Multimedia presentation

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1 Definition

  • A multimedia presentation is a message that uses multimedia.
  • In education, “ A multimedia instructional message is a presentation consisting of words and pictures that is designed to foster meaningful learning. Thus, there are two parts to the definition: (a) the presentation contains words and pictures, and (b) the presentation is designed to foster meaningful learning” (Mayer 2003: 128)

See also: multimedia animation which deals with a specific kind of multimedia presentation, the media debate which addresses the questions whether there can be a "pure" media effect and most importantly: human information processing that deals with theory behind research on multimedia effects as well as cognitive load.

2 The design multimedia presentations

Let's quote Mayer who a well know researcher in the area:

The promise of multimedia learning is that, by combining pictures with words, we will be able to foster deeper learning in students. First, multimedia instruction messages can be designed in ways that are consistent with how people learn, and thus can serve as aids to human learning (Mayer, 1997, 1999a, 1999b, 2001). Second, there is a growing research base showing that students learn more deeply from welldesigned multimedia presentations than from traditional verbal-only messages, including improved performance on tests of problem-solving transfer (Mandl & Levin, 1989; Mayer, 2001; Najjar, 1998; Schnotz & Kulhavy, 1994; Sweller, 1999; Van Merrienboer, 1997). In short, the promise of multimedia learning is that teachers can tap the power of visual and verbal forms of expression in the service of promoting student understanding.
(Mayer 2003:127).

2.1 Mayer's design principles

Mayer's research clearly demonstrated that under some conditions learners learn better when they are able to hold corresponding visual and verbal representations in working memory at the same time. (see also human information processing. Therefore Mayer formulates do's and dont's for instructional designers (e.g. in Clark & Mayer, 1993):

Multimedia effect

“ The multimedia effect refers to the finding that students learn more deeply from a multimedia explanation presented in words and pictures than in words alone” (Mayer, 2003).

  • Multimedia Design Principle: Add pictures to words
  • A message created with words and corresponding images is better retained than a message created with words alone (Rebetez: 8)
Contiguity effect

“ The spatial contiguity effect is that students learn more deeply from multimedia explanations when corresponding words and pictures are presented near to rather than far from each other on the page or screen.” (Mayer, 2003)

  • Continguity Design Principle: Place words near corresponding pictures
  • Spatial continguity principle: Learning is improved when images and corresponding words are spatially integrated. For example, legends should be close to the corresponding picture elements. (Rebetez: 8)
  • Temporal continguity principle: Learning is improved when visual and verbal elements are presented together. (Rebetez: 8)

“ The personalization effect is that students learn more deeply from a multimedia explanation when the words are presented in conversational style rather than formal style.” (Mayer, 2003)

  • Design princpile: Use conversational style for words.
Coherence effect

“ The coherence effect refers to the finding that students learn more deeply from a multimedia explanation when extraneous material is excluded rather than included.” (Mayer, 2003)

  • Coherence Design Principle: Eliminate extraneous words and pictures
  • Learning is better when words, images and sounds not directly useful for comprehension are removed. Anecdotes, illustrations and ambient music are example of often unnecessary elements. (Rebetez: 8)

Students learn better when their visual/pictorial channel is not overloaded (i.e. when they must process words and graphics simultaneously at rapid pace) (Clark and Mayer, 2003 :86)

  • Modality design principle: Present Words as speech rather than onscreen text
  • Animated pictures presented with an audio commentary are better understood than accompanied with on screen text. (Rebetez: 8)

Similar as above.

  • Redundancy design principle: Presenting words in both text and audio narration can hurt learning
  • Learning is better when presenting an animation with an audio commentary than an animation, its commentary and the corresponding text. (Rebetez: 8)

2.2 Is a computer better than a book ?

Mayer (2003) made an experiment with four instructional design methods (strategies) that were aimed at the issue of methods across media - how to design a multimedia message that promotes understanding and whether design principles that work in one media environment (e.g. learning from books) also work in a different media environment (e.g. learning from computers). The answer was that effects (and therefore design principles) seem to work across media.

