E-learning is a burden for the deaf and hard of hearing

Here, we aimed to investigate how an e-learning environment, such as an online class, might differently affect the participant groups in this study, with focus on fatigue assessment, and performance. We recruited participants from three distinct groups, DHH participants, hearing participants, and a control group. We applied different instruments at different timings. The FAS and a Visual art literacy test when recruiting participants and a VAS at a post-task moment. The Visual art literacy test was used to assess the knowledge and understanding of the language and codes of the visual arts, without the influence of the subsequent experimental procedures. The three groups did not present any differences in such knowledge so we could assume that the putative differences in the performance post-task test would be due to how they were able to acquire and process the information conveyed during the online class. The FAS was used to obtain an initial baseline of everyday life fatigue and concerning the FAS questionnaire results, the DHH group revealed subtle higher rates, but no statistical differences were found between the three groups. The use of PSL was an important factor in the selection of participants due to the multimodal and bilingual nature of the instructional material used in the online class. Here, this variable does not seem to impact DPSL in daily fatigue when compared to the DHH group. As we didn’t find statistically relevant differences between groups, our FAS results differ from previously described self-reported results by groups of hearing-impaired individuals, ie, listeners with hearing loss that reported high levels of listening effort wherein the experimental design included the use of FAS39. In fact, previous literature states that, daily, DHH adults report higher fatigue rates in a consistent way, associated with sustained visual attention combined with listening effort to grasp environment information and respond to cognitive tasks.1,2,3,6,13. It is possible that the tasks that lead to such fatigue are more strenuous (such as an online class) than the daily tasks experienced by our participants. Indeed, when attending the VAS scores (mental and physical), the DHH have the highest post-task fatigue scores and significantly differ from the Control group. The DHH group have the closest maximum values ​​between mental and physical fatigue, indicating the relationship between the two fatigue dimensions in a post-task moment involving cognitive demands.

Furthermore, our results reveal an association between post-task fatigue rates and lower performance scores for the DHH. Optimal methods and tools used in the classroom, to direct and maintain visual attention, can prevent DHH students from visual attention strays and keep the connection to the delivered information that, otherwise, becomes tenuous increasing potential mental fatigue40. Again, the differences are significantly bigger when compared with the non-PSL user hearing participants. Here, and diverging from the FAS results, the PSL variable seems to have contributed to an increase in both mental and physical fatigue of the hearing group. Previous literature shows that individuals have a limited processing capacity and must select relevant information from the multitude of available sensory input. This limitation is evidenced in the attention processing mechanism such as divided attention as it relates to the optimal allocation of resources between different sets of input by splitting or rapid shifting of the attentional focus, given the inability to process stimuli in one or several sensory modalities in parallel41. This process becomes more difficult with the quantity and complexity of the component tasks, suggesting that dividing attention between simultaneous stimuli intensifies and recruits additional neurocognitive resources, and may lead to limitations on attention span and cognitive load management.17.20. Also, bilingual bimodal individuals might have experienced here the processing of code-blending stimuli (speech and sign simultaneously) which is analogous to a cognitive demanding sociolinguistic code-switching in communication ie, it is harder to suppress a second language when that second language uses a different modality15.41. PSL individuals might have tried to suppress PSL to pay attention to the oral language (or the opposite), trying a complete suppression of the non-selected language and thus experiencing higher levels of fatigue.

According to the literature, visuospatial attention is altered by early deafness but, interestingly, research about the gaming experience with DHH adults has proven that training visual peripheral responses in gaming (videogames) have an important role in the achievement of better visuospatial attention control, that is, the type of response to gaming challenges might contribute to minor potential visuospatial distractions. However, in our online class, which strongly differs from a traditional classroom context, we acknowledge the inherent problems of the distribution of visual attention, since all the information conveyed was relevant, contrary to the studied effect of the video game experience, which manages to train visuospatial attention by a combination of relevant-irrelevant visual stimuli using Flanker tasks42.

