How multimedia can improve learning

Multimedia and learning

So, what does the science of learning tell us about the use of multimedia during instruction? As the report suggests, multimedia is one modality of learning that can help students learn more efficiently when applied properly, because convergence–or sensory input simultaneously combined with new information–has positive effects on memory retrieval. But too much sensory input can lead to cognitive overload, the report cautions, so educators must be careful to use multimedia appropriately.

Based on the work of Richard Mayer, Roxanne Moreno, and other researchers, the Metiri Group report synthesized a list of learning principles for multimedia:

* Multimedia Principle: Retention is improved through words and pictures rather than through words alone.

* Spatial Contiguity Principle: Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented near each other, rather than far from each other on the page or screen.

* Temporal Contiguity Principle: Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively.

* Coherence Principle: Students learn better when extraneous words, pictures, and sounds are excluded rather than included.

* Modality Principle: Students learn better from animation and narration than from animation and on-screen text.

* Individual Differences Principle: Design effects are higher for low-knowledge learners than for high-knowledge learners. Also, design effects are higher for high-spatial learners than for low-spatial learners.

* Direct Manipulation Principle: As the complexity of the materials increases, the impact of direct manipulation (animation, pacing) of the learning materials on the transfer of knowledge also increases.

Therefore, students engaged in learning that incorporates multimodal designs, on average, outperform students who learn using traditional approaches with single modes, the report says.

For example, based on meta-analysis, the average student’s scores on basic skills assessments increase by 21 percentiles when engaged in non-interactive, multimodal learning (which includes using text with visual input, text with audio input, and watching and listening to animations or lectures that effectively use visuals) in comparison with traditional, single-mode learning.

When students shift from non-interactive multimodal to interactive multimodal learning (such as engagement in simulations, modeling, and real-world experiences–most often in collaborative teams or groups), results are not quite as high, with average gains at 9 percentiles.

However, when the average student is engaged in higher-order thinking using multimedia in interactive situations, on average, that student’s percentage ranking on higher-order or transfer skills increases by 32 percentile points over what the student would have accomplished with traditional learning.

When the context shifts from interactive to non-interactive multimodal learning, the result is 20 percentile points over traditional means.

(Next page: Where to go from here)