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Applying the Multimedia Principle: Using Words and Graphics
Rather Than Words Alone is a chapter from the book e-Learning and the Science of Instruction: Prove Guidelines for
Consumers and Designers of Multimedia Learning by Ruth Colvin Clark and
Richard E. Mayer. This chapter provides evidence for whether learning is
improved in e-lessons that types of visuals that best
promote learning. The main question that this chapter focuses on is: Do visuals
actually make a difference? Based on cognitive theory and research evidence,
the authors recommend that e-Learning courses include words and graphics,
rather than words alone. It is recommended to covert work into multimedia
presentations (referring to a presentation that includes words and
graphics).  The rationales for
these recommendations are that people are more likely to understand material
when they can engage in active learning (p. 57).  Multimedia presentations can encourage learners to engage in
active learning by mentally representing the material in words and in pictures
and by mental making connections between the pictorial and verbal
representations. Below is a list of types of graphics and the type of content
best used with: (p. 59-61)

Decorative: Visuals added for aesthetic
appeal or for humor.

Representational: Visuals that illustrate
the appearance of an object and best used with facts and concepts.

Organizational: Visuals that show quantitative
relationships among content and best used with facts and concepts.

Relational: Visuals that summarize
quantitative relationships and best used with information portrayed as a

Transformational; Visuals that illustrate
changes in time or over space and best used with information portrayed as a
process, procedure, and a principle (cause/effect).

Interpretive: Visuals that make
intangible phenomena visible and concrete and best used with information
portrayed as a process and a principle (cause/effect).

Other recommendations include applying this principle for novices
- those who have low knowledge in this area. Additionally, static illustrations
should be used unless there is a completing instruction rationale for animation (flash);
for example, when explaining illustrations. This chapter stated that learning
is improved by the use of relevant graphics combined with words to present
instructional content but some questions. I believe that
these principles can be used for more than just e-Learning, they can be used to create any
type of training or learning. Multimedia presentations are more stimulating
to learners. Two questions I would consider for further
investigation are: When is animation more effective than a static graphic? Does
color in visuals make a difference - are learners more motivated?  Word Count: 415Reference:

Reference: Clark, R. C. & Mayer, R. E. (2008). e-Learning and the Science of

 Instruction: Prove
Guidelines for Consumers and Designers of Multimedia Learning. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

Who Voted for this Reaction


Written by tutaleni
2543 days ago

Thanks for sharing your article. Your post reminded me of Richard Mayer’s book on Multimedia Learning. Unfortunately in that book he also does not go as in-depth about animation as he does with general multimedia. It would have also been beneficial to me as a reader if the authors included discussions on the design of multimedia, and the tools that are used for displaying them and how that affects learning.

Written by betsy
2542 days ago
Looks like we have Mayer fans! I have also enjoyed Mayer's Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning (2005), a collection of empirical research on a learner-centered approach to multimedia learning. Mayer includes chapters on a variety of principles derived from the hypothesis and specific studies about reading, history, math, chemistry, meteorology complex physical systems, second language learning, cognitive skills, business simulation and science and social studies.My favorite chapter is on pedagogical agents (avatars) and what the research shows is effective.

Written by jessica
2527 days ago
Yes! I do like Mayer - I haven't read that chapter yet, thank you I will take a look!

Written by yaozu
2535 days ago
I am working on a project that major audiences are K-12 kids,which could be a group focus on graphics more than words, it is really helpful to ready your summarize of the article. Nice work.

Written by chris
2528 days ago
Hi Jessica,

You mentioned that you would extend the idea to have the principles extended to include any kind of online learning. Would you extend it further to say that the same ideas should be applied to informative websites as well? For example a company's website design to inform the user about what they do.

Written by jessica
2527 days ago
That's a interesting question. Well - there are certain principles use for web design and best practices to layout your information. But the more I think about it these principles do apply to. Text heavy websites do not gain your attention - you are more likely to stay for only a few seconds. By incorporating text with pictures you are more likely to gain your learners attention, in which they will stay at your website longer.

Written by dana
2528 days ago
good questions about color and animation.

my question is: if it were to be truly interactive, wouldn't the LEARNER be the one to submit graphics to interpret, illustrate, organize, etc etc??

Written by jessica
2527 days ago
That is a good question - but I think his suggestions are how to relay the information to the learner. How will the learner learn best? With lots of words? With pictures? His suggestions are how to include both (words and pictures) to maximize the learners attention span. His suggestions are how you (the instructor) can portray the information to the student.

Written by chakorn
2526 days ago
I read one of the articles about a study of 2D and 3D images of retail products in the market. It found that controllable 3D images voted to be the best information provider of the product by potential buyers. The on-line buyers prefer and make decision easier when they can see and can control the view of the product image. They may not buy it from the image owner's website but they sure will always come back to that website to get the look and feel from the better images.

Written by simon
2520 days ago
Remember that Clark and Colvin focused their work on multimedia designed to teach. Many of the interaction design projects that we're going to design will, hopefully, do more than use the technology to transmit content, so the relevance o their work is questionable. I really like the orientation you bring to the table: When does animation make a difference and what is the role of motivation/ aesthetics?

Written by yaozu
2465 days ago
I did know I can learn so much from reading other people's posts, from Tutaleni and Betsy, I got the name Richard Mayer, and then find out Mayer's best known contribution to the field of educational psychology is multimedia learning theory, then I continue read about Multimedia learning theory, then I find out it is based on Paivio's dual coding theory. What is dual coding theory? It goes on and on.

Written by betsy
2463 days ago
Yaozu -- regarding dual coding theory, check out the article at the end of this post. The idea is that we process and store pictures and words in different parts of the brain -- which makes perfect sense to me as a person with a film background.For ex., before I worked in film, after 16 years in school, I thought in words. After a decade of working in film editing, I thought in sequences of images.So when I first heard this theory in an ed. psych. class,(Peggy van Meter's course in PSU's College of Ed), I loved it. In media effects there are many experiments that reference the theory, and then try to figure out -- how much information is too much -- when does the cognitive load get to be too much?

Paivio, A. (1991). Dual coding theory: Retrospect and current status. Canadian Journal of Psychology, 45 (3), 255-287.

The theory is that "both visual and verbal information are processed differently and along distinct channels with the human mind creating separate representations for information processed in each channel". Source:

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