Multimedia learning

Multimedia learning is the common name used to describe the cognitive theory of multimedia learning[1][2][3] This theory encompasses several principles of learning with multimedia.


The Modality principle

When information is in fact better remembered when accompanied by a visual image.[4] Baddeley and Hitch proposed a theory of working memory in 1974 which has two largely independent subcomponents that tend to work in parallel - one visual and one verbal/acoustic.[5] This allows us to simultaneously process information coming from our eyes and ears. Thus a learner is not necessarily overwhelmed or overloaded by multimodal instruction, and it can in fact be beneficial.

The finding that items presented both visually and verbally are better remembered gave rise to dual-coding theory, first proposed by Paivio and later applied to multimedia by Richard Mayer and his associates. Mayer has shown learners are better able to transfer their learning given multimodal instruction. Mayer explains the modality effect from an information processing/cognitive load perspective.

In a series of studies Mayer and his colleagues tested Paivio’s dual-coding theory, with multimedia. They repeatedly found that students learning given multimedia with animation and narration consistently did better on transfer questions than those who learn from animation and text-based materials. That is, they were significantly better when it came to applying what they had learned after receiving multimedia rather than mono-media (visual only) instruction. These results were then later confirmed by other groups of researchers.

Initially the instructional content of these multimedia learning studies was limited to logical scientific processes that centered on cause-and-effect systems like automobile braking systems, how a bicycle pump works, or cloud formation. But eventually it was found that the modality effect could be extended to other domains, which were not necessarily cause-and-effect based systems.

Information then can and should be encoded as both as visually and auditory (narration). If verbal information is encoded auditorily it reduces the cognitive load of the learner and they are better able to handle that incoming information. Mayer has since called this the “Modality effect,” or the Modality Principle. This was one of the many principles of his “Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning”[1].

The Redundancy principle

According to this principle: "Students learn better from animation and narration than from animation, narration, and on-screen text."[3]

Thus it’s better to eliminate redundant material. This is because learners do not learn as well when they both hear and see the same verbal message during a presentation. This is a special case of the split attention effect of Sweller and Chandler.

Other Principles

  • Spatial Contiguity Principle - "Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented near rather than far from each other on the page or screen."[3]
  • Temporal Contiguity Principle-"Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively."[3]
  • Coherence Principle - "Students learn better when extraneous material is excluded rather than included."[3]
  • Individual Differences Principle- "Design effects are stronger for low-knowledge learners than for high knowledge learners, and for high-spatial learners rather than for low-spatial learners."[3]

Challenges to the Application of Principles

Not all research has found that the principles of multimedia learning apply generally outside of laboratory conditions. In their study, adding approximately 50% additional extraneous but interesting material did not result in any significant difference in learner performance.[6]

See also


  1. ^ a b Mayer, R. E.; R. Moreno (1998). "A Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning: Implications for Design Principles". 
  2. ^ Moreno, R., & Mayer, R. (1999). "Cognitive principles of multimedia learning: The role of modality and contiguity". Journal of Educational Psychology 91 (2): 358–368. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.91.2.358. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Mayer, R. E. (2001). Multimedia learning. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-52178-749-1. 
  4. ^ Paivio, A. (1971). Imagery and verbal processes. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. 
  5. ^ Baddeley, A.D.; G.J. Hitch (1974). "Working Memory". In Bower, G.A.. The psychology of learning and motivation: advances in research and theory. 8. New York: Academic Press. pp. 47–89. 
  6. ^ Muller, D. A.; Lee, K. J., & Sharma, M. D. (2008). uller.pdf "Coherence or interest: Which is most important in online multimedia learning?". Australasian Journal of Educational Technology 24 (2): 211–221. uller.pdf. Retrieved October 19, 2008. 

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