1 Coherence Principle

Last week I let you know that we would be looking at the 12 Multimedia Principles, and we’ll get started this week with the Coherence Principle.  The Coherence Principle means eliminating extraneous words, pictures, and sounds.  When this is done there is a deeper understanding of material presented.  

To start looking at this principle it is important to note that:

  • a student does not have an unlimited capacity to learn, 
  • that students do not only have one channel for processing information, and
  • that students are not “passive learners” where you can continually feed them information which is recorded in their brain.

Just a bit more before we get to the Coherence Principle…. let me tell you a bit about how the brain takes in information.

Picture showing that processing information goes from the Multimedia presentation, enters the brain through sensory memory of ears and eyes, into working memory, and finally to long-term memory.
Multimedia goes through “memory stores” – Sensory Memory, Working Memory, and Long-Term Memory.

In reality all learners have “memory stores.”  When a multimedia presentation is shared, learners have two channels, which exist for gaining information via the sensory memory. The words and pictures that go through here are only seen and heard for just a brief moment and are not stored.  

From here the words and pictures go into working memory, which is where these items are consciously held and knowledge is processed.  Working Memory isn’t unlimited, and generally 4 to 7 “buckets” of information can be processed at one time, and for just a short time (which is why, when my wife gives me a grocery list of more than 3 items, she has to write it down!)

The brain’s storeroom of information is long term memory.  Here is where lots of information is held for long periods of time, and where new knowledge mixes with prior knowledge.  The big challenge in teaching is to get information from working memory into long term memory!!

Coherence Principle

Now, let’s talk about the Coherence Principle.  In this principle, “people learn better when extraneous material (interesting but irrelevant words or pictures, or sounds or music, or unneeded words and symbols) are taken out of a multimedia presentation.” (Mayer, 2014) 

In this principle, we want to only include essential material.  So if the subject is the life span of pacific salmon, but includes information on humpback whale predation, with awesome pictures of whales breaching, it would be interesting and might really spice up the lesson, but it also would take away from the actual subject and the learning outcome of that lesson.  This extraneous information takes up room in those 4-7 buckets of working memory, leaving less capacity for the essential information that is needed to be processed.

OK, what if we add music and sounds to the lesson?  This would also be a bad idea. Although it might make the multimedia lesson more interesting, having spoken text and then including other sounds, could actually overload the auditory channel. Those extraneous sounds compete with the text for the limited “working memory” processing capacity.

Graphics and cations, and also text on how a lightning storm forms.
What do you think? When you look at this example, the pictures have captions, and also include text that elaborates on each step. Do you think this would bring about the best learning results? (Mayer, 2009)

One last example is the one above – Wouldn’t a student learn more if you have graphics with captions, and text that explains the process??  Actually, the answer is no! In fact the end result might be worse than just having the Graphics and Captions as shown below.

This is because:

  1. learners process the key words in the captions,
  2. the graphics are presented in order, and
  3. the captions are near the pictures.

The clarity and concise graphics and captions, as seen below, will bring as good, and possibly better learning results, than the example above does!

Graphics and Captions showing how a lightning storm forms
“A concise presentation allows the learner to build a coherent mental representation.” (Mayer, 2009)

Why would students perform better with just graphics and captions?  It’s because the graphics and captions contain the essential information the student needs.  The large amounts of text actually contain extraneous information that the student does not necessarily need to know.  It’s always better to take out the unneeded words. Remember to give the students only the “need to know” information and take out all the “nice to know” information.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s FLC.  Next week we dive into the Signaling Principle!!  Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading!

Mayer, R. E. (2009). Multimedia learning (2nd ed.). New York, NY, US: Cambridge University Press.

Mayer, R. (Ed.). (2014). The Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning (Cambridge Handbooks in Psychology). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Multimedia Learning

When we look at learning, in both the face-to-face classroom, and especially in on-line learning, an important aspect is Multimedia Learning (how we learn using words and pictures).