We consider that, in our research, the augmentation of the attention stray and split-attention effect occurred in tandem with poorly designed instructional/educational materials, namely the inadequate design of multimedia instructional resource.17,18,19,20. In fact, this effect was confirmed by the VAS fatigue scores, as we consider having presented an ecological e-learning situation which hardly meets the needs of DHH students, due to its problematic simultaneous stimuli input, with no concern for interactivity situations between presenter and participant, pauses between contents, opportunities to evoke and consolidate information and diversity in the designed modality for content presentation (eg , screen display elements).

Also emphasized before, test performance times were, on average, similar in the 3 groups. These data lead to an unavoidable analysis of the issue of the duration of assessment moments in classes with DHH students as, in this case, no time limit was imposed to complete the task, and an extension period would not have positively influenced test scores for the DHH: this group performed the worst of the 3 groups and presented the highest fatigue rates.

From our analysis, the consistency of results between DHH and PSL group also stands out: the levels of mental and physical fatigue in post-task effort relate to lower performance scores, ie, PSL nonusers feel less fatigue and achieve better performance scores.

Interestingly, an innovative dimension of our study emphasizes the situation of the hearing participants PSL users, mostly working as Sign Language Interpreters. We showed that for slight non-significant lower levels of daily fatigue (FAS), similar fatigue levels are obtained at post-task, when compared to DHH, as well as lower performance scores in the performance test. It is possible that this group (PSL) might have felt a similar cognitive overload and a subsequent fatigue sensation due to the limitations of the divided attentional mechanisms. That is, as they are PSL users and fluent in the dimension of oral Portuguese, the integration of information through simultaneous multimodal channels made it difficult to grasp the contents of the online class.

It should be noted that the relationship between stress and burnout in Sign Language Interpreters has been established in the literature confirming burnout dimensions such as emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and personal accomplishment.43. Although interpreters work situation may vary (eg, daily working hours, different schedules, working location/setting), research has looked closely to some occupational demands that suggest possible predictors of stress and burnout in educational interpreters, such as workload, responsibility, perceived control , and co-workers support, among others. Investigation shows that educational interpreters experience high work demands, which are congruent with our experiment results, as these 2 groups might have been impacted by levels of distractibility with subsequent out-turn on both fatigue and test performance scores.

Concomitantly, our results are consistent with the literature review regarding the risk of ineffectiveness of poor or inadequate multimedia resources for the DHH population.17, twenty. We have also confirmed the need, according to the available literature, of optimizing interactive cognitive in multimedia instructional design, as they help in creating more flexible tasks and engaging learning dynamics, different cognitive demands as well as the opportunity to control fatigue through breaks and recovery. time8,22,23,24,25.

Overall, our results indicate levels of mental and physical fatigue consistent with research in the field of deafness and cognitive load.19,21,23,24and the consequent constraints on the maintenance of attentional mechanisms10.12 in demanding cognitive tasks. Together, our results seem to show that, when DHH are asked to visualize the multimedia stimulus in the format presented in our research, there is a combination of factors that negatively affect both the apprehension of the conveyed information and simultaneously lead to an increase in levels. of mental and physical fatigue. In line with previous research, our study sheds light into the attentional split mechanism affecting hearing participants who use PSL (bimodal and bilingual) but that does not seem to interfere with PSL non-users, on post task fatigue rates or performance scores.41.

Given the frequent exposure of learning situations in the e-learning modality during the last two years with periods of confinement due to pandemic for COVID-19, we are aligned with research in the field of communication technologies and multimedia instructional material for DHH students, that assert the need to reconsider the limitation imposed by the combination of audio/video channels as unquestionable assumptions on which multimedia design theories and principles are based14,17,18. Our findings state a clear association between cognitive load and low achievement ie, whenever cognitive load increases, the apprehension and memorization of the conveyed concepts decreases. In our study, in addition to the mental dimension, CL is also self-reported in terms of physical fatigue. These results are confirmed by the principles of Cognitive Load theory and outline the importance of prioritizing the assumptions upon which Cognitive theory of multimedia learning stands on the design of educational materials that reduce CL, enhancing effective learning17,20,21,24,25.

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