University of Jyväskylä

Multimedia technology teaches life science to Finnish first-graders

Researchers at the University of Jyväskylä have found that first-grade pupils can learn important educational content by using computers independently. The research results indicate that teaching based on digital educational material can be pedagogically meaningful for first- and second-graders, as long as the learning material is designed to adapt to the significant differences in learning readiness and previous knowledge among individual children.

During six sessions, administrated once in a week and lasting for about 20 minutes at a time, 63 first-graders studied the basics of life science using multimedia technology that combined speech, image and multiple-choice questions. In Finland, children start school at the age of 6 or 7. Their learning was measured at the beginning and end of the study.

When compared to the control exercises, learning was better in reasoning exercises related to the content taught with computers. Children with a weaker starting level learned more regardless of their reading and listening comprehension skills. Children also liked studying with computers.

The analysis of the mistakes children made produced interesting information on issues that should receive special attention in the development of electronic learning materials. For example, offering unambiguous rules and supporting them with illustrative examples seemed to enhance learning.

Researchers recommend that digital learning materials should be tested and modified sufficiently in the development phase until it is certain the material can produce satisfactory learning outcomes.

 “This would be an important area for collaboration between publishers and researchers,” says Postdoctoral Researcher Jarkko Hautala.

The study was conducted in cooperation with Boulder Learning, a research institute from the USA. The research project was part of the Science Across Virtual Institutes (2013–2014) programme funded by the Academy of Finland and the National Science Foundation, USA.  The article was published in the journal Educational Technology Research and Development.

Further information:

Jarkko Hautala, PhD (Psych.), Centre for Applied Language Studies, University of Jyväskylä

+358 40 805 3487,

Boulder Learning:


Hautala, J., Baker, D. L., Keurulainen, A., Ronimus, M., Richardson, U., & Cole, R. (2018). Early science learning with a virtual tutor through multimedia explanations and feedback on spoken questions. Educational Technology Research and Development, 66(2), 403-428.

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