• INSPIRE at ACU presents teaching practices of multimedia design principles that reduces cognitive load for students.
  • Principles are represented in a video series to help teachers better communicate with students and effectively educate.
  • Cut unnecessary material, include only key content on slides, make content simple and concrete and use time and space to make videos more effective.

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Multimedia Design Principles Crafting videos and lectures that stick Other resources

Multimedia Design Principles

A large body of research exists on engagement and learning through the lens of cognitive load theory. Students can fail to learn because a task or presentation exceeds their cognitive capacity. A key goal of implementing cognitive load theory is to reduce the extraneous cognitive load; learning design that reduces extraneous load allows for more attention to be directed to fruitful learning processes (Noetel et al., 2021).

The INSPIRE group at ACU has collected a large body of highest-level evidence-based learning and teaching practices. A selection of high-impact multimedia design principles from this research are presented below. Practical implementation suggestions are given in context of teaching and learning content presented via video, however the principles themselves are more broadly applicable.

Requiring students to apply a new concept immediately after receiving instruction has positive effects on learning and retention (Fiorella et al., 2020; Lawson & Mayer, 2021), especially in the form of frequent low-stakes assessment such as multiple choice quizzes (Sotola & Crede, 2021).

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Presenting related materials at the same time (temporal) and visually close together (spatial) reduces the effort students must exert to make links between elements (Noetel et al., 2021).

  • Label diagrams directly, rather than using a legend or key
  • Hide irrelevant information from diagrams or graphs
  • Focusing on one concept at a time, and ensure a logical flow between related concepts
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Highlighting key information as it is presented reduces cognitive load for students and improves learning (Mayer, 2021; Noetel et al., 2021).

Direct students’ attention to the relevant information at the right time by:

  • In PowerPoint, animate dot points in one by one as each point is discussed (tutorial)
  • Use highlighting, arrows or circles, and virtual laser pointers
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Multimedia / Redundancy

Allowing students to use both their auditory and visual channels simultaneously (i.e. narration with relevant imagery) to digest information can help reduce their cognitive load (Mayer, 2014; Noetel et al., 2021). Conversely, when text on screen is simply read out loud providing redundant information, this can have the opposite effect (Noetel et al., 2021); the notable exceptions being for students from a different language background (where captions or transcripts can be extremely helpful), or when introducing new technical vocabulary (Mayer et al., 2020).

  • Reduce the amount of written text presented on slides, and instead rely on relevant imagery wherever possible.
  • If imagery is not suitable, use key words or phrases as opposed to whole sentences.
  • Slides should not be a script to be read, but rather designed to help emphasise the concepts being communicated.
  • Additional content can be included in the “Notes” section in PowerPoint if required.
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Sometimes jargon is intrinsic to the task at hand (e.g., learning what “photosynthesis” means), but where it is not, simple language reduces the cognitive load for students. (Noetel et al., 2021).

  • Use inclusive language (e.g. ‘your diaphragm’ as opposed to ‘the diaphragm’)
  • Use simple vocabulary and sentence structure where possible, especially for students from other language backgrounds
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Generative activity

Requiring students to apply a new concept immediately after receiving instruction has positive effects on learning and retention (Fiorella et al., 2020; Lawson & Mayer, 2021), especially in the form of frequent low-stakes assessment such as multiple choice quizzes (Sotola & Crede, 2021).

  • Embed short quizzes within a video (Echo360 tutorial) or immediately after viewing within the LMS.
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Breaking concepts into short, focussed chunks allows the student to focus and fully grasp a concept before proceeding, and gives students more control over the pacing to better manage their cognitive load (Fiorella & Mayer, 2018; Mayer, 2021; Noetel et al., 2021).

  • Split content into short, focussed chunks around 6-9 minutes in length.
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When engaged by an instructor through gestures, eye-contact, and enthusiastic presentation, students try harder to make sense of the content (Fiorella et al., 2019; Mayer et al., 2020). However a static or unengaged presenter can in some instances become a distraction for students

  • Use the self-service studios available on all campuses to easily switch between the camera and the slides to help guide students attention
  • Be enthusiastic, engage with the camera, don’t be afraid to smile and let your personality show in your presentation
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Coherence / Seductive details

The coherence principle suggests instructors remove “seductive details” from their presentations that could distract students from the core content (Noetel et al., 2021).

  • Remove irrelevant or tangentially-related videos or anecdotes
  • Avoid distracting images such as memes etc.
  • Keep your slide content focused and relevant

Crafting videos and lectures that stick

This series of videos helps teachers better communicate with students. Whilst focused on academics at universities/college professors however relevant for all teachers. It talks about how to use a series of multimedia design principles to better educate. They include cutting unnecessary material (scissors), putting key content on slides (paper), and making content simple and concrete (rock). The final video is about how to use time and space to make videos more effective.

Other resources

Fiorella, L., & Mayer, R. E. (2018). What works and doesn’t work with instructional video. Computers in Human Behavior, 89, 465–470. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2018.07.015

Fiorella, L., Stull, A. T., Kuhlmann, S., & Mayer, R. E. (2019). Instructor presence in video lectures: The role of dynamic drawings, eye contact, and instructor visibility. Journal of Educational Psychology, 111(7), 1162–1171. https://doi.org/10.1037/edu0000325

Fiorella, L., Stull, A. T., Kuhlmann, S., & Mayer, R. E. (2020). Fostering generative learning from video lessons: Benefits of instructor-generated drawings and learner-generated explanations. Journal of Educational Psychology, 112(5), 895–906. https://doi.org/10.1037/edu0000408

Lawson, A. P., & Mayer, R. E. (2021). Benefits of Writing an Explanation During Pauses in Multimedia Lessons. Educational Psychology Review, 33(4), 1859–1885. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-021-09594-w

Mayer, R. E. (2014). Research-Based Principles for Designing Multimedia Instruction. Applying Science of Learning in Education.

Mayer, R. E. (2021). Evidence-Based Principles for How to Design Effective Instructional Videos. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 10(2), 229–240. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jarmac.2021.03.007

Mayer, R. E., Fiorella, L., & Stull, A. (2020). Five ways to increase the effectiveness of instructional video. Educational Technology Research and Development, 68(3), 837–852. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-020-09749-6

Noetel, M., Griffith, S., Delaney, O., Harris, N. R., Sanders, T., Parker, P., del Pozo Cruz, B., & Lonsdale, C. (2021). Multimedia Design for Learning: An Overview of Reviews With Meta-Meta-Analysis. Review of Educational Research, 00346543211052329. https://doi.org/10.3102/00346543211052329

Sotola, L. K., & Crede, M. (2021). Regarding Class Quizzes: A Meta-analytic Synthesis of Studies on the Relationship Between Frequent Low-Stakes Testing and Class Performance. Educational Psychology Review, 33(2), 407–426. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-020-09563-9

Page last updated on 19/01/2023

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