Media Effects Research Lab - Research Archive

Computer mediated learning: A comparative analysis of paper and computer and levels of interaction

Student Researcher(s)

Smita Chaturvedi (Ph.D Candidate); Ndidi Moses (Masters Candidate)

Faculty Supervisor

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar


Chaturvedi, S., & Moses, N. (2001, November). Computer mediated learning: A comparative analysis of paper and computer and levels of interaction . Paper presented to the 87th annual conference of the National Communication Association (NCA), Atlanta, GA.


Recent advances in educational technology are facilitating a shift from an industrial mass production model of distance education to personalized and individualized instruction with the potential of accommodating a variety of learning styles. The nature and mode of delivery has moved beyond mail delivered course packages, and now includes televised instruction, computer mediated lessons, computer assisted learning, computer conferencing and web based instruction. Our research is a modest attempt to answering the question of relationship between modes of delivery (print vs. Computer) and degrees of interaction (interaction vs. no interaction) on students' motivation levels, comprehension and perceptions of learning. Exploiting our technological capabilities to improve access to and opportunities for learning involves many players: educational practitioners and institutions, cognitive and social scientists, technology developers and providers, and policy makers. In order to fully address the issue of formulating the most comprehensive package for delivering distance education, we wanted to see if the combinations of modes of delivery and degrees of interaction produce any significant findings. Our research question was designed in part to fill the gap and provide a conclusive answer to the question:


For College students, controlling for lesson content, graphics, subject matter and font size, what is the relationship between mode of instruction and degrees of interaction and perception of lesson content and comprehension?


Forty-seven participants took part in a between ­ participants experiment, where they were exposed to one of the four versions of a lesson in nutrition, each with identical textual content but differing in the mode of delivery and levels of interaction. The four experimental conditions were: paper lesson with no interaction, paper lesson with interaction, computer lesson with no interaction, computer lesson with interaction. After exposure, they filled out a paper-and-pencil questionnaire eliciting their perceptions of the source, perception of learning, their motivational level, and their comprehension of the subject matter.


Participants who received the computer lesson scored significantly higher than those who received the paper lesson.

Participants who received the non-interactive version rated the lesson significantly more relevant than the participants who received the interactive version.

Participants who received the interactive version rated the lesson significantly less exciting than those who received the non interactive version.

Enrollment likelihood did not reveal significance. However, one item in the index did. For the item Improbable/Probable, there was a significant main effect found for mode of instruction, such that participants who received the computer-based lesson rated the lesson significantly higher that those who received the paper based version of the lesson.


Based on the results of this study it is apparent that distance education may be the most effective when lessons are provided on line, students not only had higher comprehension scores for computer based lessons, but they also were more motivated and more likely to enroll in a similar course. Moreover, the use of computers in classrooms might aid in increasing student's comprehension, and interest in the subject matter. Additionally, the results of this study suggested that participants found the interactive versions of the lessons, less relevant, less exciting but more useful. It is possible that while participants recognized the utility of interactive tools, they may have also needed time to grasp the information provided in the lesson plan without being provided with additional information. The introduction of interactive tools, too early in the lesson may distract the student from the lesson at hand, and make participants feel as if the lesson by itself is inadequate and unable to provide them with all the information they need.

For more details regarding the study contact

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar by e-mail at or by telephone at (814) 865-2173

More Articles From: