How Deictic Gestures Impact Learning During an Online Lecture

Given the rapid growth of online learning resources, combined with recent research findings on the positive effects of observing gesture during a learning experience, these studies aimed to examine the impact of deictic gestures (i.e., pointing actions) on learning in an online lecture setting. For Experiment 1, participants viewed a short lecture video consisting of a recorded slideshow presentation in which a series of facts about DNA replication were listed on the slides (8 slides containing 4 facts each). Some facts were pointed to by either a human hand or a mouse cursor, some facts were narrated, some were pointed to and narrated, and the others were not narrated nor pointed to. We predicted that information associated with deictic gestures (pointing) will show improved recall on a post-test. We further predicted that the role of the hand may be important such that the embodied hand will be beneficial over the disembodied arrow. Results revealed a significant narration by pointing interaction; however, there was no effect of having a hand perform the pointing action. This was addressed in Experiment 2 by instructing participants to point along when they observed the pointing action in the lecture video. Experiment 2 replicated the interaction of pointing and narration, but there were no additional effects of the interactive pointing. These studies indicate that there are valuable effects of observing pointing when paired with speech, but mimicking that pointing does not add to those effects.