Instructional Design Principles

SOME DEFINITIONS
“Essential Material”
refers to words and pictures needed to achieve the instructional objective such as understanding how a system works.

“Extraneous Material” refers to words and pictures that are not relevant to achieving the instructional objective such as interesting stories or pictures.

“Extraneous Overload” occurs when essential cognitive processing (required to understand the essential material in a multimedia message) and extraneous cognitive processing (required to process extraneous material or to overcome confusing layout in a multimedia message) exceeds the learner’s cognitive capacity.

FIVE THEORY-BASED INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN TECHNIQUES
intended to reduce extraneous overload

The Coherence Principle
People learn more deeply from a multimedia message when extraneous material is excluded rather than included.

The Signaling Principle
People learn more deeply from a multimedia message when cues are added that highlight the organization of the essential material.

The Redundancy Principle
People learn more deeply from graphics and narration than from graphics, narration, and on-screen text.

The Spatial Contiguity Principle
People learn more deeply from a multimedia message when corresponding words and pictures are presented near rather than far from each other on the page or screen.

The Temporal Contiguity Principle
People learn more deeply from a multimedia message when corresponding animation and narration are presented simultaneously rather than successively.

Source: The Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning (Chapter 12, Richard E. Mayer)

EIGHT PRINCIPLES
Another formulation as a set of eight principles based on the work of Richard Mayer and Roxanne Moreno:

1. Multimedia Principle: Retention is improved through words and pictures rather than through words alone.

2. Spatial Contiguity Principle: Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented near each other rather than far from each other on the page or screen.

3.Temporal Contiguity Principle: Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively.

4. Coherence Principle: Students learn better when extraneous words, pictures, and sounds are excluded rather than included.

5. Modality Principle: Students learn better from animation and narration than from animation and on-screen text.

6. Redundancy Principle: Students learn better when information is not represented in more than one modality – redundancy interferes with learning.

7a. Individual Differences Principle: Design effects are higher for low-knowledge learners than for high-knowledge learners.
7b. Individual Differences Principle: Design effects are higher for high-spatial learners rather than for low-spatial learners.

8. Direct Manipulation Principle: As the complexity of the materials increase, the impact of direct manipulation of the learning materials (animation, pacing) on transfer also increases

Source: http://www.cisco.com/web/strategy/docs/education/Multimodal-Learning-Through-Media.pdf

(It seems to me that the Multimedia Principle and the Redundancy Principle contradict each other.)

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8 comments so far

  1. Richard Schwier on

    Thanks for bringing Mayer’s stuff up, Darren. He’s good value.I see what you are getting at with the possible contradiction between the "multimedia principle" and the "redundancy principle". There’s a subtle, but important qualification, I think. There was a bunch of multiple channel research done in the 70s & 80s that came to the conclusion that the message needs to be coherent–one channel reinforcing the other — if you use more than one channel in a presentation. In other words, don’t show one thing and talk about another because the messages will compete with each other. Generally speaking, it makes sense. Is that redundancy or is it channel coherence for a single message? Like a lot of the research of the time, it was done under laboratory conditions with a lot of controls. That’s not a bad thing, but it probably didn’t result in a complete picture, or one that is always practical. I’m finding more and more often that students are not at all satisfied with single channel delivery. They want a number of sources to choose from, and they are not bothered by complexity — in fact, they expect it. I think as instructional designers we can learn from this and while we push for clean, coherent and accessible messaging, we need to build environments that invite learners to participate in building their own learning designs out of the complex of things we provide, and the stuff they find and build on their own.Maybe a good instructional design principle to add would be:Designs should be clear, and encourage learners to construct and reconstruct their own learning.It seems to me that we, as instructional designers, also need to find ways to acknowledge and help learners deal with complexity, and not always protect them from it.

