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Multimedia Learning – What Works and What Doesn’t?

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Multimedia Learning - What Works and What Doesn't?

I have taken three MOOCs so far – in the process of doing the third one. What I have noticed is that my interest has progressively reduced from the first to the third. I was very excited when I took the first one. The second one had too many videos to watch and too much information to process but I managed to withstand it.

However, this third course (which by the way is the most relevant to my job) has failed to sustain my interest. Is there something wrong with me or is it with the course?

That’s when I came across the article about Richard Meyers’ 12 Principles of Multimedia Learning and I tried to see which course applied these principles the best. What I found out was quite interesting – I think there is nothing wrong with my perception; it is the way that the course is presented which is at fault.

Multimedia principles adapted from Meyer’s book Course 1 Course 2 Course 3
Voice principle & Personalization principle

  • Friendly voice
  • Conversational tone
Instructor spoke in a friendly voice and in conversational style. There were three instructors each had their own style but overall it was like an instructor standing and talking to you. Sometimes, they were conversing among themselves and it appeared as though you were part of it. It was inclusive. The tone of the instructor and those who participated in the discussion with the main instructor appeared rehearsed. It was not inspiring and perhaps the main reason why I am not enjoying the course.
Signaling and Coherence Principles

  • Essential information is highlighted
  • Needless sounds, pictures or visuals are excluded
Each of the modules started almost immediately with very brief introductory music & signature tune.
Instructor would annotate key information on screen which emphasized information.
Quick start to the module without and unnecessary introductory music or signature tune.
After every important concept was discussed, it was visually depicted on a slide and enough time was given to assimilate the information.
A very long introductory music and animation, which was irritating after a couple of modules.
The information in textual format came and disappeared in a flash without waiting for the learner to absorb the information. I paused the screen to understand and then proceeded and this became bothersome since I had to do it often. Another negative aspect for this course.
Pre-training principle and Segmenting principle

  • Know main concepts
  • User-paced segments
Information about how the course is organized was communicated effectively.
Courses were divided into short modules and delivered on a weekly basis.
Information about how the course was divided was clear.
Courses were delivered on a weekly basis.
Although the course structure was communicated in advance, it seemed intimidating.
Additionally, all the videos and case studies were released right at the beginning, which seemed overwhelming to me despite downloading the modules on a weekly basis. It also was a distraction to me since I was prompted to peep into latter modules.
Spatial and Temporal Contiguity Principle

  • Pictures and words presented close to each other
  • Simultaneous presentation of words and pictures instead of successive presentation
Annotations were effectively used to highlight important words or points.The course was pertaining to academic writing and so examples were always given on screen when spoken and were color coded to emphasize key words and phrases. The video of the instructor was interspersed with the corresponding visual. The temporal contiguity principle was sometimes not applied. Visuals were used sparingly and there was too much conversation and audio. It was not adequately supported with visuals.
Summary was in the form of bullet points and were given at the end of the module, which left out the key details and content was too brief and inadequate.
Knowledge Application and engagement

  • Quizzes
  • Tests
Each week had an assignment or peer review to be completed. There was a continuous engagement with the course every week. This built excitement about the assignment and peer reviews. Quizzes were to be taken at the end of every three weeks with a final quiz at the end of the course. Helped in reinforcing knowledge as one could refer back to the modules to answer questions. There was only a single case study that had to be submitted at the end of sixth week. Learners tended to push the activity till the end. The course made learners passive receptors of information until then.

So here are the reasons why I liked the first course the best:

  • It provided a good balance of videos, images and text.
  • Instructor/voice-over was friendly and conversational.
  • I got information in small bites without being overloaded with too much content.
  • It provided clarity on the topics discussed and was devoid of ambiguity.
  • I received regular feedback through assignments and peer reviews.

By far, I think these are the factors that make multimedia learning tick. What has been your experience in taking eLearning or online courses? Do drop in your thoughts in the comment box below.

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