Multimedia Learning (2009) — Ch. 9-11 (Richard E. Mayer)

This post covers Section III: Principles for Managing Essential Processing in Multimedia Learning:

  • Chapter 9: Segmenting Principle
  • Chapter 10: Pre-training Principle
  • Chapter 11:  Modality Principle

[*Note: Much of this material was copied directly from Mayer's book.]

Essential material is the core information from the lesson that is needed to achieve the instructional goal.

Essential processing is cognitive processing aimed at mentally representing the essential material in working memory.

Essential processing overload occurs when the cognitive processing of the basic material in the lesson is so demanding that there is little or no remaining cognitive capacity to engage in deeper processing of the material (generative processing).

  • Likely to happen when the essential material is complex, the learner is inexperienced, and the presentation is fast-paced.
  • Two types of essential overload: the material is so complex that the learner is unable to completely represent it in the time allowed; and the complexity of the material is exacerbated by presenting words in printed form.

The following three principles are aimed at managing essential processing: segmenting, pre-training, and modality.

Chapter 9: Segmenting Principle (p.175-88)

  • People learn better when a multimedia message is presented in user-paced segments rather than as a continuous unit.
  • Most likely to apply when the material is complex, The presentation is fast-paced, and the learner is inexperienced with the material.
  • Required when essential processing exceeds the learner’s available cognitive capacities.
  • In segmenting we break a complex multimedia message into smaller parts that are presented sequentially with pacing under the learner’s control. Two key features are:
    • Breaking a lesson into parts that are presented sequentially
    • Allowing the learner to control the pacing of movement from one part to the next.
  • Segmenting is similar to modular presentation in which a worked example is presented in a sequence of meaningful clusters of steps and simplified whole task presentation in which a complex multimedia presentation is broken down into a sequence that starts with a less complex version.
  • Segmenting can be expanded to include modularizing worked out examples and breaking complex scientific graphs into layer. Complexity depends on the number of interacting elements (the number of relations between elements) that must be processed at one time. However, it also depends not only on the material in the lesson but also on the knowledge of the learner, because what constitutes an element depends in part on the learner’s schemas for chunking the material in the lesson.
  • Implications:
    • When the essential material in a narrated animation is too complex (when processing the essential material requires more capacity than is available to the letter) then break the narrated animation into meaningful segments that can be presented under the learner’s control. Each segment should express a coherent step or group of steps in a process.
    • When the to-be-learned material is a worked-out example, then break the list of steps into meaningful segments or modules that can be studied under the learner’s control. Each segment or module should accomplish a clear subgoal.
    • When the to-be-learned material is a complex graph showing functional relations among more than two variables, then break the graphs into a set of less complex graphs that show just some of the variables at one time.
  • Slider/pause button:
    • Giving the learner a great deal of control through using the slider or pause button can create a great deal of extraneous cognitive processing. When using slider bars, the need for extraneous processing can be exacerbated because  learners may have difficulty in moving back to the exact starting point of the segment.
    • Novice learners may lack the metacognitive skills to know where to pause, that is, learners may not be able to accurately evaluate whether they need to stop in order to digest a portion of the lesson. By contrast, in user-paced segments, each segment corresponded to a step in the process, and the program automatically stopped at the end of each segment. In this way the learner did not have to engage in the extraneous processing of determining how to segment the lesson.
    • Research on the expertise reversal effect suggests that less experienced learners may benefit more from continue buttons based on instructor determined segments, whereas more experience learners may benefit more from slider bars and pause continue buttons (Kalyuga, 2005)

Chapter 10: Pre-Training Principle (p.189-99)

