A Matter of Background: How and When Does the Virtual Background in an Instructional Video Impact Learning?

  • Adriënne Kerckhoffs

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Together with the growing use of instructional videos in educational settings, comes an increased demand for concrete research-based principles concerning the design of such videos. This research explored whether a video’s background can visually distract students (i.e., affecting their visual information processing) and whether it affects their learning outcomes. In a between-group design, participants (N=47, age 14-17) were assigned to one of three conditions: video with a neutral, authentic, or off-topic background. Their prior-knowledge and working memory capacity (WMC) were measured, eye tracking data was recorded during the learning experience, and afterwards we measured learning outcomes and learning experience. In line with our expectations, the eye tracking revealed that a neutral background distracted the viewers the least, allowing them to pay better attention to relevant parts of the video. Also, learners found the off-topic background to be distracting, however, the negative effect on the learning outcomes did not reach statistical significance. Contrary to our expectations, we did not find a positive effect of the authentic background. Furthermore, the WMC level had a significant impact on visual information processing and learning outcomes. This research concludes that educators should preferably use a neutral background for their learning video’s, especially for learners with lower WMC.
Date of Award26 Jan 2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorHalszka Jarodzka (Supervisor)


  • Instructional video
  • Virtual background
  • Eye tracking
  • Working Memory Capacity

Master's Degree

  • Master Onderwijswetenschappen

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