The definition of multimedia used here is that:

  • “Words” include spoken text or printed text. 
  • “Pictures” would be illustrations, photos, animation, or video. 
Researchers believe that there is an auditory and a visual channel in working memory (Baddeley, 1992).  The auditory channel handles information that is heard, while the visual channel processes information that is seen. Text seems to have unique processing requirements, with words initially captured by the visual channel and then converted to sounds in the auditory channel (Mayer, 2014).  “…when information is presented using both the visual and auditory channels, working memory can handle more information overall.” (Mayer, 2014).

Multimedia learning then is an environment where an instructor promotes learning, using words and pictures, in a way that promotes learning by building mental representations to construct knowledge. 

As we are looking for ways to make our courses better, it is important to know that we learn better and more deeply from words and pictures than from words alone. (Mayer, 2014) 

It is also important to know the “three assumptions” of cognitive theory of multimedia learning (Mayer 2014):

Dual ChannelsHumans possess separate channels
for processing visual and auditory
Paivio (1986),
Baddeley (1992)
Limited CapacityHumans are limited in the amount of
information that can be processed in
each channel at one time.
Baddeley (1992),
Chandler and
Sweller (1991)
Active ProcessingHumans engage in active learning by
attending to relevant incoming
information, organizing selected
information into coherent mental
representations, and integrating
mental representations with other
Mayer (1999),
Wittrock (1989)

In using multimedia we want to make sure that our pictures are relevant to the words, and only present essential material.  Making sure you are presenting what needs to be known, and not diluting it with “nice to know” material helps eliminate Extraneous Processing (cognitive processing which is not related to the instructional goal).

Over the next 12 weeks I want to help you to understand best practices in Multimedia Learning by looking at American educational psychologist Richard Mayer’s Multimedia Principles.  Please tune in as we build our knowledge on what good multimedia learning is. 

Thanks for subscribing to the Faculty Learning Corner!

Baddeley, A. (1992) working memory. Science, 255,pp.556-559.

Chandler, P,and Sweller, J. (1991). Cognitive load theory and the format of instruction. Cognition and Instruction, 8, pp.293-332.

Mayer, R. (2014). The Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning, Second Edition. New York City: Cambridge University Press.

Mayer, R. E. (1999). Designing instruction for constructivist learning. In C. M. Reigeluth, Instructional design theories and models

Paivio, A. (1991). Dual coding theory: Retrospect and current status. Canadian Journal of Psychology/Revue canadienne de psychologie, 45(3), 255-287.

Wittrock, M. C. (1989). Generative processes of comprehension. Educational Psychologist, 24(4), 345-376.

Instructor Presence in Online Learning

In a face to face situation, instructor presence is easy …. you’re right there with your students, but when teaching online this can be tougher, unless you are thinking about it and making sure you are present to students.  One of the major reasons why students drop out of online courses is that they feel there is poor communication with the instructor.  Students need a sense of community.

The following video (7 min 39 sec), from The College of St. Scholastica in Minnesota, can help with ideas for online presence.

You need to remember that online learning can feel isolating to a student. You can make your student feel that their success is important just by giving frequent and direct communication. Help learners with any questions, and be proactive in contacting learners who appear to be falling behind. By showing personal interest you can help motivate your students to understand (and complete) course content.

Here is a link to a really good article from MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching Research “Guidelines for Online Course Moderation and Community Building from a Student’s Perspective” (2014).

Some ways to be present are:

  • through Blackboard discussions, especially if you give students a video introduction,
  • by creating instructor presence through regular Blackboard announcements, perhaps even creating a webcam recording so students can see you and hear your voice,
  • by giving audio/video feedback to assignments, which allows you to give feedback in a conversational way,
  • Using technology, such as VoiceThread, to not only increase instructor presence, but also student-to-student presence.

These are just a few ideas. remember to contact CELT or your campus instructional designer if you need help or have questions. Thank you for reading, and subscribing, to the Faculty Learning Corner. I’ll see you next week.

