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Module 7

MULTIMEDIA AND LEARNING
Views of Learning and Instruction
Learning is often viewed as information transfer from one person’s head (an instructor or expert)
into another’s (the learner). Learners are thought to obtain information from an expert and add
it to their own memory.

Figure 1: Learning as Information Transfer

Although this view of learning is widely held, it is too simplistic: it conceives of learners as passive
receivers of information and doesn’t provide guidance for designing effective learning
environments. In fact, designers who hold this view of learning often design learning
environments that may not include elements critical to effective learning, such as meaningful
interaction, feedback, and the ability to learn over time.
A contrasting view is that learning requires people to personally integrate and make sense of
new information while they are applying it in their daily lives. In this view, learning requires
struggling to understand how new information meshes with existing knowledge and how to
integrate into complex skills and abilities— not just remembering isolated facts or procedures.
Figure 2. Learning as a Complex Integrative Process Transfer

Consider the world of difference between merely being able to restate information and the
ability to apply the information in the course of living and working. A great deal of instruction is
aimed at rote memorization or superficial learning, but that approach doesn’t go far enough.
Complex skills and abilities that can be used in real life are the true goal of learning, not simply
the ability to recall information.
Declarative knowledge is knowing about (the ability to state, list, match, describe, and so on).
Procedural knowledge is knowing how (the ability to accomplish complex real-world skills).
Copier technicians who can list the parts of the copier have declarative knowledge. Those who
know how the parts work together and can use that understanding to troubleshoot a
malfunction have procedural knowledge. Declarative knowledge is commonly part of
procedural knowledge, but it isn’t enough. Too often, instruction is developed at the declarative
level, while actual tasks require people to work at a procedural level.
The purpose of effective instruction is to provide formal opportunities for complex skills and
abilities — procedural knowledge — to develop. In the transmission model of learning, the point
of designing instruction is to present information and then assess whether learners remember it.
This model is appropriate when providing information , as opposed to instruction, where no
specific skills requirement has been established but not appropriate for instruction. In the
construction model of learning, the point of designing instruction is to create opportunities for
learners to gain increasingly more complex skills and abilities and then assess whether they apply
use the knowledge in real situations.
Contemporary learning theorists such as Spiro, Bereiter, and Brown believe that a key goal of
instruction is to provide opportunities for learners to develop mastery in the areas of life they are
each involved in. One important step that learners take in developing that mastery is building
effective mental models. A mental model is an internal representation of reality. So instruction on
how a copier works must help learners internalize how the parts work together so they can
operate or fix it, not just match pictures of parts to part names.
Cognitive scientist and consultant Donald Norman describes how accurate mental models help
us operate more efficiently and effectively in the world. Helping people form effective mental
models has become a primary emphasis in the fields of human-computer interaction and
computer usability. Accurate or complete mental models are important in instructional design
too, because they are a cornerstone of effective performance.
Benefits of Multimedia in Learning
Well-designed multimedia helps learners build more accurate and effective mental models than
they do from text alone. Shephard synthesized studies showing potential benefits of welldesigned multimedia, including:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.

Alternative perspectives
Active participation
Accelerated learning
Retention and application of knowledge
Problem-solving and decision-making skills
System understanding
Higher-order thinking
Autonomy and focus
Control over pacing and sequencing of information
Access to support information

Given that humans possess visual and auditory information processing capabilities, multimedia,
he explains, takes advantage of both capabilities at once. In addition, these two channels
process information quite differently, so the combination of multiple media is useful in calling on
the capabilities of both systems. Meaningful connections between text and graphics potentially
allow for deeper understanding and better mental models than from either alone.

