The Effects of Captions on Deaf Students’ Content Comprehension, Cognitive Load, and Motivation in Online Learning.

My brother is deaf and I always have been fascinated with sign language. I am interested as to how sign language can be taught via online, which is why I chose this study.

This study was done in South Korea with 62 deaf adults. Half of them were exposed to online learning activities with subtitles (experimental) and the other half only had sign language (control). The results showed that those with captions tested higher than those without. I thought the method the authors used in selecting these 62 deaf adults to be alike in age and also their use of testing them prior using the Test of Proficiency in Korean was clever. The TOPIK is a vocabulary, writing and reading test for people who know Korean as a second language. It was very useful to use in trying to measure content comprehension throughout since they picked students that tested similar. If I would’ve done this study, I would’ve thought to use all students in one particular college class, but his approach was of more use.
“Most students with learning difficulties experience more problems with instructional design than with learning material (Mayer, 2009)”
I thought it was interesting that they weren’t able to notice much difference in measuring cognitive load and motivation in both groups. How do you measure that? The author defines cognitive load as “level of working memory load and cognitive effort”. In my opinion, using self reflecting questionnaires on memory load isn’t the right approach. Maybe having a segment of the online activities test memorization abilities. I don’t think measuring cognitive effort is the right approach for this particular study. Maybe the participants only did it for the prize and didn’t want to put much effort in it or consider the variation of intelligence affecting cognitive effort.
An argument I would propose to the study would be, how or to what standard do you measure literacy skills? I have minored in sign language and know that they have their own way they structure their sentences. To an English only speaker reading an ASL sentence, you would think they don’t know, but that is THEIR culture and their dialect. They omit certain things because that is how their language is. Just because a language is different, doesn’t mean it’s of a lesser knowledge ability.
For example, in English you would write: That black cat over there looks hungry.
In ASL you would write: Cat black, there (you would point over there so omit ‘over’ in sentence), hungry.
It is important when analyzing a persons language to not compare it to your own. Therefore, I also disagree with the authors last conclusion of designing the content for hearing people and then adding subtitles because then you are not taking into consideration their form of “dialect”. All the online media I used when minoring in ASL hired deaf actors, which I think should be what is a solution in designing online courses for deaf learners.

Two interesting vocabulary words I learned in this study:
modality effect- the presence of two types of visual information disperses a learners working memory which leads to cognitive overload”
redundancy effect- when the cognitive load rises subsequent to several items of information being delivered in an identical form


Yoon, J. & Minjeong, K. (2011). The effects of captions on deaf students’ content comprehension, cognitive load, and motivation in online learning. American Annals of the Deaf 156 (3), 283-289. doi:10.1353/aad.2011.0026

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