A Neurophysiological Study of the Impact of Mind Wandering During Online Lectures
Lecture-format Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) were once thought to have the potential to permanently change higher education, though they did not live up to their original hype. Among the many posited reasons for this failure is MOOCs' inability to effectively leverage multimedia to meet users' cognitive demands, such as the need to prevent mind wandering. One of the challenges with establishing the impact of mind wandering in the online classroom is the difficulty of measuring it, due to the complexity of the mind wandering phenomenon. In this dissertation, two research questions are explored. The first question concerns the neurophysiology of mind wandering and how it can be measured in the first place. Two studies are described which employ electroencephalography (EEG) to measure attention-related brain responses to auditory stimuli as participants sat through an e-learning video. The studies employed different measures of self-report, which yielded different neurophysiological responses. However, the responses were demonstrated to distinguish on-task and mind wandering states, suggesting an effective neurophysiological measure of mind wandering and other attention-related constructs. The second research question concerns the impact of mind wandering on the efficacy of online lectures. We employ multiple measures of mind wandering to investigate this impact and successfully identified the negative impact that mind wandering has on rote learning. Though we do not explore which teaching strategies are most effective, the results suggest that teaching strategies which limit mind wandering may be able to improve rote learning outcomes. This leaves open possibilities for future research which explore such strategies for improving MOOC technology, but also for measuring attention-related information systems constructs.