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The topic of multimedia learning can seem deceptively simple. Its definition as “learning with words and graphics” (Mayer, 2010, p. 167), may lead to the conclusion that any words with any graphics in any instructional format will do. However, decades of research in the subject of multimedia instructional design have shown that this is not the case. In order to be most effective, the design of multimedia instructional materials should consider foundational concepts like the modality principle, as well as other emerging ideas such as the signaling principle and the pacing principle. Well-designed multimedia instructional materials will use these principles and other concepts drawn from current research to effectively support learner perception and comprehension. The modality principle states that when text is accompanied by related visuals, learning will be more effective if the text is presented in an audio format rather than a visual format (Ginns, 2005). The reasoning behind this has undergone several iterations and refinements over the years, but it is essentially grounded in Sweller’s cognitive load theory and Mayer’s cognitive theory of multimedia learning. From these it is theorized that learners have separate channels in working memory for processing verbal and pictorial material. Each channel has a limited capacity for the amount of information that can be processed at one time. Meaningful learning will take place when these channels are not overloaded with material and are instead used efficiently (Harskamp, Mayer, & Suhre, 2010) as the learner constructs a mental representation of the information. The incorporation of animations instead of static pictures into multimedia instructional materials brings additional factors into consideration. In this, the relationship between the visuo-spatial structure and the temporal structure of the animation must be acknowledged in designing multimedia instructional materials. While animations are not inherently...
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