How Can We Effectively Use Multimedia Instruction
With the understanding of how the brain processes information, it is clear why we want to incorporate multimedia learning. But we want to use it most effectively. In addition to explaining how the brain processes multimedia information, Mayer explains how to best incorporate multimedia learning.
He starts by reminding us that multimedia learning simply incorporates words and pictures, so it can be a chapter in a textbook that includes pictures or charts. It can also be online lessons that incorporate videos.
Mayer’s first advice for multimedia learning is a caution that he calls the “limited capacity assumption.” The assumption is that all humans have a limited capacity for information. We don’t have infinite space and memory processors, so we have to choose what pieces of information to pay attention to. The caution warns us that we should not overwhelm our students with information. One way to apply this is to limit the amount of text on a PowerPoint slide. Your presentation will be more effective to the learner if you have a limited number of printed words, a simpler picture, and a clear spoken narration.
Mayer’s second piece of advice revolves around the “active processing assumption.” As we discussed previously, the learner must choose what pieces of information to take into the working memory, and then the learner has to actively engage with that material in order to learn it. Mayer describes the processing as creating a mental representation or a model of the information. As we work to apply this assumption to multimedia instruction, Mayer tells us that we need to encourage the student’s active processing. To make learning effective, our presentation material should have an understandable structure, and it should guide the learner in making a mental model.
If we are trying to help students build mental models, it’s helpful to know how information models can be structured. Mayer describes five model structures that each contain specific types of information and have an associated visual representation.
The first structure that Mayer describes is a process structure. This structure holds an explanation for how a system works and can be represented as a cause-and-effect chain. Mayer’s visual representation of the two channels for processing information is an example of a process structure.
The second structure he describes is a comparison structure. This structure compares multiple points between two or more items and is often represented as a matrix. A third structure is a generalization structure. This structure organizes a main idea and the subordinate supporting details, which can be represented as a branching tree.
The next type of structure is an enumeration structure. This is a collection of items and can usually be represented as a list because the items in the collection are equal. Finally, the last structure is classification. Classification includes sets and subsets and can be represented as hierarchies.
These model types help show what an effective and useful visual representation might look like. As Mayer explains, not all visuals and multimedia presentations are equal in their instructional quality. In his article, he includes a process structure to help explain how the visual information and auditory information are processed in separate channels in the brain. The visual representation helps to make sense of the words that he provides to explain the brain’s processing.
In addition to providing a visual for his own theory, Mayer explains and shows the multimedia presentation he used in conducting his study. This presentation explains how lightning is formed. Along with a narration, a very simple visual animation shows horizontal squiggly lines for cool air, then vertical squiggly lines for warmed air that rises, and vertical squiggly lines pointing into a cloud to show the formation of a cloud. These two simple examples show us Mayer’s basic principles for multimedia learning in action.
Mayer’s Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning tells us that the words and pictures that we choose for instruction are important and impactful. Choosing a cartoon animation that doesn’t directly relate to the material can hinder a student’s learning rather than helping them.
To assist instructors in designing high-quality courses that include multimedia content, McGraw-Hill has released Connect2. Our newest teaching and learning platform allows instructors to choose vetted content developed by a curriculum expert that can be included in their courses. Course content experts have designed effective multimedia lessons that can be selected and deployed into an individual course, helping the students move through an active learning process to learn and retain the information in their long term memory.
Want to learn more about how Connect2 can be integrated with your specific course? Request a demo today!