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Best Practices for Multimedia Learning

Best Practices for Multimedia Learning

17 April, 2016

Google searches for “classroom design” or “science of classroom design” yield beneficial results on how to set up your classroom for student success. Yet, with the increasing use of educational technology, student learning isn’t restricted to the physical classroom. Based on a 2012 study by Evergreen Education Group, roughly 275,000 students are enrolled full-time in online education.

The rising popularity of online education may be due, in large part, to innovations in multimedia learning and instruction, defined as “presenting words and pictures that are intended to foster learning” (Mayer and Moreno, 2003). Richard Mayer, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, recognizes the vital pieces of multimedia learning in his 2001 study, 12 Principles of Multimedia Learning.

According to Mayer and Moreno (2003), these principles are best practices to reduce students’ cognitive load — when their processing demands exceed their processing capabilities. In other words, these strategies can be implemented when the use of words, pictures, and media in an online course are over stimulating and inhibit learning.

Using Mayer’s 12 Principles in the Classroom

Whether you teach kindergarten or work in higher education, whether in a physical classroom or on an online platform, it’s vital to keep in mind Mayer’s 12 principles when working in digital learning environments with your students.

  1. Coherence Principle

Students learn best when unnecessary words, pictures, and media are removed. When making online courses or presentations, be sure to restrict your screen only to essential information.

  1. Signaling Principle

Keep students on task by stressing important information. Add visual cues such as bolding important words or circling important images in an example.

  1. Redundancy Principle

This principle pertains to having side-by-side closed captioning and voice narration of a text. Mayer’s best practices note that there should be either text or voice narration to prevent students’ cognitive overload. However, when working with students who have special needs (such as dyslexia or sensory processing disorders), it may be helpful to supply both text and voice narration.

  1. Spatial Contiguity Principle

Mayer notes that students learn best when corresponding words and images are displayed near each other on the screen. This lets students to direct their attention to one central focal point.

  1. Temporal Contiguity Principle

This principle is directly linked to the spatial contiguity principle, but notes that when displaying corresponding text and images, they should be presented at the same time rather than successively.

  1. Segmenting Principle

Students learn best at their own pace. This principle focuses on the idea that multimedia lessons should be shown in user-paced sections rather than one continuous lesson. Khan Academy and BrainPop do an excellent job at this principle, creating multimedia content that enables students (and teachers) to move through the lesson at their own pace.

  1. Pre-Training Principle

Pre-training is significant in both in-class and online lessons, offering students with either a quick refresher of previously-learned content or equipping them with the core terms of an upcoming lesson. Teachers may be more familiar with this term when referred to as instructional scaffolding.

  1. Modality Principle

As previously mentioned, in order to limit cognitive overload, students learn better when presented with graphics and narration vs. animation and on-screen text. Pairing animation with on-screen text may visually over stimulate your students and prevents retention. Again, BrainPop’s curriculum does a great job at organizing their multimedia in a way that limits visual stimulation for students.

  1. Multimedia Principle

This is an overarching principle and focus for multimedia learning in general, highlighting that students learn better when presented with both words and pictures at the same time. Presenting students with visual and text-based representations of the content lets you to reach all learning styles.

  1. Personalization Principle

As with all lessons, information should be shown to students in conversational, age-appropriate tone and language. Programs like the Hemingway app are a great tool for making sure that your writing is comprehensible to your students. Copy-and-pasting your text into this tool gives you with its reading level as well as constructive feedback to make your text bold and clear.

  1. Voice Principle

Mayer’s voice principle also relates to your narration’s tone and emphasizes the significance of your narrator being a human voice rather than an automated robot. Record your own voice whenever possible, or look into natural-sounding text-to-talk automators such as Natural Readers.

  1. Image Principle

While your students will learn more comfortably with a human voice, this does not mean that you should add your own or someone else’s face on screen while narrating. This does not apply to online courses that have synchronous instruction with the professor.

The Science of Classroom Design, an infographic created through USC Rossier’s online teaching degree program, digs deeper into how digital classrooms — and the physical classroom environment — influence student learning, behavior, and achievement.