  1. Multimedia effect(students learn better from pictures and words than pictures alone): With text-in-a-book-and-illustrations and narration-and-animation was compared to text only and narration only.
  2. Coherence effect (students learn better when extraneous materials are excluded.): Two situations, i.e. text-in-a-book and-illustrations and narration-and-animation either included extra seductive details or not.
  3. Contiguity effect (students learn better when text is close to illustration or animation): Learners exposed to either with text-in-a-book-and-illustrations and text-and-animation situations were divided into 2 groups with information either close or far.
  4. Personalization effect (students learn better when words are presented in conversional style). This effect was tested in 4 groups with animation-and-narration and animation-and-onscreen-text. Narration or text was either conventional or “personal”.

“ Our results provide four case examples of a straightforward finding: instructional design methods that promote deeper learning in one media environment (such as text and illustrations) also promote deep learning in other media environments (such as narration and animation). This means that good instructional methods can work across media. In short, the principles of instructional design do not necessarily change when the learning environment changes. [...] media environments do not cause learning, cognitive processing by the learner causes learning. If an instructional method promotes the same kinds of cognitive processing across different media, then it will result in the same benefits across media.” (Mayer 2003:127).

“ Humans possess two channels - visual and verbal - regardless of whether material is presented by book or by computer. Each channel is limited in capacity regardless of whether material is presented by book or computer. Active cognitive processing - including selecting, organizing, and integrating mental representations - promotes meaningful learning regardless of whether material is presented by book or computer.”

2.3 Sweller's design principles

Sweller in the framework of his cognitive load theory also made series of recommendations for instructional designers, and that you may wish to consult.

3 Conclusions from research

  • Multimedia can be beneficial when it is carefully designed and does not unnecessarilty overload human information processing.
  • Similar learning effects can be obtained with different media (e.g. books for illustrations + text and screens for graphics + spoken words).

4 Technology

  • Various tools needed to produce a web page with pictures and text.
  • Internet multimedia delivery formats like SMIL or Flash
  • Interactive multimedia design tools such as Authorware

See Presentation software if you are looking for some more software links.

5 References

  • Bétrancourt, M. (2003). Outil cognitif ou gadget ? Les promesses non tenues des animations multimédia. Psychoscope , 8/ 2003, Vol. 24, pp 28-30. PDF
  • Mayer, Richard E. & Ruth Colvin Clark (2003). E-learning and the Science of Instruction: Proven Guidelines for Consumers and Designers of Multimedia Learning, San Franciso: Pfeifer.
  • Mayer, Richard E. , The promise of multimedia learning: using the same instructional design methods across different media, Learning and Instruction, Volume 13, Issue 2, , April 2003, Pages 125-139. Abstract/PDF (Access restricted). (Note: The same journal issue also contains other important articles on multimedia in education)
  • Mayer, 1997. R.E. Mayer , Multimedia learning: are we asking the right questions?. Educational Psychologist 32 (1997), pp. 1-19.
  • Mayer, 1999a. R.E. Mayer , Multimedia aids to problem-solving transfer. International Journal of Educational Research 31 (1999), pp. 611-623.
  • Mayer, 1999b. R.E. Mayer , Research-based principles for the design of instructional messages. Document Design 1 (1999), pp. 7-20.
  • Mayer, 2001. R.E. Mayer , Multimedia learning. , Cambridge University Press, New York (2001).
  • Mandl and Levin, 1989. H. Mandl and J.R. Levin, Editors, Knowledge acquisition from text and pictures, North-Holland, Amsterdam (1989).
  • Merrill, M. D. (In Press). First principles of instruction: a synthesis. In R. A. Reiser and J. V. Dempsey (Eds.) Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology. Columbus: Ohio, Merrill Prentice Hall. PDF Preprint, retrieved, 17:17, 15 September 2006 (MEST)
  • Najjar, 1998. L.J. Najjar , Principles of educational multimedia user interface design. Human Factors 40 (1998), pp. 311-323.
  • Rebetez, Cyril (2006). Control and collaboration in multimedia learning: Is there a split-interaction? MA Thesis, Diplôme d'études approfondies en psychologie cognitive expérimentale, Université de Genève PDF
  • Schnotz and Kulhavy, 1994. W. Schnotz and R.W. Kulhavy, Editors, Comprehension of graphics, North-Holland, Amsterdam (1994).
  • Sweller, 1999. J. Sweller , Instructional design in technological areas. , ACER Press, Camberwell, Australia (1999).
  • Van Merrienboer, 1997. J.J.G. Van Merrienboer , Training complex cognitive skills. , Educational Technology Press, Englewood Cliffs, NJ (1997).