Research-based principles for the design of instructional messages
The case of multimedia explanations
Multimedia explanations are communications using words and pictures to explain how something works, including animation and narration in computer-based environments or text and illustrations in book-based environments. A cognitive theory of multimedia learning reveals a concurrence requirement for meaningful learning, in which corresponding verbal and pictorial representations must be held in working memory at the same time. Based on a theory-based research program, I propose five design principles: multimedia principle, to use words and pictures rather than words alone; contiguity principle, to place words close to corresponding pictures on a page or to present narration concurrently with corresponding animation; coherence principle, to minimize extraneous words, pictures, and sounds; modality principle, to present words as speech rather than as on-screen text; and individual differences principle, to use these design principles particularly for low-experience rather than high-experience learners and for high-spatial rather than low-spatial learners. Multimedia messages offer great potential for improving the effectiveness of communication, but only to the extent that their design is based on theory and research.
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