  2. Anonymous on

    Rick, I’m incredibly grateful to you for taking the time to help me get my head around this. I’ve been thinking about it for months ??? I even showed it to a number of colleagues ??? and no one has been able to resolve this apparent contradiction well enough for me. Your comments about complexity and engaging learners "in building their own learning designs out of the complex of things we provide" resonates with my experience as both a learner and a teacher. I have to admit, I’m still struggling with the apparent contradiction between the Multimedia Principle and the Redundancy Principle.If I understood you correctly the multichannel research says using multiple channels to deliver a message is good as long as the message delivered via each channel (audio and visual) is consistent; trying to deliver different ideas through different channels simultaneously interferes with learning.This strikes me as reasonable. However, that’s not how I’m reading the Redundancy Principle which says "students learn better when information is not represented in more than one modality ??? redundancy interferes with learning." This seems to contradict the above paragraph (which may just be further evidence of my own misunderstanding.) It seems to me if the Redundancy Principle read:"Students learn better when ??different?? information is not represented in more than one modality ??simultaneously?? ??? redundancy interferes with learning."it would align more with your comment above. Then again, the word "redundancy" wouldn’t belong in that statement, would it?How am I misreading this?

  3. Richard Schwier on

    Great to have this kind of conversation with you Darren. I’ve been a fan of yours for some time.I don’t claim any deep expertise on this… I’ve not done any of my own research on the issue, but I’ve followed some of the research on this for what seems like a long time.I think you’re raising a critical issue — one that isn’t easily or conveniently dealt with in the existing research. I think the key idea, if I can be so bold, is that people can’t really attend to more than one thing at a time. We switch quickly, efficiently and sometimes transparently among things we are attending to — not simultaneously, but serially (is that a word?). When the same message is being presented in more than one channel, and we switch between channels, our learning isn’t disturbed. We just draw on the same stuff differently. We attend to one thing, and then the next, and because the channels are saying the same thing, we move along without a problem. (By the way, check out some old stuff by Fleming & Levie on Message Design – good stuff, even today).When there are differences between messages on the two, or three, or four channels, and we switch our attention among them, our learning can be disrupted. And by the way, nobody I’ve run into has investigated how different or subtle those differences need to be before they make a difference in our learning. There’s a cool research question hiding in there somewhere.But the thing that keeps jumping out at me is the conflict between the instructional designer’s mantra to make stuff simpler, and the natural digital world’s proclivity for making stuff more complex. As @gsiemens would argue, that’s not a bad thing. Complexity is part of our lives, part of our natural learning environments, and there is a very important role for instructional designers to play — not to make things less complex (as was our mantra a couple of decades ago). Now, I think our more serious challenge is how to build environments that take advantage of the complexity we all face.It’s a good time to be alive, as a researcher and as an instructional designer.

  4. Anonymous on

    Three Things:THING 1Your comments about complexity, teaching, and learning echo my own thoughts. It seems to me there’s a difference between "complicated" and "complex". Complex ideas, systems, what have you, do not need to be complicated. One of the overarching challenges of teaching well is to explain complex ideas simply. Similarly, there’s a difference between simple and simplistic. Perhaps the instructional designers mantra needs to read something like "design learning experiences that make the complex simple without being simplistic." Dr. Bonnie Bassler does this brilliantly in this short clip (1 min 49 sec) from her TED Talk.THING 2When you say "people can’t really attend to more than one thing at a time" I’m reminded of Dr. John Medina’s Brain Rule on Multitasking (ain’t no such thing).THING 3I’m still not clear on how the Multimedia Principle and the Redundancy Principle do not contradict each other. Can you help me understand this?ASIDEYou wrote "When there are differences between messages on the two, or three, or four channels …"What would the FOUR channels be? I understand an audio channel and a visual channel but what would the others be? Would it be that we have a separate channel for each of our five senses?(This begins to remind me of the ancient Greeks who regarded vision and hearing as the "noble senses" because they didn’t require direct manipulation of/interaction with the physical world.) For the record, I’ve long been a fan of yours too. 😉

