Book Review: Multimedia Learning

Book Review: Multimedia Learning

I have to be honest, as an instructional technologist, I was geeking out over Multimedia Learning by Richard Mayer. Mayer has spent his career researching how to put together effective multimedia learning products. This book shares his lessons learned. These are lessons that you can use to improve your message regardless if you’re in education or in business.

Multimedia Learning is 304 pages long with 14 chapters organized into five sections. The five sections are:

  • Introduction to Multimedia Learning
  • Principles for Reducing Extraneous Processing in Multimedia Learning
  • Principles for Managing Essential Processing in Multimedia Learning
  • Principles for Fostering Generative Processing in Multimedia Learning
  • Conclusion

The essence of the book is summed up in one phrase:

“People learn better from words and pictures than from words alone” (Mayer, 2009, p. x).

Mayer then spent the rest of the book explaining how to get the best performance from this statement.

The first part of the book focuses on defining multimedia, multimedia learning, multimedia instruction, multimedia presentation, etc. Basically, multimedia is the effective use of words and pictures.

Mayer asserts that messages are best processed by the brain when they are dual-channel. This means that the message is efficiently balanced between the visual (eyes) and audio (ears) channel. When it is not balanced, it causes a cognitive load strain and learning is degraded.

12 Principles of Multimedia Learning

Mayer explains his theory and principles by sharing his research on multimedia learning. He discusses the 12 principles in depth. Here are those 12 principles:

  • Coherence Principle – remove extraneous words, pictures, and sounds from the message. Less is more.
  • Signaling Principle – cues that highlight content organization can be helpful.
  • Redundancy Principle – pictures and narration are better than pictures, narration, and onscreen text.
  • Spatial Continuity Principle – keep words and pictures close together.
  • Temporal Continuity Principle – present words and pictures at the same time.
  • Segmenting Principle – present information in short segments. Present one idea at a time.
  • Pre-training Principle – present nomenclature and basic definitions before presenting concepts.
  • Modality Principle – use pictures and narration rather than animation and on-screen text.
  • Multimedia Principle – People learn better from words and pictures than from words alone.
  • Personalization Principle – use a conversational tone rather than a formal tone.
  • Voice Principle – use a human voice rather than a machine voice.
  • Image Principle – do not include the speaker’s image as part of the lesson.

In addition to describing how each principle works, Mayer also discussed limitations of each principle and needs for additional research.

Anyone who gives a presentation or develops instruction needs to read this book. Multimedia Learning provides practical guidelines for helping to impart instruction. Mayer also provided the theoretical background for why it works. My next step is to develop instruction on this important topic for our faculty. This will have a prominent place on my bookshelf. I chose this book as part of my January reading list.


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