The global pandemic has necessitated a rapid adoption of new ways of teaching and learning, particularly online learning. This has led to the increase in use of multimedia in education and training. In this article, multimedia refers to any medium which has both words (written and/or spoken) and pictures, ranging from video to infographics.

Much research has gone into the most effective ways to present and use multimedia in learning. Let’s consider some of the theories and principles arising from research in this area.

How Does Learning Occur?

To understand how multimedia can be used effectively in training, you need to first understand how learning occurs.

Humans have three types of memory: Sensory memory, working memory and long-term memory:

    • Sensory memory is able to store infinite amounts of information for an extremely short amount of time.
    • Working memory is able to store a limited amount of information for a short amount of time.
    • Long-term memory is able to store infinite amounts of information for an infinite amount of time.

Learning has taken place when a learner is able to transfer information first from sensory memory to working memory, then from working memory to long-term memory, and finally, they are able to retrieve the information when required from long-term memory.

Information enters sensory memory through our five senses: Thus, when it comes to multimedia learning, the relevant senses are hearing (for spoken words) and sight (for pictures and printed words). Transfer occurs between sensory and working memory when attention is given to information within sensory memory. Relevant information within working memory is then integrated with prior knowledge, resulting in the final transfer to long-term memory.

Best Practices Arising From Theory

Based on this model, learning is maximized when learners are able to focus on only relevant information (by controlling what enters sensory memory), process the information easily (by preventing working memory from being overloaded), and learn the information in a relevant context (tofacilitate transferto and recall from long-term memory).

Consider the following best practices to facilitate the learning process:

1. Control What Enters Sensory Memory

    • Remove anything which is not relevant to learning from multimedia trainings. This includes material such as decorative images or background music.
    • Highlight important points in text and images, making use of italics, arrows or circles. This will allow learners to focus on specific points.

2. Prevent the Working Memory From Becoming Overloaded

    • Learners learn best from audio narration and graphics, rather than narration, graphicsandtext, as the redundancy between the narration and printed text can increase the workload of working memory. A negative example most people have experienced is sitting through a presentation where the presenter reads directly off the slides. Many learners either listen to the presenter and ignore the slides or read the text on the slides and ignore the presenter. Using optional closed captions is an excellent way to give learners a choice of what they prefer.
    • Integrate graphics and relevant text into one figure. This helps learners process information more easily as compared to presenting graphics and text side by side.
    • If there is too much information on one slide or in one video, break up the information over a series of slides or shorter videos to avoid overwhelming the learner.Studieshave shown that learners are much more likely to complete a series of short videos compared to a long video with the exact same content, and that the ideal length of videos should be around six to 12 minutes.

3. Facilitate the Transfer to and Recall from Long-term Memory

    • 如果材料内部的过程是复杂的,卡尔y out pre-training to teach learners the basics. Options include pre-training materials such as cheat sheets, pre-reading or even breaking up the material into two separate courses.
    • Use real workplace examples and scenarios in training material. This will facilitate both transfer to long term memory and recall when learners encounter a similar situation in the course of work. Examples of this include use ofvirtual reality (VR)training to simulate workplace environments and videos which show a workplace scenario.
    • Activate learners’ prior knowledge during training. For example, in the case of management training, have learners contribute scenarios from their own experience where the management principles could be applied.

Final Words

While all the principles and examples presented here are backed by research evidence, as with training and education in general, they will not always be applicable to every context. For example, if training is being carried out for English as a second language (ESL) learners, then presenting closed captions together with on-screen text helps rather than hinders learning. It is thus essential that you consider your context as you apply these principles.

Many of the principles presented here are drawn from the work of Richard Mayer, a distinguished professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and from his book, “e-Learning and the Science of Instruction: Proven Guidelines for Consumers and Designers of Multimedia Learning.”