  5. Anonymous on

    So those embeds didn’t embed. Here’s the link to the Bonnie Bassler clip:http://www.tubechop.com/watch/84736and this is the link to the John Medina clip:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xO_oEGHWSMU

  6. Richard Schwier on

    Love the clips, Darren! But then I’m a sucker for multimedia, even if I can’t process all of the channels at the same time! :-)Yeh… I’m not sure the apparent conflict between the principles can be resolved. But then, it could be that they are both useful in different design contexts. There may be some really great research questions in all of this. Maybe one of the problems is embedded in the redundancy principle itself. It seems like it is too cut-and-dried, and maybe even wrong in a lot of cases.Returning to your revision of the Redundancy Principle a couple of comments ago, you suggested:"Students learn better when ??different?? information is not represented in more than one modality ??simultaneously?? ??? redundancy interferes with learning."I really liked that qualification of the principle, and I would add only one thing: "redundancy interferes with learning <if the redundant channels are incoherent. If the channels are coherent, redundancy might actually help>."Redundancy by itself, after all, actually helps learning, doesn’t it? As educators we repeat things in different ways several times, knowing that our students will have a better chance of grasping something if they hear it more than once. Advertisers learned this a long time ago, and we see a huge amount of redundancy built into ads — and indeed, ads that are repeated over and over until we’re sick of them.My interpretation of it has been that these are principles derived from different research questions, and probably constrained by the narrow ways the research was conducted in the first place. These principles and others are drawn from research that was conducted in controlled settings, and we know that in practice learning is messy. In other words, the principles may be in conflict because they are not universal–they are looking at different design issues depending on what we are designing. Sometimes redundancy is a good thing; sometimes it is bad. Sometimes multiple channels help each other; sometimes they don’t. It’s figuring out when the "sometimes" are that is part of the art of instructional design. There’s science to help guide what we do, but the real fun of what we do is in the art — when we uncover those places where it just feels better to do something that violates conventional wisdom. So, I guess I’m suggesting that I’m suspicious of most prescriptive principles of design. Perhaps these are better thought of as "guidelines", allowing more flexibility in how we think about their application. I don’t think of them as universal, so I’m not surprised or too concerned when they bump up against each other. Oh, and the three or four? When I think of channels, I think of anything carrying a message, so still visuals, video, animation, text, sound, graphs and tables, different language tracks, tactile feedback, etc. would all be channels that could be used simultaneously or individually to carry a message. So, I often equate media with channels. I hadn’t thought of your notion of tying channels to senses. That’s really interesting, and it would be fun to explore.I think we could do some good research on redundancy and complexity by building treatments that are coherent and some that are incoherent. Beyond which design works better, I’d be really interested in finding out how learners actually navigate complex learning environments. How do they make choices? What do they attend to, and what do they ignore? We know a lot about some of this from visual design research, but there’s much to be learned about how learners make sense of rich and complex environments.Sorry for rambling. Just thinking outloud.

  7. Anonymous on

    OK, so it seems it’s not just me being thick, the two principles do contradict each other with the caveat they might not when the context of the research that gave rise to them is taken into account. (Recently, contextualizing information/knowledge has come up in my world a lot. I’ll have to dig into that deeper in the near future.)You echo some of my thoughts re: redundancy actually helps learning.This discussion around channels is also interesting. I find there’s a tension in my mind between Too Many Channels Isn’t Helpful (as a mental model) and A Few Tightly Defined Channels May Be Limiting.Somewhere in all this I may dig out a future research question for the grad work I do with you. ;-)Thanks helping me get my head around all this Rick.

  8. Richard Schwier on

    This was fun! Thanks for making my head hurt! The whole issue of multiple channels made me think that in some cases, we expect multiple channels and think it is weird if we don’t have them. Simple example: video. Video without a sound track just seems like it isn’t wearing any pants. I wonder what movie patrons felt like the first time they saw a "talkie". Did it seem strange and disruptive to them to not have the printed text frames they were used to seeing in silent movies?Love this stuff! Thanks, Darren!


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