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. 

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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.