Figure 3 Text and Video used together in online sales skills training

Figure 3 shows a screen from sales skills training developed by Learning Peaks. In this example,
the text on the right briefly describes what the viewer will see in the video. Mayer’s spatial
contiguity principle explains that corresponding text and images should be placed next to each
other to improve learning.
Figure 4: Hede and Hede’s model of multimedia effects on learning

The model helps designers consider what factors are likely to make multimedia more or less
effective for learning. Liao’s meta-analysis shows inconsistent learning outcomes from
multimedia, but those inconsistencies are likely due to the multiple factors in the model:
Liao’s findings show how important overall instructional design is to the effectiveness of
multimedia because each factor in Hede and Hede’s model can affect learning. My take on
the inconsistency of research is that many projects do not take enough of these factors into
account, so the outcomes are bound to be inconsistent. Again, multimedia can make a positive
impact on learning, but it needs to be designed with a great deal of consideration.
In addition to these primarily cognitive effects, Astleitner and Wiesner and others describe how
multimedia can affect emotions and motivation. For example, video has emotional components
that can affect how people view the content. If the people in the video come across as aloof in
a message about customer service, for example, learners may feel the content is suspect.
Motivational and emotional aspects should therefore be considered when designing multimedia
and likely correspond to Hede and Hede’s cognitive engagement, motivation, and learner style
factors.
How Multimedia Works in Learning
1. Presentation of information
2. Guidance about how to proceed
3. Practice for fluency and retention
4. Assessment to determine need for remediation and next steps
Figures 5 – 8 show examples of these four elements
Figure 5. Text and graphics used together to present information
Figure 6: Text and graphics to provide guidance

Figure 7: Simulation used in practice and assessment
These four elements of a learning environment can be embedded in e-learning or used in a
combination of technology-based and non-technology-based instruction, but the environment
must include all four elements to be effective. Although most of the elements can be
implemented without multimedia, multimedia can make them even more effective and
meaningful. Consider my earlier example, medical terminology drill-and-practice based on text
versus graphics and simulations. Or pages of text hyperlinks versus hyperlinks annotated with
pictures and descriptions which help learners determine which links will be most relevant to
them. The point is that if the right elements are chosen and combined, they are potentially more
compelling and effective.
Research by Mayer is commonly cited to show retention and transfer effects resulting from
multimedia when the principles in below are adhered to. These principles stem from cognitive
science’s understanding of the limitations of working memory and methods for encoding into
long-term memory.

Multimedia learning is also of interest to people working outside traditional educational fields.
Human factors researcher Lawrence Najjar looked at existing research on how multimedia
affects learning and found that these practices could be beneficial for learning effectiveness:
•

•
•
•

•

Select media with the best characteristics for communicating the particular type
of information – for example, graphics help people retain spatial information
better than text
Use multimedia specifically to support, relate to, or extend learning, not just as
embellishment
Present media elements together so that they support each other
Use multimedia that effectively employs verbal and visual processing channels to
help learners integrate content with prior knowledge (this is called elaborative
processing)
Allow learners to control, manipulate, and explore positively impacts learning and
elaborative processing
•
•
•

Use familiar metaphors and analogies, feedback, and personalization to
augment motivation
Encourage learners to actively process and integrate rather than receive
passively
Match assessments media to presentation of information media

Designing Multimedia Applications
In instructional design, the purpose of multimedia isn’t just to incorporate multiple media, insert
cool effects, or add complexity (which can detract from learning). Use each medium to its
advantage and to combine media so that the potential learning is greater and more effective
than using single elements alone.
The following table shows how different types of media can support different purposes.
Figure 8: Process model using text and graphics

Figure 9: rollover used to reveal hidden concepts (source: Helen Macfarlane, Medical Instructor,
www.uchs.edu/ltc/Fertilization.html)
According to theorists like Van Merriënboer, learning environments that are more directed
appear to be best for novices, whereas more expert learners tend to prefer less directed
approaches. Allowing learners to select the approach that best suits their expertise and learning
style (and then change their mind) presents some design (and sometimes resource) challenges
but is often needed for a mixed audience.
Well-designed multimedia can enhance motivation, learning, and transfer. The most effective
multimedia provides learning experiences that mirror real-world experiences and allow learners
to apply what they’ve learned in various contexts.