CELT Professional Development Opportunities for September

Do you have expertise in a particular teaching strategy or pedagogy? Have you attended a conference and want to share what you learned? Do you use a tool for e-learners that others would benefit from using? Share your knowledge by facilitating a program through CELT! Contact Kaia Henrickson at kbhenrickson@alaska.edu to set up a date. Workshop facilitators and participants receive a certificate at the end of each semester that can be used in tenure and promotion files.

Professional development opportunities available to UAS faculty and staff during the month of September:

Register before September 30th

Course runs 10/7-11/22

iTeach Online

Offered to UAS faculty through UAF eCampus, this 6-week workshop helps faculty build foundations in blended, online or face-to-face course design, including best practices, planning for course objectives, alignment, and crafting a replicable course unit. All participants who complete the program receive certificates and priority access to UAF eCampus resources. Learn more about the program and register at https://iteachu.uaf.edu/faculty-development/, or email Kendell Newman Sadiik at UAF eCampus (klnewman4@alaska.edu) with questions.


Monday, September 23rd from 9-10am

VoiceThread Training

Attend in person in the CELT classroom (Egan Library 103), or register online to participate remotely by going to: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6831797208644535809. Creating engaging online courses is not easy. In many discussion-board based courses, students feel isolated and disconnected from their instructors and classmates. VoiceThread bridges the gaps in social presence typically found in online courses. In this training, you will learn how to establish a social presence and connect with their students using VoiceThread to improve course satisfaction and student learning. We will review all of the basic features, showcase examples from actual courses and review how VoiceThread works in Blackboard.


Friday, September 20th from 1-2pm

ePortfolio Workshop

Do your students compile a portfolio as part of your class? Would you like to have a place where students could submit drafts for feedback online before turning in a final paper? Robin Gilcrist will demonstrate how to use ePortfolio, a tool in Blackboard that allows your students to set up an electronic portfolio within your course site. Attend in person in the CELT classroom (Egan Library 103) or remotely via Blackboard Collaborate at http://bit.ly/celtcollab.


Friday, September 27th from 1-2pm

Teaching Squares Introduction

Teaching Squares is a non-evaluative program designed to help you reflect on your own teaching. Participants form small, interdisciplinary groups and observe each other teach one lesson. Then, they use those observations to reflect on their own teaching. Materials will be provided to each group to help with facilitation and observation. The time commitment is manageable, and last year’s participants found the experience to be both positive and valuable. Attend this introductory meeting to learn more, and, if you are interested, to join a group and get started. Distance participation will be possible. Attend in person in the CELT classroom (Egan Library 103) or via Blackboard Collaborate at http://bit.ly/celtcollab.


Link to our Google Calendar or follow us on Facebook @UASCELT to find out about upcoming professional development opportunities.

Kaia Henrickson
Information Literacy Librarian
Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching Liaison
Egan Library, University of Alaska Southeast

Cell Phones in the Classroom?

Have you seen cell phones in the classroom? This can be distracting to student learning, but you might not know the extent of the distraction!!

Although smartphones are great way to access information, and a way to connect to each other, it is found that they limit our cognitive ability.  It’s not just the use, it’s the thought of the smart phone that causes issues.  “Results from two experiments indicate that even when people are successful at maintaining sustained attention—as when avoiding the temptation to check their phones—the mere presence of these devices reduces available cognitive capacity. “

The best results of student’s cognitive ability came when the student and the smartphone were in totally different rooms. Take a look at this data from the study:

Graph showing that cell phones cause greater cognitive ability issues when they are  in closer proximity to the student.

So, if you want to get the best cognitive ability from your students, a good way to start is to separate them from their Smartphone. Here is a link to the study if you want to look further into this subject:

Thanks for reading the Faculty Learning Corner!! I’ll see you next week!

Effective On-Line Learning

As we start Fall semester I wanted to share with you a few tips on making On-Line Learning more effective.  These tips come from the group eLearning Industry.  In their article, they mention how online students are more likely to drop their on-line course due to their unrealistic expectations, poor planning, and because of a lack of engagement and motivation.  Instructor presence, as well as student to student engagement, become very important in a distance class.  

