Collaborative note-taking affects cognitive load: the interplay of completeness and interaction
Studies showing improved learning performances for students who take notes collaboratively have speculated that sharing this task among group members may reduce the extraneous cognitive burden placed on each member. Therefore, a study (n=171) was conducted in the context of a fipped scientifc writing course to examine the efects of
collaborative note-taking on student’s levels of cognitive load. Students in the course were divided into two groups, with members of the treatment group being directed to take collaborative notes in a shared online document and members of the control group receiving no such instructions. The study also measured the level of collaboration the collaborative note-takers engaged in, as well as the level of completeness of the notes that they produced.
The results showed that, frstly, the treatment group reported higher levels of both germane and extraneous cognitive load compared to those of the control group, meaning that collaborative note-takers experienced higher levels of understanding of course content as well as increased confusion. Secondly, the level of collaboration was positively and signifcantly correlated with levels of germane load (understanding), but not with extraneous load (confusion). Thirdly, no correlation was found between completeness of notes and cognitive load. Accordingly, the authors suggest that collaborative note-taking is worthwhile, as the gains to students’ understanding of course content outweigh the disadvantages of increased confusion.