Research on the effects of learning using computer screens has yielded mixed results. On one hand, there are studies (e.g., Daniel & Woody, 2013) that suggested poorer performance when reading on screen than on paper. On the other hand, there are studies (e.g., Margolin, Driscoll, Toland, & Kegler, 2013) that suggested no differences in performance between reading on screen and on paper. Sidi, Shpigelman, Zalmanov, and Ackerman (2017) hypothesized that poor performance on screen is an effect of cues that make shallower processing legit. They argued that task characteristics provide hints for shallower processing leading to actual shallower processing on screen. They tested their hypothesis in three experiments.
The first experiment examined the effect of time pressure on solving problems on screen and on paper. Results of the first experiment showed that time pressure only affected the on-screen group and not the on-paper group. Students in the on-screen group who were faced with time pressure performed worse and were more overconfident than the on-paper group who were faced with time pressure. The second experiment examined the effect of perceived importance on solving problems on screen and on paper. Students were told to work on a practice task before the main task. Similarly, the results showed that reduced perceived importance when task was framed as a practice only affected the on-screen group and not the on-paper group. Students in the on-screen group were less successful and more overconfident than the on-paper group when the task was perceived as less important. The third experiment extended the first experiment by using a task that requires less text comprehension. The results supported the first experiment as students in the on-screen group were more overconfident under time pressure than the on-paper group. However, there were no differences in performance across the different conditions.
All in all, the results from the three experiments suggest that metacognitive processes in terms of students’ overconfidence is susceptible to task characteristics on screen than on paper. Time pressure and framing a task as less important signals the option of shallower processing when completing a task on screen. By comparison, completing task on paper typically signals deep processing regardless of task characteristics. Therefore, when designing on-screen tasks, practitioners should pay particular attention to cues that signal the option for shallower processing and differentiate them from cues that signal the need for in-depth processing. In this way, students will not be cued to process the information in a shallow manner which in turn affect their metacognitive processes and performance.
Daniel, D. B., & Woody, W. D. (2013). E-textbooks at what cost? Performance and use of electronic v. print texts. Computers & Education, 62, 18-23. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2012.10.016
Margolin, S. J., Driscoll, C., Toland, M. J., & Kegler, J. L. (2013). E‐readers, Computer Screens, or Paper: Does Reading Comprehension Change Across Media Platforms?. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 27(4), 512-519. doi:10.1002/acp.2930
Sidi, Y., Shpigelman, M., Zalmanov, H., & Ackerman, R. (2017). Understanding metacognitive inferiority on screen by exposing cues for depth of processing. Learning and Instruction. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.learninstruc.2017.01.002