Multimedia Learning Principles

Essentially, multimedia learning is learning from words and pictures.

Richard Mayer beautifully summarizes the cognitive theory of multimedia learning and it’s various principles in his book Multimedia Learning. According to Mayer, this theory assumes that there are dual channels for information processing (visual and auditory information is processed differently and is complimentary), that there is limited processing capacity, and that we actively process information.

Below is a diagram of the cognitive theory of multimedia learning: Screen Shot 2013-03-28 at 10.31.05 PM(Click to enlarge)

There are several key principles that come from this theory.

Reducing Extraneous Processing

  • Coherence principle – eliminating extra words, graphics, sounds, etc…
  • Signaling principle – highlight essential words or graphics
  • Redundancy principle – delete redundant captions from narrations
  • Spatial contiguity – place essential words next to corresponding graphics
  • Temporal contiguity – present corresponding words and pictures simultaneously

Managing Essential Processing

  • Segmenting principle – present in user-paced segments
  • Pre-training principle – precede lesson with pre-training of key components
  • Modality principle – present with pictures and spoken words

Fostering Generative Processing

  • Multimedia principle – present with words and pictures
  • Personalization – present in conversational style
  • Voice – human voice preferred over machine

The promise of multimedia learning is the ability to take advantage of our full information processing capacity to enhance learning.


Mayer R. (2009) Multimedia Learning. Second edition. New York: Cambridge University Press.

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