Instructional Design Principles
Multimedia Principle (3:26)
The multimedia principle, as set out by Richard Mayer in 2001, recommends that e-learning courses include words and graphics, as opposed to just words. Based on cognitive theory and research evidence, learners are more likely to understand material when they can actively engage with it. Multimedia presentations can encourage learners to engage in active learning by mentally representing the material in words and in pictures and by making connections between the pictorial and verbal representations.
Guidelines for Use
Guideline 1 – Pictures Should Not be an Afterthought
Pictures should not be an afterthought. Instead of selecting pictures after the words are written, instructional designers should consider how words and pictures work together to create meaning for the learner. Therefore, visuals as well as words should be planned together as the job analysis is conducted and the course is designed.
Guideline 2 – Selecting the Appropriate Combination of Content and Graphics
Depending on the type of information you plan to present, selecting the appropriate combination of content and graphic types is essential to creating material that fosters active learning. See table below for examples:
Aligning content and appropriate graphics
|Useful Graphic Types*
|Unique and isolated
information such as
screens, forms, or
|A screen capture
A table of parts’ names and specifications
|Categories of objects,events, or symbols
designated by a single name
|A tree diagram of
Three Excel formulas to illustrate formatting rules
|A description of how
|Animations of how the heart pumps blood
Still diagrams to
illustrate how a bicycle pump works
An animation showing how a virus invades a cell
|A series of steps
resulting in completion of a task
illustration of how to
use a spreadsheet
A diagram with arrows showing how to install a printer cable
|Guidelines that result in completion of a task; cause-and-effect
|A video showing
two effective sales
An animation showing genes passing from
parents to offspring
Definitions of graphic types
|Visuals added for aesthetic appeal or for humor
|Visuals that illustrate the appearance of an object
|Visuals that show qualitative relationships among content
|Visuals that summarize quantitative relationships
|Visuals that illustrate changes in time or over space
|Visuals that make intangible phenomena visible and concrete
Good Examples of Use
Example 1 – YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4e5UPu1co0
This short video explains climate change. Through the skillful use of narration and appropriate graphics (in this case animations), viewers can easily connect the words to the images and make connections.
Example 2 – LinkedIn Learning https://learning.linkedin.com/
LinkedIn Learning is primarily aimed at the adult professional demographic group and offers a variety of professional development courses online. Many of these courses demonstrate the multimedia principle with graphics or animations combined with narrated slides.
Resource 1 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbvpPdxoJiI
This is a short and concise video explaining the multimedia principle.
Resource 2 – http://instructionaldesign.io/toolkit/mayer/
This article provides some background to Richard Mayer as well as an explanation of his multimedia principle. There are also examples of graphic/ word combinations as used in real-life webpages.
Clark, R. & Mayer, R. (2008). E-Learning and the Science of Instruction, USA, Pfeiffer
|Tobie Pilloy has been working in education for almost 2 decades. After working as a teacher for almost 10 years, he transitioned into management and is currently the Education Coordinator for English Testing Canada.