Educators have long recognized the importance of acknowledging and accommodating learners’ individual differences in goals, capabilities, interests, and needs. A number of motivational, attitudinal, cognitive, affective and attentional factors have been studied to understand how people learn.
Multimedia learning has become the staple of 21st century learning and yet we know little about how these new nonlinear, media-intensive information formats influence attention, cognition, and learning within a diverse population including students with a wide range of attentional and cognitive differences. These differences may include such attentional and cognitive variables as
- visual attention span
- episodic memory
- phonological processing
- capacity of the working memory
- mental rotation
- inhibitory control
- set shifting
The current lack of emphasis on individual differences in multimedia learning research presents an important problem because 21st century learning is characterized by a) a drastic increase of blended and online learning approaches that rely heavily of multimedia materials, and b) the growing number of nontraditional learners in postsecondary education. Thus, a critical gap exists in understanding the effects of multimedia learning conditions on learners – when learners are characterized as unique individuals with significant differences in attention, cognition, and learning.