Creating media rich content for learning: Mayer’s multimedia approach

Richard Mayer stated the above, however, he also noted that simply adding words to pictures is not an effective way to achieve multimedia learning. The goal is to use instructional media in the light of how the human mind works. This is something we will look into.

Lesson goals and objectives

In this lesson you will learn:

  • what the Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning is about
  • why it is important to keep this in mind when creating media rich content for your classes

Effective use of multimedia resources
Creating media rich content is often great fun. You quickly tend to make your material as rich as possible, with an abundance of images, supporting lyrics and music or sound effects. This may lead to falling into a trap: that of overloading the student’s working memory. In this context, it is very useful to study Mayer’s multimedia theory.

When transmitting knowledge, it is very important to bear in mind the lessons we can learn from the Multimedia theory of Mayer:

Effective learning means that we have stored new knowledge and skills in our long-term memory. Our memory consists of three components: the sensory memory (an extension of the senses), the working memory and the long-term memory.

The working memory is very volatile, without repetition it holds information for 10 seconds. It has separate channels for information coming in through the eyes (image, written text) and information coming in through the ears (music, spoken text). The long-term memory holds information in the form of cognitive schemes. This is the repository of knowledge that can be used at a later stage.

The working memory is a bottleneck
The working memory is therefore a bottleneck, which can quickly become clogged. It is useful for a teacher to know about this. Effective multimedia sources prevent the working memory from becoming overloaded and preventing information from flowing into the long-term memory.

This can be done in various ways:

a) focus the student ‘s attention
(b) reduce the complexity of the learning material
(c) provide support
(d) withhold irrelevant information
(e) use both the visual and the auditory system

a) Focus attention
We call this alert. Send attention to the core of the learning material. Split moving parts into meaningful parts (segmentation principle), for example, by splitting into different steps or phases. This prevents cognitive overload. This is more important if the learner has little or no prior knowledge of the subject.

b) Reduce complexity

  • Adjust the degree of reality. A true-to-life video can quickly contain too many details and nuances for novice learners. It is better to present a simplified version of reality at first. Later on you can present the full and faithful version.
  • Integrate sources. A picture that is not directly attached to the text does not work well; learners then only focus on the text. A text with the picture in the right place or an animation that combines movement and text on the other hand, increases the learner’s absorption capacity, because the different channels are used simultaneously. But excess harms: a video with spoken text in which the text also appears in the image has a counterproductive effect. In such a case the learner must look at the image and read the text in the image.
  • Sort the learning tasks from simple to complex.
  • Let the learner learn at his own pace. Compare the Mathematics Academy: the teacher with a pause button.

c) Provide support
Research shows that complex learning tasks are better allocated to groups than to individuals. Complex tasks exceed the capacity of the individual’s working memory, but tasks can be divided into groups. Individuals learn better from examples than individuals do, but as a group they learn better from problem solving. Collaborative learning in complex assignments. Two know more than one.

d) Remove irrelevant information
This is called the superfluity principle. Background music is in many cases irrelevant to what needs to be learned, but it does appeal to the working memory. You must listen to it. The same applies to double-up information (the principle of renunciation). In the case of double-up, learners must find out for themselves that it is the same information whilst the brain is focused on the fact that it is new information. Double-up is therefore counterproductive for learning. This is quite remarkable because it runs counter to the common-sense belief that offering something else (variety) works well or that ‘if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t harm’, the truth is that it does!

This deserves extra attention, however, because based on Brain Learning it is stated that the offering of learning material in ever different forms serves several learning preferences.

 So, what exactly is the difference?

e) An appeal to both the visual and the auditory system
So, use image and sound at the same time. Image can also be a written text in which you tell something. So, use a spoken explanatory text for a diagram. This is called the modality principle. It is especially important in situations where the teacher or the learning system determines the tempo and not the learner himself.

Towards effective learning
Effective processing of learning material is deep processing. Only then is effective learning possible. Just learning for a test and then forgetting everything again does produce a nice grade in the report but has nothing to do with effective learning. Knowledge must be stored schematically in the long-term memory in order to be able for a person to extract and apply it just in time and just in place later on.

Acquiring knowledge is, on the one hand, scheme construction: a kind of coding of the knowledge in order to be able to do this. On the other hand, it is a kind of coding of the knowledge in order to be able to use it.



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