Following are five ways to make on-line learning more effective:

1. Actively Involve The Learner

In online learning this can be more difficult to do, but it certainly isn’t impossible. Rather than just passively watching lectures or reading, online students should be encouraged to engage in hands on learning and put theory into practice, whether that means gathering data, going out and conducting face-to-face interviews, analyzing case studies or developing and investigating their own questions.

A lack of engagement with the material is one of the biggest reasons students struggle to stick with online courses. However, research shows that students learn more when they participate in the learning process, whether it’s through discussion, practice, review or application.

So in order to engage online students, it’s important to incorporate activities that allow students to get actively involved. In face-to-face learning, this might take the form of classroom debates and discussions, brainstorming sessions, and pairing students up to solve a problem.

2. Foster Collaboration Between Students

Another thing that’s been shown to have a positive impact on student motivation is interaction and collaboration with peers. A survey of 1,500 current, prospective, and recently graduated online college students found that more than 50% considered interaction with their academic community important and a quarter of them said having more contact with instructors and more engagement with classmates would improve the quality of their online courses.

Recently, a study led by researchers from Michigan State University also showed that students performed better academically and were more inspired about learning when they were given a rationale for why learning is important from their peers rather than their instructors.

The researchers point out that while instructors are good at getting across facts, it’s easier for students to identify with individuals who are more similar to them. Some of the ways to increase interaction and collaboration between peers in online learning include group emails, video conferencing, discussion boards and online groups, as well as student blogs and podcasts.

3. Recognize Cultural Differences

With students of all ages, from all walks of life, and from different parts of the world now using online education to achieve their career goals, it’s important for cultural differences among course participants to be recognized.

Recently, researchers from Stanford University found that people in less-developed countries are less likely to complete an online course or MOOC. They speculate that this is due to a psychological barrier known as social identity threat, which has been shown to impair working memory and academic performance. Simply put, it’s a fear of being seen as less competent because of race, religion or background.

Fortunately, two brief psychological interventions were enough to help participants feel that they belonged and increased their motivation to learn.

For the study, learners were assigned one of two activities before they started a MOOC. One was a social belonging activity, which had students read and summarize testimonials from previous students about how they initially felt worried about belonging in the course but felt more comfortable over time. The other was an affirmation activity where students were asked to write about how the course reflected and served their values.

The researchers found that these simple interventions doubled the persistence of students from less-developed countries and eliminated the global achievement gap by raising their course completion rate from 17% to 41%.

4. Encourage Self-Governance

Although it’s important to provide students with frequent feedback and support as they work their way through an online learning program, much of a student’s success will depend on their own persistence and motivation to see things through.

Researchers from the College of Business Administration at Louisiana State University suggest that the key to success in online learning is individual self-governance. They also point out that factors such as personal goals, communication skills, and study environment can affect a student’s success.

With this in mind, online learners should be encouraged to take ownership and responsibility for their own learning. Even before enrolling in an online course, they should also be advised to strengthen skills like time management, organization, goal setting, and critical thinking. Online students should also be encouraged to ask questions and seek out advice.

5. Use Humor Strategically

Online courses are sometimes viewed as boring and impersonal, so one way to engage online students is to incorporate some humor into online instruction. Research shows that humor can produce psychological and physiological benefits that help students learn.

This is because laughter helps us relax, and when we’re relaxed, our capacity to retain information expands. A study led by Ohio State University psychology professors even found that the use of humor in online courses can boost student interest and participation.

Of course, it’s important to find the right balance between keeping the material engaging and making it educational. Communications researcher Dr. Jennings Bryant has studied the effectiveness of humor within education and cautions that, while humor can make learning more pleasant and enhance students’ attention, it must always be attuned to the audience’s knowledge.

So if you in order to effectively incorporate humor into online learning, it’s important to know your audience and not go overboard to the point where it becomes distracting.

One Final Tip

One last tip for on-line learning is that it is important to know the technology needs of your students, and to have resources available for your students if they have technology issues. This works even better if students know their resources prior to having problems.