  • People learn more deeply from a multimedia message when they know the names and characteristics of the main concepts.
  • Most likely to be effective when the material is complex, the multimedia lesson is fast-paced, and the learner is unfamiliar with the material.
  • When learners view a narrated animation, they must engage in 2 kinds of essential processing: Understanding how the causal system works and understanding how each component works.
  • When the learner already knows the name and characteristics of each part, the learner can engage in cognitive processes for building a causal model of the system, leading to better understanding. In this way pre-training serves to offload some of the essential processing onto the pre-training episode.
  • Prior knowledge is the single most important individual difference dimension in instructional design. If you could know just one thing about a learner, you would want to know the learner’s prior knowledge in that domain. In this way the learner can manage essential processing by distributing it across two episodes: essential processing for building component models during pre-training, and essential processing for building mental models during the main lesson.
  • Implications:
    • Provide pre-training concerning the key terms before presenting the lesson. The basic implication for multimedia design is that students should know the names and characteristics of key concepts before they receive a multimedia lesson that contains them.
    • Research is needed to determine the best way to accomplish this goal such as some sort of pre-lesson activity, putting the definition in a margin, or allowing learners to click on new terms in hypertext to receive a definition.
    • Research is also needed on how to embed knowledge assessments within a lesson so that the appropriate level of pre-training can be provided for each individual learner.

Chapter 11: Modality Principle (p. 200-22)

  • People learn more deeply from pictures and spoken words than from pictures and printed words.
  • May be particularly applicable when the material is complex, the material is fast-paced, and the learners are unfamiliar with the words.
  • However, printed words may be appropriate when the lesson includes technical words and symbols and when the learner is a non-native speaker or is hearing impaired. When the material is simple (or if the student is familiar with the words) there may not be a need to free up cognitive capacity. Spoken text was more effective than printed text when the corresponding part of the graphic was highlighted by flashing but not when it was not highlighted. When the graphic is difficult to process, the benefits of narration caused by freeing up capacity in the visual channel can be offset by the costs of increased extraneous processing caused by the need to scan the graphics.
  • A useful technique for managing essential cognitive processing is modality offloading– presenting words as narration rather than as on screen text.  Modality off loading occurs when printed words in a multimedia lesson (such as captions) are converted into spoken words (such as narration) changing the lesson from a captioned animation to a narrated animation.
  • The modality effect:
    • Mousavi, Low, and Sweller (1995) have used the term modality effect to refer to the idea that “effective cognitive capacity may be increased if the auditory and visual working memory can be used” to process incoming multimedia messages. (p. 208). “Effective size of working memory can be increased by presenting information in a mixed (auditory and visual mode) rather than a single mode.”
    • They interpret the term to include situations in which presenting simultaneous visual and auditory material is superior to presenting the same material successively (Mayer calls this temporal contiguity effect).
    • They also feel that modality effects are examples of split attention– a broader class of multimedia learning situations in which visual attention must be allocated to both pictorial and verbal material.
    • A fundamental theoretical idea underlying the modality effect is dual-channel processing. Baddeley’s (1992) model of working memory includes a distinction between a visuo spatial sketchpad that is used for processing visual material and a phonological loop that is used for processing auditory material. Paivio’s (1990) dual-coding theory makes a somewhat similar distinction.
    • The modality effect applies most strongly when the materials require building a mental model rather than simply memorizing isolated elements.
    • An important limitation of spoken text is that learners may need to engage in visual search to determine the corresponding part of the graphic, thus creating extraneous processing. Graphics with narration is most likely to be more effective than graphics with on-screen text in situations where the need for visual search is minimized such as when the graphic is simple or the relevant portion is highlighted as the corresponding commentary is spoken.
    • The effect extends to situations involving on-screen pedagogical agents. The effect is less likely to occur when the pace of the lesson is slow and under learner control rather than fast and under system control. The use of many jargon terms may also favor using printed text over spoken text.
  • It should be mentioned that research examining the modality effect compares animation and narration with animation and text, when the text is placed far from the corresponding part of the animation. There may be situations in which printed text can foster meaningful learning especially when it is used in a way that is consistent with the spatial contiguity principle.
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