Media design and development are essential skills for instructional design (ID) or learning design (LD) professionals. The reality is that not every ID or LD professional develops media content as a part of their job duties, but it is recommended that these skills are mastered to a degree. This means developing a toolbox that will help when creating infographics, videos, podcasts, interactives, games, simulations, and other types of instructional products so ubiquitous in our profession.
Before delving into media development, ID and LD professionals should be cognizant of media design principles dictated by the cognitive theory of multimedia learning and visual design.
Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning
Research done by Richard Mayer on the cognitive theory of multimedia learning focused on the scientific examination of how people learn with multimedia. It laid the foundation for media design with learners’ cognitive infrastructure and limitations at its forefront. The entire concept of learning with media revolves around the fact that humans can learn better from words and pictures than from words alone (Mayer, 2020). This premise is based on the idea that all instructional messages should be designed based on how the human mind works.
Mayer outlines three kinds of demands on human cognitive capacity: extraneous, essential, and generative processing.
Extraneous processing refers to the processing that does not support the instructional goal, and it is caused by the poor design of instruction. Within this category, ID and LD professionals can use several principles to reduce extraneous processing:
- Coherence principle – remove extraneous words, sounds, or graphics from your media content,
- Signaling principle – highlight essential words or graphics,
- Redundancy principle – remove redundant captions from narrated presentations,
- Spatial contiguity principle – place essential words next to corresponding graphics,
- Temporal contiguity principle – present corresponding words and pictures simultaneously.
Essential processing refers to the cognitive processing aimed at mentally representing the learning material in one’s working memory. The complexity of these learning materials can cause cognitive overload and diminish essential processing. ID and LD professionals can use the following three principles to reduce cognitive load when designing instruction:
- Segmenting principle – chunk up the learning material and allow the learner to control its delivery,
- Pre-training principle – provide the learner with the pre-training in the names and characteristics of key components to alleviate cognitive overload,
- Modality principle – present the lesson using images and spoken words rather than images and printed words.
And lastly, generative processing is related to making sense of the presented materials, and it is caused by the learner’s motivation to learn. ID and LD professionals can use the following techniques to help motivate learners to make an effort to apply their cognitive resources toward learning:
- Personalization principle – present speech in a conversational style to better connect with your learners,
- Voice principle – use human speech rather than computer-generated speech when creating media content,
- Embodiment principle – create content by an instructor who uses human-line gestures and movement,
- Generative activity – include prompts to engage in summarizing, mapping, drawing, imagining, self-testing and explaining, teaching, and enacting.
In summary, Mayer’s principles should become second nature for ID and LD professionals when creating multimedia learning experiences.
Next month we’ll continue the conversation to discuss the importance of visual design elements in learning design.
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- Lindgaard, G., & Dudek, C. (2003). What is this evasive beast we call user satisfaction?. Interacting with computers, 15(3), 429-452.
- Lu, Y., Tan, B., & Wang, Y. (2013). Web aesthetics: how does it influence the sales performance in online marketplaces.
- Mayer, R. (2020). Multimedia Learning (3rd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/9781316941355
- Williams, R. (2015). The non-designer’s design book: design and typographic principles for the visual novice. Pearson Education.