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Module 7

  • 1. Module 7 MULTIMEDIA AND LEARNING Views of Learning and Instruction Learning is often viewed as information transfer from one person’s head (an instructor or expert) into another’s (the learner). Learners are thought to obtain information from an expert and add it to their own memory. Figure 1: Learning as Information Transfer Although this view of learning is widely held, it is too simplistic: it conceives of learners as passive receivers of information and doesn’t provide guidance for designing effective learning environments. In fact, designers who hold this view of learning often design learning environments that may not include elements critical to effective learning, such as meaningful interaction, feedback, and the ability to learn over time. A contrasting view is that learning requires people to personally integrate and make sense of new information while they are applying it in their daily lives. In this view, learning requires struggling to understand how new information meshes with existing knowledge and how to integrate into complex skills and abilities— not just remembering isolated facts or procedures.
  • 2. Figure 2. Learning as a Complex Integrative Process Transfer Consider the world of difference between merely being able to restate information and the ability to apply the information in the course of living and working. A great deal of instruction is aimed at rote memorization or superficial learning, but that approach doesn’t go far enough. Complex skills and abilities that can be used in real life are the true goal of learning, not simply the ability to recall information. Declarative knowledge is knowing about (the ability to state, list, match, describe, and so on). Procedural knowledge is knowing how (the ability to accomplish complex real-world skills). Copier technicians who can list the parts of the copier have declarative knowledge. Those who know how the parts work together and can use that understanding to troubleshoot a malfunction have procedural knowledge. Declarative knowledge is commonly part of procedural knowledge, but it isn’t enough. Too often, instruction is developed at the declarative level, while actual tasks require people to work at a procedural level. The purpose of effective instruction is to provide formal opportunities for complex skills and abilities — procedural knowledge — to develop. In the transmission model of learning, the point of designing instruction is to present information and then assess whether learners remember it. This model is appropriate when providing information , as opposed to instruction, where no specific skills requirement has been established but not appropriate for instruction. In the construction model of learning, the point of designing instruction is to create opportunities for learners to gain increasingly more complex skills and abilities and then assess whether they apply use the knowledge in real situations. Contemporary learning theorists such as Spiro, Bereiter, and Brown believe that a key goal of instruction is to provide opportunities for learners to develop mastery in the areas of life they are each involved in. One important step that learners take in developing that mastery is building effective mental models. A mental model is an internal representation of reality. So instruction on how a copier works must help learners internalize how the parts work together so they can operate or fix it, not just match pictures of parts to part names. Cognitive scientist and consultant Donald Norman describes how accurate mental models help us operate more efficiently and effectively in the world. Helping people form effective mental
  • 3. models has become a primary emphasis in the fields of human-computer interaction and computer usability. Accurate or complete mental models are important in instructional design too, because they are a cornerstone of effective performance. Benefits of Multimedia in Learning Well-designed multimedia helps learners build more accurate and effective mental models than they do from text alone. Shephard synthesized studies showing potential benefits of welldesigned multimedia, including: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. Alternative perspectives Active participation Accelerated learning Retention and application of knowledge Problem-solving and decision-making skills System understanding Higher-order thinking Autonomy and focus Control over pacing and sequencing of information Access to support information Given that humans possess visual and auditory information processing capabilities, multimedia, he explains, takes advantage of both capabilities at once. In addition, these two channels process information quite differently, so the combination of multiple media is useful in calling on the capabilities of both systems. Meaningful connections between text and graphics potentially allow for deeper understanding and better mental models than from either alone. Figure 3 Text and Video used together in online sales skills training Figure 3 shows a screen from sales skills training developed by Learning Peaks. In this example, the text on the right briefly describes what the viewer will see in the video. Mayer’s spatial contiguity principle explains that corresponding text and images should be placed next to each other to improve learning.
