A Learning Strategy to Compensate for Cognitive Overload in Online Learning: Learner Use of Printed Online Materials

Shujen L. Chang
Kathryn Ley
University of Houston-Clear Lake


The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between achievement and the quantity of online course materials that students printed and the frequency with which they reported using them. One hundred thirty-two graduate students from one of 11 hybrid or online classes voluntarily completed a self-report survey asking how much they printed (0%, 25%, 50%, 75%, 100%), how often they used printed materials (almost never, rarely, sometimes, often, almost always), and preference for either print, onscreen, or none. Neither quantity printed nor frequency used was related to achievement. But learner preference was associated with achievement; onscreen preference learners had higher mean rank scores than print and no preference learners. There were no achievement differences between the online and hybrid learner groups. Learners, who printed more, used more and preferred print online materials and experienced more onscreen reading difficulty than learners who printed less. Learners who used print materials more preferred reading printed materials, had difficulty reading onscreen, and were older.

About the Author(s)...

Shujen L. Chang is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology in the School of Education at the University of Houston-Clear Lake and can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Dr. Chang's areas of research include cognition and instruction, instructional systems design, and online learning.

Kathryn Ley is an Associate Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Houston Clear Lake where she teaches graduate courses such as performance technology and distance education. She has conducted several studies in self regulation and published principles for designing self-regulation support.

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