What Do E-Learning Designers Need to Know About Multimedia Learning?

Multimedia Learning Principles #126: Challenge | Recap

What Do E-Learning Designers Need to Know About the Principles of Multimedia Learning?

Have you ever been asked to design an e-learning course, module, or interaction you knew wouldn't help the targeted audience? Ditto.

I had a good discussion recently with a community member who was frustrated with her current e-learning project. Evidently, her client was insisting that she—wait for it—sync all the on-slide text animations with the audio narration.

She tried to convince her client that this wasn’t the best way to present the material. She sent them dozens of research articles, including Richard Mayer's Redundancy Principle, backing up her claim. You know, the principle that tells us "not to add printed text to spoken text."

Unless your clients are instructional designers or educators, it's unlikely that research alone will be enough to help them see the light. Instead, you need something more tangible that brings the research to real-world examples. And that's what this week's challenge is all about!

Basic Principles of Multimedia Learning

The number of principles has increased a little over the years, but they’re still practical, common-sense guidelines for designing effective training. The big win for designers is having research-based evidence to guide and support the decisions you make in course development.

  1. Multimedia Principle: People learn better from words and pictures than from words alone.
  2. Split-Attention Principle: People learn better when words and pictures are physically and temporally integrated.
  3. Modality Principle: People learn better from graphics and narration than from graphics and printed text.
  4. Signaling Principle: People learn better when cues are added that highlight the key information and its organization.
  5. Redundancy Principle: People learn better when the same information is not presented in more than one format.
  6. Coherence Principle: People learn better when extraneous material is excluded rather than included.
  7. Spatial Contiguity Principle: People learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented near rather than far from each other on the screen or page or in time.
  8. Temporal Contiguity Principle: People learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively.
  9. Segmenting Principle: People learn better when a multimedia message is presented in learner-paced segments rather than as a continuous unit.
  10. Pre-training Principle: people learn better from a multimedia message when they know the names and characteristics of the main concepts.
  11. Personalization Principle: People learn better when the words of a multimedia presentation are in conversational style rather than formal style.
  12. Voice Principle: People learn better when the words are spoken in a standard-accented human voice rather than a machine voice or foreign-accented human voice.
  13. Image Principle: People learn better when on-screen agents display humanlike gestures and movements.
  14. Embodiment Principle: People do not necessarily learn better when the speaker’s image is on the screen.

Challenge of the Week

This week, your challenge is to design an interaction to teach one of the principles of multimedia learning.

You can leverage ideas from previous challenges (tabs, quizzes, games, sliders, comparisons, etc.) as a starting point for your interaction.


There are hundreds of good resources available. Pinterest, YouTube, Vimeo, and Google will help you find everything you need to know about Richard Mayer and his Multimedia Learning Principles.

Here are a few resources to help you get started:

Multimedia Learning Books by Richard Mayer

NOTE: You don’t need both of Mayer’s books to complete the challenge. There are hundreds of great resources (videos, articles, SlideShares, and presentations) that cover each of the principles.

The Handbook is a massive collection of scholarly articles from the best-known experts in our field, perfect for anyone looking for a deep dive into cognitive science and technology-based learning. Personally, I prefer the Multimedia Learning book because it’s a more practical read and easier to quickly reference each of the principles. If you get one or both, make sure you get the second editions.

Multimedia Learning Books by Richard Mayer

Handbook of Multimedia Learning | Multimedia Learning

Last Week’s Challenge:

Check out the gamified scratch off interactions your fellow community members shared in last week’s challenge:

Scratch Card Games for E-Learning

Scratch Cards for E-Learning #125: Challenge | Recap


Wishing you a great week, E-Learning Heroes!

New to the E-Learning Challenges?

The weekly challenges are ongoing opportunities to learn, share, and build your e-learning portfolios. You can jump into any or all of the previous challenges anytime you want. I’ll update the recap posts to include your demos.

Daniel Sweigert
Daniel Sweigert
Mohammad  Hassam
Daniel Sweigert
Tim Danes
Maija Perfiljeva
Maija Perfiljeva
Veronica Budnikas
Maija Perfiljeva

Daniela, I agree. Looking at a static screen while someone invisible is talking about it is worse than listening to a lecture. At least during a lecture you're looking at a living/animated person who is using their body language/intonation to give more life to their message (if a lecturer has good presentation skills, of course). Even if you're listening to a tour guide while admiring art/architecture, you don't really stare at that art for as long as the guide is talking - you phase out/in, look at the guide, maybe wander off to look at something else if the guide takes too long to describe all the intricacies of the artist's style. Not to mention that art/architecture is usually more complex than an e-learning slide and you'd usually move your eyes and switch attention between diffe... Expand

Daniela Slater
Samar Anis
Saurabh Dua
Brenda Tyedmers
Brenda Tyedmers
Bola Owoade
Alison  L.

Huh. So here I come to whine about JUST getting my book, and now you're doing a Challenge on it already. BUT it's not even mentioned anywhere here yet?? Allright then... Just last month, a 4th ed. of the fabulous e-Learning and the Science of Instruction by Ruth Colvin Clark & RICHARD MAYER , was released. Among update and new chapters, it includes evidence-based information on the Principles (4. Multimedia; 5. Contiguity; 6. Modality; 7. Redundancy; 8. Coherence; 9. Personalization & Embodiment; 10. Segmenting & Pretraining.) : http://www.amazon.com/dp/1119158664/ To be honest, I haven't read the 4th ed. yet, and the last time I DID read it was the 2nd ed. But between this and William Horton's e-Learning By Design, they were my co-bibles when I was getting into eLearning (or... Expand