Thank you for reading the Faculty Learning Corner!! I’ll see you next week!

Welcome Back – Resilience

Welcome back to the 2019 – 2020 school year.  As you are very well aware, there has been a lot of news over the Summer about the University budget, and we have gotten to enrich our word power with new words, such as “exigency.”  

So in this “Welcome Back” edition of Faculty Learning Corner, I wanted to give you information on Resiliency. Life is challenging right now, with many unanswered questions about the future of the university, and for each of us personally. Adapting can be tough, so here is a link to “The Road to Resilience” from the American Psychological Association website.

Please take just a few minutes to click on the link below and look over this page. I’m sure you will find a strategy or two that can help you get through the days ahead.

Link: The Road to Resilience

Also, Deer Oaks Employee Assistance Program (EAP) will be hosting a series of trainings that you can take advantage of:

Maintaining Personal and Fiscal Resilience During Tough Economic Times
When: Tuesday, August 20, 2019, 12-1:00 pm
Where: Webinar
Registration Link: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5459426376522010379

Effective Budgeting
When: Thursday, August 22, 2019, 12-1:00 pm
Where: UAF Murie Auditorium
Registration Link: https://forms.gle/4h3XcubC7MBED22KA

Effective Budgeting
When: Tuesday, August 27, 2019, 12-1:00 pm
Where: Webinar Registration Link: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1570291021332005132

Emotional Support: Remaining Balanced in a Changing World
When: Thursday, August 29, 2019, 12-1:00 pm
Where: BP Design Theater UAF Engineering Learning & Innovation Facility 4th Floor
Registration Link: https://forms.gle/atzbNbGksKqzs2qF7

Emotional Support: Remaining Balanced in a Changing World
When: Tuesday, September 3, 2019, 12-1:00 pm
Where: Webinar
Registration Link: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4034258096382992642

Self Care Remaining Resilient
When: Thursday, September 5, 2019, 12-1:00 pm
Where: UAF Wood Center Conference Room E/F
Registration Link: https://forms.gle/rH1eaZhZRhcbikkc6

Self Care Remaining Resilient
When: Tuesday, September 10, 2019 12-1:00 pm
Where: Webinar
Registration Link: https://attendee.gotowebinar. com/register/3687790987354601730

Thank you for reading the Faculty Learning Corner! I wish everyone a great year, and I will see you next week!

Sitka Newsletter for July 2019

Here is a link to the July 2019 Sitka newsletter!  Just click on the link or the picture to open it.

Sitka Newsletter July 2019

I hope your Summer is going well.  We’ll see you Fall semester!!

Sitka Newsletter – June 2019

Here is the June 2019 edition of the Sitka Newsletter!
Click on the link, or on the picture below to open it!

Group holding "UA Strong" Posters

Do you have announcements or stories to share in a future newsletter?
The Social Media Team in Sitka keeps Staff & Faculty in the loop by sending a monthly newsletter via email and through the FLC! If you have anything to contribute contact Angie Hilsman (aehilsman @ alaska.edu) for more info.

Thanks for reading the FLC. Due to an influx of Spam comments (over 5000 spam comments in one day!!), I have turned off comments, but if you have a comment, just send me a note – jfingmanjr at alaska.edu. ( “at” = @ and no spaces)

Sitka Newsletter – May 2019

Here is the May 2019 edition of the Sitka Newsletter!
Click on the link, or on the picture below to open it!

Staff and Faculty members dressed in tropical vacation outfits.

Do you have announcements or stories to share in a future newsletter?
The Social Media Team in Sitka keeps Staff & Faculty in the loop by sending a monthly newsletter via email and through the FLC! If you have anything to contribute contact Angie Hilsman (aehilsman @ alaska.edu) for more info.

Thanks for reading the FLC. Due to an influx of Spam comments, I am turning comments off, but if you have a comment, just send me a note – jfingmanjr at alaska.edu. (No spaces and “at” = @) Thanks!