Instructional Design Principles



Watch overview videoRedundancy Principle (4:33)


The Redundancy Principle is an instructional principle that occurs when on-screen text and audio narration about a graphic are the same. When adding on-screen text to a narrated image, the user may experience cognitive overload as multiple pieces of information are trying to be processed simultaneously. When experiencing working memory overload, the user may have difficulty learning and understanding the content that is being explored.

Guidelines for Use

Guideline 1 – Explain a visual through audio or text, NOT both

When including a visual within your web-based learning tool or presentation, it is important to keep in mind to explain the visual through audio or text. When we choose one or the other, we limit the chance of the learner experiencing cognitive overload. An example of this guideline can be a discussion. When discussing the image, the presenter has chosen to do so through only audio or narration, therefore preventing the chance for cognitive overload to occur.

Guideline 2 – Do not add on-screen text to narrated graphics

When including a visual within your web-based learning tool or presentation, it is important to keep in mind to not add on-screen text to a narrated graphic. In the case that we add on-screen text to an image already narrated, the user may fail to understand as their working memory may be overloaded. An example of this guideline can include a presentation in which there are multiple images. The presenter should choose between adding on-screen text to the presentation which they can read, or the presenter can choose to explain the visual through a narration. When doing so, the learners will not experience cognitive overload.

Guideline 3 – On-screen text should only be added with graphics and audio in specific situations

When creating a web-based learning tool or a presentation, we should keep in mind specific situation(s) where it may be applicable to add on-screen text to a narrated image. The situation(s) include a presentation where there is no video or image, when there is ample opportunity to process the visual, when the learner must exert greater cognitive effort to comprehend, including English Language Learners and those who have low vocabulary skills, or when a few key words are presented next to the element in the graphic. When doing so, the learners will not experience cognitive overload, and may instead understand the concept in greater detail.

Good Examples of Use

Example 1 – Not all Scientific Studies are created equal

The tool includes a video which was created in mind of the redundancy principle. In the video, the creator decided to use audio to reach its users. The users may have little to no chance of experiencing cognitive overload as there is no need to focus on on-screen text while listening to the audio. In the case that an English Language Learner or a student with poor language skills is viewing the video, they may decide to access the closed captions feature.

Example 2 – PowToon Example

The link is a great example of the redundancy principle as the creator of the video chose to only have on-screen text in their video. Users will not experience working memory overload as no channel is being overloaded with incoming information. English Language Learners or students with poor language skills can read the text and pause the video whenever needed.

Helpful Resources

Resource 1 – Six Principles of Effective e-Learning: What Works and Why   

This resource is an article exploring six principles of effective e-learning. Within the article, they explore the various principles of e-learning, such as multimedia, contiguity, modality, redundancy, coherence and personalization. This is a great resource that can be used as an introduction to some principles of effective e-learning.

Resource 2 – The Redundancy Principle

This resource is a 3-minute video explaining the Redundancy Principle.

Resource 3 – Revising the Redundancy Principle in Multimedia learning

This resource is an article summarizing research done in which where there two groups receiving the same information, the only thing being different is one group experienced redundancy, while the other experienced non-redundancy. Throughout the research, they found that the redundant group performed better on retention but not on transfer.


Clark, R.C., & Mayer, R.E. (2002). E-Learning and the Science of Instruction: Proven Guidelines for Consumers and Designers of Multimedia Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer.

Mayer, R. E., & Johnson, C. I. (2008). Revising the redundancy principle in multimedia learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100(2), 380-386. doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.100.2.380

McCrudden, M. T., Hushman, C. J., & Marley, S. C. (2013). Exploring the Boundary Conditions of the Redundancy Principle. The Journal of Experimental Education., 82(4), 537–554. doi: 10.1080/00220973.2013.813368


Submitted by: Marta Masnyi
Bio: Recent Graduate of the Bachelor of Education Degree which was completed at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.

Current student of the Graduate Diploma in Education and Digital Technologies in which I am studying how to effectively integrate technology within the classroom setting.


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E-Learning Essentials 2020 Copyright © 2020 by Power Learning Solutions is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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