Learning and navigating in hypertext: Navigational support by hierarchical menu or tag cloud?

Jaap Walhout*, Saskia Brand-Gruwel, Halszka Jarodzka, Martin Van Dijk, Renate De Groot, Paul A. Kirschner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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As hypertext learning environments (HLE) are widely used in education, it is important to study and know the effects and consequences of its use. HLEs are non-linear which means that students have to develop ways of navigating through them. Thus, developing interfaces that facilitate and even guide navigation is important for learning. Research showed that successful learning in HLEs depends on both learner characteristics and HLE features. This study investigated an HLE navigation feature (navigational support with either a tag-cloud or conventional hierarchical menu), task complexity (fact-finding vs. information-gathering task) and a user characteristic (gender). Results show that neither navigational support nor gender is associated with differences in task performance. However, there are differences in information processing. Participants using a tag clouds looked longer at the navigational support and shorter at the overview pages. Combined with fewer revisits of webpages in the tag cloud condition, this indicates a more focused selection of pages. The deeper processing of information needed for the information-gathering task was reflected in fewer visits to, but longer viewing times of pages. As no differences in task performance were found, tag clouds seem to be as effective for performance as more traditional navigation structures for navigational support.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-227
Number of pages10
JournalComputer in Human Behavior
Early online date6 Feb 2015
Publication statusPublished - May 2015


  • hypertext learning
  • navigation behavior
  • gender differences
  • eye tracking

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