Learners’ perceived information overload in online learning via computer-mediated communication

  • Chun-Ying Chen
  • Susan Pedersen
  • Karen L. Murphy
Keywords: information overload, computer-mediated communication, cognitive load theory, online discussion


Many studies report information overload as one of the main problems that students encounter in online learning via computer-mediated communication. This study aimed to explore the sources of online students’ information overload and offer suggestions for increasing students’ cognitive resources for learning. Participants were 12 graduate students from two online courses in the United States. Their learning experiences in both online discussions and on the course website were explored through semi-structured interviews. They also completed a background questionnaire that assessed three constructs that limit learner readiness and are likely to lead to online students’ perceived information overload: inadequate prior knowledge, inadequate English proficiency, and lack of technical skills for participating in computer-mediated communications. The findings suggest that varied learner characteristics led some students to be more susceptible than others to information overload. Emerging data-driven risk factors were: lack of efficiency in reading from computer screens, visual and auditory learning preferences, and time constraints. Difficulties associated with students’ perceptions of information overload are addressed and implications for course design are offered.

Keywords: information overload; computer-mediated communication; cognitive load theory; online discussion

DOI: 10.1080/21567069.2011.586678


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How to Cite
Chen C.-Y., Pedersen S., & Murphy K. L. (2011). Learners’ perceived information overload in online learning via computer-mediated communication. Research in Learning Technology, 19(2). https://doi.org/10.3402/rlt.v19i2.10345
Original Research Articles