  • 4. Figure 4: Hede and Hede’s model of multimedia effects on learning The model helps designers consider what factors are likely to make multimedia more or less effective for learning. Liao’s meta-analysis shows inconsistent learning outcomes from multimedia, but those inconsistencies are likely due to the multiple factors in the model: Liao’s findings show how important overall instructional design is to the effectiveness of multimedia because each factor in Hede and Hede’s model can affect learning. My take on the inconsistency of research is that many projects do not take enough of these factors into account, so the outcomes are bound to be inconsistent. Again, multimedia can make a positive impact on learning, but it needs to be designed with a great deal of consideration. In addition to these primarily cognitive effects, Astleitner and Wiesner and others describe how multimedia can affect emotions and motivation. For example, video has emotional components that can affect how people view the content. If the people in the video come across as aloof in a message about customer service, for example, learners may feel the content is suspect. Motivational and emotional aspects should therefore be considered when designing multimedia and likely correspond to Hede and Hede’s cognitive engagement, motivation, and learner style factors. How Multimedia Works in Learning 1. Presentation of information 2. Guidance about how to proceed 3. Practice for fluency and retention 4. Assessment to determine need for remediation and next steps Figures 5 – 8 show examples of these four elements
  • 5. Figure 5. Text and graphics used together to present information
  • 6. Figure 6: Text and graphics to provide guidance Figure 7: Simulation used in practice and assessment
  • 7. These four elements of a learning environment can be embedded in e-learning or used in a combination of technology-based and non-technology-based instruction, but the environment must include all four elements to be effective. Although most of the elements can be implemented without multimedia, multimedia can make them even more effective and meaningful. Consider my earlier example, medical terminology drill-and-practice based on text versus graphics and simulations. Or pages of text hyperlinks versus hyperlinks annotated with pictures and descriptions which help learners determine which links will be most relevant to them. The point is that if the right elements are chosen and combined, they are potentially more compelling and effective. Research by Mayer is commonly cited to show retention and transfer effects resulting from multimedia when the principles in below are adhered to. These principles stem from cognitive science’s understanding of the limitations of working memory and methods for encoding into long-term memory. Multimedia learning is also of interest to people working outside traditional educational fields. Human factors researcher Lawrence Najjar looked at existing research on how multimedia affects learning and found that these practices could be beneficial for learning effectiveness: • • • • • Select media with the best characteristics for communicating the particular type of information – for example, graphics help people retain spatial information better than text Use multimedia specifically to support, relate to, or extend learning, not just as embellishment Present media elements together so that they support each other Use multimedia that effectively employs verbal and visual processing channels to help learners integrate content with prior knowledge (this is called elaborative processing) Allow learners to control, manipulate, and explore positively impacts learning and elaborative processing
  • 8. • • • Use familiar metaphors and analogies, feedback, and personalization to augment motivation Encourage learners to actively process and integrate rather than receive passively Match assessments media to presentation of information media Designing Multimedia Applications In instructional design, the purpose of multimedia isn’t just to incorporate multiple media, insert cool effects, or add complexity (which can detract from learning). Use each medium to its advantage and to combine media so that the potential learning is greater and more effective than using single elements alone. The following table shows how different types of media can support different purposes.
  • 9. Figure 8: Process model using text and graphics Figure 9: rollover used to reveal hidden concepts (source: Helen Macfarlane, Medical Instructor, www.uchs.edu/ltc/Fertilization.html)
  • 10. According to theorists like Van Merriënboer, learning environments that are more directed appear to be best for novices, whereas more expert learners tend to prefer less directed approaches. Allowing learners to select the approach that best suits their expertise and learning style (and then change their mind) presents some design (and sometimes resource) challenges but is often needed for a mixed audience. Well-designed multimedia can enhance motivation, learning, and transfer. The most effective multimedia provides learning experiences that mirror real-world experiences and allow learners to apply what they’ve learned in various contexts.