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Applying Interleaving Strategy of Learning Materials and Perceptual Modality to Address Secondary Students' Need to Restore Cognitive Capacity.


Online courses are prevalent around the world, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Long hours of highly demanding online learning can lead to mental fatigue and cognitive depletion. According to Attention Restoration Theory, 'being away' or a mental shift could be an important strategy to allow a person to recover from the cognitive overload. The present study aimed to test the interleaving strategy as a mental shift method to help sustain students' online learning attention and to improve learning outcomes. A total of 81 seventh-grade Chinese students were randomly assigned to four learning conditions: blocked (by subject matter) micro-lectures with auditory textual information (B-A condition), blocked (by subject matter) micro-lectures with visual textual information (B-V condition), interleaved (by subject matter) micro-lectures with auditory textual information (I-A condition), and interleaved micro-lectures by both perceptual modality and subject matter (I-all condition). We collected self-reported data on subjective cognitive load (SCL) and attention level, EEG data during the 40 min of online learning, and test results to assess learning outcomes. The results showed that the I-all condition showed the best overall outcomes (best performance, low SCL, and high attention). This study suggests that interleaving by both subject matter and perceptual modality should be preferred in scheduling and planning online classes.

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