How Mayer’s “12 Principles of Multimedia Learning” can be applied to Digital Learning - The Vibons Blog

How Mayer’s “12 Principles of Multimedia Learning” can be applied to Digital Learning

By Tugrul Turkkan, Founder   |    4 min read

How Mayer’s “12 Principles of Multimedia Learning” can be applied to Digital Learning

By Tugrul Turkkan, Founder
 4 min read

‘How can we use graphics to enhance the power of words?’

In the presentation and discussion on Research Principles for Multimedia Instruction hosted at the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching (HILT), prof. Richard Mayer, who has spent years researching the field of multimedia learning, emphasized the importance of having an active-learning approach for building a stable knowledge construction.

The Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, pointed out that “for deep learning to occur, the learner has to engage in certain cognitive processes, such as selecting the relevant information, organizing it into a coherent structure and integrating it with relevant prior knowledge.”

Years of research efforts resulted in major discoveries that graphics and animations provide an effective learning experience, only if they “are designed in ways that are consistent with how the human mind works and are consistent with research-based principles.”

The problem of learning as information acquisition rather than knowledge construction and more importantly, the role of visuals in the process of transferring knowledge, are the foundation of prof. Mayer’s 12 Principles of Multimedia Learning.

Even though Mayer’s principles are designed for academic purposes, and the graphics in context are less advanced than the variety of today’s digital animation methods, the principles offer significant value for instructional designers and are essential in understanding the learner.

Visualization is Changing the Game for Online Learning

The number of people that use online courses for learning is increasing each year. According to the Babson Survey Research Group, about 5.8 million students were taking at least one learning course in 2015, which is up for 3.9 percent from previous years.

According to Udemy, the online learning and teaching marketplace with over 15 million consumers and 55 000 courses, in 2016, 13 million people chose to study Development on their site, and 8.5 million students select their platform to study Business.

However, the data gathered by an Open University doctoral student shows that the average completion rate of courses across 29 countries is only 6.8 percent. In fact, a studyshows that most online students that are dissatisfied in their courses are likely to drop out, pointing out professors’ instructional approaches as the reason for low engagement.

Mayer’s evidence-based principles on effective learning provide useful insights for the modern, distracted learner. We are focusing on faster and easier, hence the rise of online learning, but what does that mean for the knowledge retention and its transfer to solving new problems?

The main point of Mayer’s principles is not only to unfold how people understand and process things through graphics and animation but also how to use visualization to help the learner understand the material presented. The professor got interested in finding out what makes a useful graphics and what are the effects of combined visuals, sound, and text on the learner, especially when placed in different locations in the document.

What he’d found from his research as well as from studying others’ research, is that:

Multimedia learning targets the three cognitive processes required for meaningful learning: selecting, organizing, and integrating.

People learn better from words and pictures than from words alone, but the placement of the visuals is of critical importance for the effectiveness of knowledge retention.

Visuals are important for developing deeper knowledge.

Not all visuals work the same; some are more efficient than others.

Visuals have shown to be crucial for transferring the acquired knowledge, allowing the learner to use what he’s learned in new situations.

The Challenge for L&D

Focusing on effective learning strategies in the digital era when employees have short attention span, and only 24 minutes per week to dedicate to learning, L&D professionals are at a crossroad while deciding on the optimal learning strategy.

Some of the challenges for L&D are how to “prime cognitive processes in learning without overloading working memory” and how to use visuals to maximize learning. Also, which learning methods allow the learner to use what they have learned to solve new problems?

Here are five tips (inspired by the 12 Principles of Multimedia Learning) to use explainer animation to overcome the challenges:

Keep it simple and focused: Mayer’s Image Principle demonstrates that people do not necessarily learn better from a multimedia lesson when the speaker’s image is added to the screen. This tends to be the case in live-action videos, which fail to provide more in-depth understanding as the learner is not fully engaged with the material. Unlike live-action videos, explanation animation uses motion graphics and visual metaphors to keep the viewer focused and engaged on the subject of learning, ensuring an effective learning process.

In addition to that, Mayer’s Coherence Principle promotes simplicity and focus as keys to learning. People learn better when extraneous words, pictures and sounds are excluded rather than included, so keeping the video simple and straight to the point will spread the main message the learner should pay attention to.

However, this can be applied to a certain amount because simplicity doesn’t mean low engagement. It means that the learning material shouldn’t include details that are not relevant to the topic, and may confuse the viewer.

Use the power of microlearning: If the information in the video is grouped into smaller, meaningful chunks, the learner will retain more information than in a video that is longer and keeps the viewer “on hold” until making the final point.

One thing at a time: Additionally, as short as the video may be, the key to stimulate the viewer’s brain the entire time is to present the corresponding words and pictures simultaneously rather than successively. The theory behind this, also known as temporal contiguity principle, is that “learners are better able to make mental connections when corresponding words and pictures are in working memory at the same time.” (source)

Highlight the cues. According to the signaling principle, people learn better when cues that highlight the organization of the essential material are added. This principle works magic for lessons that point out a couple of important conclusions, which when combined with animation are most likely to result in meaningful learning.

Create interest by using storytelling. Mayer’s research shows that people learn more deeply when the terms of the lesson are presented in conversational style than formal style. Including a story will add a personalized dimension to the animation because conversational learning style feels closer to the learner and helps them create a better interaction.

Are you ready to take your e-learning strategy to the next level by applying some of these principles?

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