Instructional Design Principles



Watch overview videoPersonalization Principle (5:22)


The Personalization Principle is one of Mayer’s 12 Principles of Multimedia Learning. The theory views simulating a social discourse as an event that promotes active cognitive processing, allowing people to feel they are engaged in a conversation with a partner instead of passively receiving information. This theory suggests you can use an informal, conversational style and virtual coaches to increase learning outcomes and increase learner engagement.

Guidelines for Use

Guideline 1 – Use Conversational Style Rather Than Formal Style

Using an informal conversational style helps learners relate to the presented material. Language should use some first- and second-person language to help create the feeling of conversation. Instructions should be polite by offering suggestions, asking questions, or phrasing as though working cooperatively with the learner. It is important to use personalization in moderation because it is important not to distract the learner.

Guideline 2 – Use Effective On-Screen Coaches to Promote Learning

On-screen coaches are characters, real or animated, that guide the learning process during an e-learning episode. Coaches help provide the feeling of being engaged in conversation and should move, sound, and use eye movement in a human-like manner. Coaches should be used for instruction rather than entertainment by providing hints, worked examples, demonstrations, and explanations.

Guideline 3 – Make the Author Visible to Promote Learning

Visible authors give information about themselves and highlight their perspectives. Newer learners may be encouraged by the author as a guide to the topic and can make the topic seem less intimidating. Learners at a middle level of interest also become more engaged in the topic.

Good Examples of Use

Example 1 – Duolingo

Duolingo uses polite and cooperative language on its instructions to progress to the next steps. The Duolingo owl acts as a coach to new users, providing advice on learning techniques from useful tips to overall learning advice like practicing consistently. Visible authors establish a presence by providing feedback and answering questions on the forum.

Example 2 – Udemy

Udemy has a variety of programs available for e-learning. In the course overview, the author acts as the on-screen coach. They provide study techniques, descriptions of course and lesson content, and resources for practice questions.

Helpful Resources

Resource 1 – Applying the Personalization Principle

Clark and Mayer provide direct advice on how to use the Personalization Principle.

Resource 2 – The Learning Pod

In this episode of The Learning Pod, Kell Hansen and Jeanine Sullivan discuss what the Personalization Principle is and how it can be used in the workplace.

Resource 3 – Contrasting Study of the Personalization Principle

The study found learners in personalized simulations spent 20% more time on it but no differences in achievement.


Brom, C., Bromová, E., Děchtěrenko, F., Buchtová, M., & Pergel, M. (2014). Personalized messages in a brewery educational simulation: Is the personalization principle less robust than previously thought? Computers & Education, 72, 339-366.

Clark, Ruth & Mayer, Richard. (2012). Applying the Personalization Principle: Use Conversational Style and Virtual Coaches. In E-learning and the science of instruction: Proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia, 3rd Edition. John Wiley & Sons. Available from

Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2016). E-learning and the science of instruction: Proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia learning. John Wiley & Sons.

Monero, R.& Mayer, R.E (2004). Personalized messages that promote science learning in vertical environments. Journal of Educational Psychology, 96, 165-173


Submitted by: Stephen Lizak
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Bio: Stephen has worked for over a decade educating students across a variety of ages in the math and sciences. He has worked at Conestoga College as a teaching assistant, as a tutor for the drop-in service in the math center, at CHELP Tutor School, and as an independent tutor.




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