Bergeron & Obeid (1995). Temporal issues in the design of virtual learning environments.

Bergeron, B., & Obeid, J. (1995). Temporal issues in the design of virtual learning environments. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 4(2), 127–45.

“… it is the perceived manner and rate of temporal progression and event duration that directly influences realism and educational effectiveness. … computer-based educational applications provide a means of changing the perception of time through automatic manipulation of the user interface, content difficulty, technical complexity, and other areas that can be defined by the application author. In addition, a complex set of subjective variables, including the user’s attention span, interest in the subject matter, and a variety of personal factors, can distort the intended perception of time. Although subjective variability cannot be avoided, temporal cues can be used to provide users with an idea of the present moment, the rate and manner of time passage, the time remaining, whether time is considered an absolute or relative quantity, a historical perspective on what has occurred. Authors should be aware of the user’s perception of time and how this perception can be used to support the educational process.” (p 127)

“… time is a medium that binds all events and content into a cohesive and believable environment.” (p 128)

“It may be advantageous to distort time, that is, to have time seem to pass more slowly, more rapidly, reverse, or jump to an earlier or later point, depending on the author’s pedagogical goals. An author’s ability to control or at least modulate a user’s perception of time within a synthetic environment is especially critical in educational settings where cause and effect relationships are being taught …” (p 128)

“… when it is desirable to stress the user, as in some testing situations, the time between successive events can be shortened, thereby increasing the time pressure and adding to the stress associated with working through the challenge.” (p 128)

“Slowing the apparent progression of time can minimize user stress or focus the user’s attention on a process that may be difficult to learn when experienced in real-time …” (p 129)

“Another consideration related to the perception of time is that of forgetting or temporal decay.” (p 129)

“Several factors affect the subjective passage of time and duration of events, including the actual rate of progression, the task or content complexity, the degree of user interest and involvement, the user’s physical and mental state (which may be influenced by sickness and other personal factors), time constraints, and the nature of the available navigation tools.” (p 129)

“It is now generally recognized that there are subjective distortions in how time is perceived, and that most of these distortions deal with individual differences in how duration is experienced (Friedman, 1990).” (p 130)

“It has been reported that time appears to pass more slowly if subjects know in advance that they will be judged or tested, that is, duration seems longer in prospective versus retrospective conditions (Block & George et al., 1980; Brown, 1985; Miller, Hicks et al., 1978). … Of course, there continue to be important cultural differences in the perception of time in general and in certain social setting, for example, what constitutes a reasonable delay in the West is very different from what is acceptable in the East (Nakakoji Slife, 1993).” (p 130)

“Exploration and discovery learning are generally enhanced by providing users with a readily apparent means of moving to the end of a simulation, returning to the start of a sequence, or otherwise distort simulated time.” (p 133)

“Bar displays, when properly configured, can provide a richer and more informative indication of time than displays modeled after conventional devices. … Bar displays can be much more data dense than conventional displays, for example, bar displays can provide cues on the time remaining, time since the start, and on the relative progression of time. … However, because bar displays may be unfamiliar to users with little exposure to computers, some initial training on these displays may be necessary before they can be used in a testing or educational application.” (p 134)

Selected References

  • Block, R. & George, E., et al. (l980). A watched pot sometimes boils: A study of duration experience. Acta Psychologica, 46, 81-94.
  • Brown, S. (1985). Time perception and attention: The effects of prospective and retrospective paradigms and task demands on perceived duration. Perception and Psychophysics, 38, 115-124.
  • Friedman, W. (1990). The mind’s timekeepers. In About Time: Inventing The Fourth Dimension (9-26). Cambridge: MIT Press.
  • Miller, G. & Hicks, R., et al. ( 1978). Effects of concurrent verbal rehearsal and temporal set upon judgment of temporal duration. Acta Psyclologica, 42, 173-179.
  • Nakakoji, K. (1994). Crossing the cultural boundary. Byte, 19(6), 107-109.
  • Slife, B. (1993). Time and psychological explanation. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.


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