Multi Modal Learning

Multimedia Design – Visual and Verbal Learning

Recent neuroscience research is beginning to synergistically verify the previously speculative theories of multiple researchers in dual coding, cognitive overload, and multimedia learning.30  While the field is still evolving, researchers have shown that significant increases in learning can be accomplished through the informed use of visual and verbal multimodal learning.  Much has been written about the principles of multimedia listed below. Most of the published research studies have been of short duration and were specifically designed for research analysis, but have demonstrated the veracity of these principles. However, emergent research on these principles, when applied in classrooms, has had mixed, albeit positive, results. Many of the researchers have commented that such mixed results may be due to the lack of specificity of the type of multimedia intervention (for example, specific combinations of modalities, formats within modalities, learner characteristics, scaffolding of learners, learner age, complexity and type of

learning goals addressed, etc.) A set of principles related to multimedia and modality are listed below. They are based on the work of Richard Mayer, Roxanne Moreno, and other prominent researchers.31 32 33 34


  • 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.
  • Redundancy Principle: Students learn better when information is not represented in more than one modality – redundancy interferes with learning.
  •  Individual Differences Principle: Design effects are higher for low-knowledge learners than for high-knowledge learners.

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  • Individual Differences Principle: Design effects are higher for high-spatial learners rather than for low-spatial learners.

  • Direct Manipulation Principle: As the complexity of the materials increase, the impact of direct manipulation of the learning materials (animation, pacing) on transfer also increases New Web 2.0 technologies introduce some nuances to multimodal learning that warrant continued research. In practice educators are getting mixed, albeit positive trends in the use of multimedia to augment learning. Students engaged in learning that incorporates multimodal designs, onaverage, outperform students who learn using traditional approaches with single modes. Figure 8 provides results from across multiple studies, separating effects related to basic and higher-order skills (see Appendix A for methodology and citations).


    30  Fougnie, D., & Marois, R. (2006). Evidence From Attentive Tracking and Visual Working Memory Paradigms. Psychological Science, 17(6), 526-534

                     31 Mayer, R. (2001). Multi-Media Learning. Cambridge University Press.

                     32 Mayer R.E. & Moreno R. (2003) Nine ways to reduce cognitive load in multimedia learning. In Web-Based Learning: What Do We Know? Where Do We Go? (eds R. Bruning, C.A. Horn & L.M.PytlikZillig), pp. 23–44. Information Age Publishing, Greenwich, CT.


                    33 Chan, M. S., & Black, J. B. (2006). Learning Newtonian mechanics with an animation game: The role of presentation format on mental model acquisition. Paper presented at the AmericanEducation Research Association Annual. San Francisco, CA.


                    34 Ginns, P. (2005). Meta-analysis of the modality effect. Learning and Instruction. Vol. 15, pp. 313-331. Institute for Teaching and Learning, University of Sydney, Australia.

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