How multimedia can improve learning

Based on these principles and statistics, the report lists a few tips for educators on how to teach students using multimedia:

(1) Know the importance of the attention and motivation of the learner. The “scaffolding” of learning–the act of providing learners with assistance or support to perform a task beyond their own reach–by reducing extraneous diversions and focusing the learner’s attention on appropriate elements aligned to the topic has proven effective.

(2) Know the importance of separating the media from the instructional approach. A recent meta-analysis in which more than 650 empirical studies compared media-enabled distance learning to conventional learning found pedagogy to be more strongly correlated to achievement than media. The media and pedagogy must be defined separately.

Where to go from here

While the report’s analysis provides a clear rationale for using multimedia in learning, the research in this field is evolving, its authors say. Recent articles suggest that efficacy, motivation, and volition of learners, as well as the type of learning task and the level of instructional scaffolding, can weigh heavily on learning outcomes from the use of multimedia.

Future research will focus on the social affordances that multimedia representations provide, the scaffolding required to prepare students to effectively use multimedia representations, and the learning designs necessary to minimize cognitive overload, the report suggests.

The report concludes by noting: “The convergence of the cognitive sciences and neurosciences provides insights into the field of multimodal learning through Web 2.0 tools. The combination will yield important guideposts in the research and development of eLearning using emergent, high-tech environments.”