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Education Research International
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 902809, 11 pages
Research Article

Cognitive Load of Learner Control: Extraneous or Germane Load?

1Centre for Instructional Psychology and Technology (CIP&T), KU Leuven, Dekenstraat 2, 3000 Leuven, Belgium
2ITEC-IBBT-KU Leuven Kulak, E. Sabbelaan 53, 8500 Kortrijk, Belgium
3Center for Medical Education, Faculty of Medicine,Herestraat 49, Box 400, 3000 Leuven, Belgium

Received 11 January 2013; Accepted 31 March 2013

Academic Editor: Gwo-Jen Hwang

Copyright © 2013 Mieke Vandewaetere and Geraldine Clarebout. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Computer-based learning environments become more tailored when learners can exert control over one or more parts of the learning process. Learner control (LC) demands additional efforts of learners because, in addition to learning, they also have to monitor that learning. As a consequence, LC may cause additional cognitive load and even cognitive overload. The central question in this study is what type of cognitive load is induced by LC and whether the experienced load is related to learning outcomes. For this study, half of the students had control over task selection, while the other half had not. Within each condition, students were assigned to a single treatment, with the primary task to solely focus on the learning content, and a dual treatment, comprising a primary task and a secondary task. The results indicate that LC did not impose higher cognitive load as measured by secondary task scores and mental effort ratings.