This paper presents an experiment investigating the impact of context-relevant graphics on a knowledge sharing task in a technology-mediated collaborative (TMC) environment. The Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning (CTML) is introduced as the theoretical base for the hypotheses. The principles of multimedia and coherence from the CTML are used to hypothesize about the effectiveness of graphics embedded in TMC environments. Comprehension and transfer are used as dependent measures. Three TMC interface treatments were considered (no graphic, irrelevant graphic, relevant graphic). Hierarchical analysis of covariance (HANCOVA) comparing TMC treatments indicated no significant differences in comprehension; however, transfer scores for the TMC teams with context-relevant graphics were significantly higher than the other TMC teams. Although adding graphics to the collaborative interface improves the level of understanding developed within a group, the graphics need to be context relevant to be effective. These findings support the coherence and multimedia principles and provide guidance for designers of TMC environments.
Key words and phrases: cognitive theory , collaborative learning , computer-mediated communication , human-computer interaction , knowledge sharing , technology-mediated collaborative environments