning material. These findings collectively reveal that the design of VR learning materials should carefully consider the trade-off between the level of embodiment and visual cues.

  • Research article

    The effect of teachers' self- innovativeness on accountability, distance learning self-efficacy, and teaching practices

    Computers & Education, Volume 199, 2023, Article 104777

    During COVID-19 pandemic the teachers were suddenly forced to change their teaching and use distance learning practices, and become innovative in their ways of teaching online. In the current study we sought to understand whether teachers considered themselves innovative and how this affected their distance learning self-efficacy, accountability, and distance learning teaching practices. Two hundred elementary and secondary school teachers from Israel were asked to fill in a questionnaire comprising the four abovementioned components. Findings indicated that it was teachers' self-innovativeness which had significantly influenced their distance learning self-efficacy, accountability, and distance learning teaching practices. Findings indicate that work experience directly affected self-innovativeness, and older, more experienced teachers perceived themselves as more innovative in adopting and using distance learning compared to less experienced ones. The second finding was that professional development affected distance learning teaching practices but had no effect on teachers' self-innovativeness. The study shows that increasing teachers' self-innovativeness may affect their self-efficacy and accountability and lead to better distance learning teaching practices. Therefore, it is suggested to change the focus of professional development programs to promoting teachers' self-innovativeness and encouraging them to create novel and tailored combinations of hybrid learning.

    (Video) Classics and Cognitive Theory - Session 2, October 27, 2016

© 2023 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


1. TSC2022 - POSTERS 2
(The Science of Consciousness (TSC) - Conferences )
2. Ten Years of the NIH SOBC Common Fund Program: Celebrating Accomplishments and Looking to the Future
(National Institute on Aging)
3. Phd Defence of Joy Yeonjoo Lee
(Maastricht University PhD Defenses)
4. Teaching Alternative Provision, Online by @TeacherToolkit
(Ross McGill)
5. [SAIF 2021] Day 1: Live streaming | Samsung
6. Andy Clark - Perceiving as Predicting (Public Opening Keynote Lecture)
(Latvijas Universitāte)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Duncan Muller

Last Updated: 10/09/2023

Views: 5783

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (79 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Duncan Muller

Birthday: 1997-01-13

Address: Apt. 505 914 Phillip Crossroad, O'Konborough, NV 62411

Phone: +8555305800947

Job: Construction Agent

Hobby: Shopping, Table tennis, Snowboarding, Rafting, Motor sports, Homebrewing, Taxidermy

Introduction: My name is Duncan Muller, I am a enchanting, good, gentle, modern, tasty, nice, elegant person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.