Multimedia Principle

The Multimedia principle is a theory studied in depth by Richard Mayer that states words and graphics are more conducive to learning, rather than just text or graphics alone.  The theory is based on the idea that learners learn better when they engage in relevant cognitive pressing such as attending to the relevant material in the lesson, mentally organizing the material into a coherent cognitive representation and mentally integrating the material with their existing knowledge.(Mayer 154) His study also shows that learners may engage in less in-depth learning with just text alone, not connecting what they have read with new or prior knowledge.  

Studies have shown that their are two main channels that we use to process information, the auditory and visual channel.  The auditory channel processes sounds that we hear while the visual channel processes things that we see.  By combining these two process studies have shown that learners, learning will be more in depth and stay in the learners memory longer.  Their studies have also shown that to many visuals or to much text can overload the learner so their needs to be a balance between the two and they should always relate so they do not confuse the learners learning process.  

Graphics can be anything from static pictures, to animation, or video, but they should always be relevant to the the words on the page.    

Types of graphics:

Decorative Graphics serve to decorate the age without enhancing the message of the lesson and can often be a distraction to learners. 

Representational graphics portray a single lament such as a photo along with a caption explaining the photo. The graphic below is a picture of Mount Everest with an explanation of camps necessary to make a summit attempt.


Relational graphics portray a quantitative relationship among two or more variables such as a line graph showing the relationship between two similar examples. Below is a chart that shows the rise in drug-related deaths. 

Organizational graphics depict the relations among elements.

Transformational graphics depict changes in time and space. The graphic below show the changes over time during the lifespan of a butterfly.  

Interpretive-Visuals that make intangible objects visible and concrete. The graphic below is explanation of the water cycle.  


Studies:  There have been many studies that have proven that the theory is valid and evolving today.  For over a decade Richard Mayer has been studying how learners learn and the best way to stimulate both channels.  He has used eleven studies to compare whether students learn better from animation and narration alone or from text and illustrations versus text alone. (mayer 171)  They used specific technical processes that learners were not familiar with to teach, and asked learners to present their understanding afterwords.  In all the studies conducted students that learned with graphics and text were able to answer questions about the processes involved better than students with just text alone

Other Studies:

Although Mayer is the main expert on the theory, there have been other studies that have used the theories to enhance learning early education.  Brainpop, a group that studies and puts out e-learning projects for k-112 education and Seg Research group conducted studies using text and visual aides to teach k-12 students and found similar results as Mayer.  What they showed is that learners today have an affinity for using multi-media technology in the learning process and learn at an even better rate than generations before them because they have been using computers and other media since early development.  There study also showed that K-12 students learn better when they have more control over the learning process such as multi-media presentations where students can move back and forth at their own pace.(


Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2011). E-Learning and the Science of Instruction: Proven Guidelines for Consumers and Designers of Multimedia Learning (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons (study on K-12 learning processes)

About me

This page was created by Andre Cobbs and I am studying for my Master of Science in E-Learning Technology Administration at Northern State University.  I am interested distance learning technology with an emphasis on teaching students in lower in come levels and third world countries.  Naturally, I am interested in computers, new technology, professional photography and filmmaking is my passion. 

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