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Principles of Multimedia

Principle of Multimedia
Principle of Spatial Contiguity
Principle of Temporal Contiguity
Principle of Coherence
Principle of Modality

Principle of Redundancy
Principle of Individual Differences
Principle of Practice
Principle of Learner Control
Principle of Personalization

The "principles of multimedia learning" advocated by Richard Mayer & Ruth Clark are explained in detail in the following sources:

  • Clark, Ruth (1999). Developing Technical Training: A Structured Approach for Developing Classroom and Computer-based Instructional Materials. ISPI
  • Richard Mayer (2001). Multi-Media Learning. Cambridge University Press
  • Clark, Ruth and Richard Mayer (2002). E-Learning and the Science of Instruction: Proven Guidelines for Consumers and Designers of Multimedia Learning. Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer
  • Clark, Ruth and Chopeta Lyons (2004). Graphics for Learning: Proven Guidelines for Planning, Designing and Evaluating Visuals in Training Materials. Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer

Multimedia Principles Affect on Learning

Based primarily on Mayer's research (2001), Clark and Mayer (2003) provide the following overview of multimedia principles and their effect on learning:

Multimedia Principles
Effect on Learning
best use of words & pictures
Adding graphics to words can improve learning. Students learn better from words and pictures, rather than from words alone.

Spatial Contiguity
 best placement of words & pictures

Placing text near graphics improves learning. Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented near rather than far from each other.
Temporal Contiguity
best sequencing of words & pictures
Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively.

 "less is more"

Using gratuitous visuals, text, and sounds can hurt learning. Students learn better when extraneous words, pictures and sounds are excluded rather than included. Less is more: eye or ear "candy" can distract and actually hurt instruction by causing cognitive overload.
 Visual: Student learning is hurt when interesting but irrelevant words and pictures are added to a multimedia presentation.
 Sound: Student learning is hurt when interesting but irrelevant sounds and music are added to a multimedia presentation.
 Words: Student learning is improved when unneeded words are eliminated from a multimedia presentation.
best use of visual and auditory channels
Explaining graphics with audio improves learning. Students learn better from animation and narration, than from animation and on-screen text.
best use of text and audio
Explaining graphics with audio and redundant text can hurt learning. Avoid reading on-screen text. Students learn better from animation and narration, than from animation, narration, and on-screen text.
Individual Differences
 best use of prior knowledge
Design effects are stronger for low-knowledge learners than for high-knowledge learners and for high-spatial learner than than for low-spatial learners. These learners are equipped to use cognitive strategy to work around cognitive overload, distraction, or other effects of poor design.
best interactions for learning
Frequent, distributed, problem-solving, job-context practice improves learning and transfer.
Learner Control vs.
Program Control
best navigation scheme
Most students learn more under program control. Adult learners require a sense of control to be able to establish a self-paced learning process.
 engaging the learner
Use of conversational tone and pedagogical agents can increase learning


Content Presentation & Use of Graphics

Ruth Clark has emphasized that graphic technique can be used to specifically support learning of different types of content presentation.

Content Type
Graphic Support
Realistic illustrations of specific forms, screens, and equipment Illustration of a software screen


Realistic illustrations of multiple examples of a concept Pictures of excellent web pages to illustrate the concept of what makes an effective web page


Animated diagrams illustrating stages of process Activities in a computer network
Procedure Video or animated demonstrations of near-transfer task being performed Animation of how to use a software application
Principle Video or diagrams of far-transfer tasks being performed Video of effective sales closing techniques

Clark and Mayer (2003) offer the following recommendations for graphic support:

Knowledge Structures & Graphic Support

Type of Cognitive Structure





Explain a cause-and-effect chain

Flow chart

Explanation of how the human ear works


Compare and contrast two or more elements along several dimensions


Comparison of two theories of learning with respect to nature of the learner, teacher, and instructional methods


Describe main idea and supporting details

Branching tree

Presentation of thesis for the major causes of the American Civil War along with evidence


Present a list of items


List of the names of seven principles of multimedia design


Analyze a domain into sets and subsets


Description of a biological classification system for sea animals


Use of Text & Graphics

General Multimedia Design Principles
for Text and Illustrations


The key ideas are highlighted in the illustrations and in the text


Extraneous descriptions are minimized in the text and extraneous visual features are minimized in the illustrations


Corresponding illustrations and text segments are presented near each other on the page


The text and illustrations are presented in ways that allow for easy visualization


The presented material has a clear structure (e.g., a cause-and-effect chain)


The text and illustrations are presented in ways that are familiar and allow the learner to apply relevant past experience


Key terms used in the text and key features of the illustration are used consistently and in ways that make them more memorable


User Interface Design: Layout, Navigation, Usability

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Principles of Multimedia

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