Creating Effective Media

Topic Progress:

Clark and Mayer1 have provided some useful, evidence-based principles for those who wish to create instructionally effective multimedia materials. They ground their principles in the following three assumptions:

  • people have separate channels for processing verbal and graphical information;
  • each channel has limited capacity to process information;
  • learners try to construct models from the verbal and graphical information and integrate them.
The principles Clark and Mayer identify should guide instructors and designers who wish to maximize the instructional effectiveness of multimedia materials. It should be noted that these principles apply to a wide variety of multimedia which might incorporate text, images, sounds, video, interactive animations, hyperlinks, or any combination of the same.

The multimedia principle.

Include both words and graphics rather than words alone. Words can be printed or spoken text; graphics can be static images, animations or video. For maximal learning effect, the words and graphics should not be simply decorative or used to fill space. Graphics should help learners understand or organize the material presented in the text.

The contiguity principle.

Words should be placed in close proximity to the graphics which they describe and spoken words should be synchronized with their corresponding graphics.

The image below illustrates the multimedia and contiguity principles by incorporating words and graphics in close proximity to each other.

Multimedia Contiguity Principles

The modality principle.

Words should be in spoken form whenever there is an accompanying graphic to which the words refer, especially if the graphic is complex, the words are familiar and the lesson is fast-paced. Attending to printed words at the same time as complex graphical information increases cognitive load and reduces learning.

The redundancy principle.

Avoid presenting on-screen text along with narrated graphics of the same text at the same time. Attending to both on-screen text and graphics overloads the learner’s visual channel and they tend to pay more attention to the on screen text than to the graphic.

The coherence principle.

Avoid presenting interesting but extraneous audio, imagery or text in learning materials.

The video below illustrates how extraneous information can distract learners from key points.

Were you able to accurately count the passes? Did you miss anything as a result?

The personalization principle.

Learning materials should employ a conversational rather than formal tone.┬áTypically a human voice is better than a synthetic voice and it is always better to employ polite speech patterns. Also, learners┬ácan benefit from the use of an agent who acts as an onscreen guide throughout the materials. Finally, authors who inject a sense of themselves, their thoughts or their feelings into the learning materials become more ‘visible’, to the benefit of the learners.

The segmenting principle.

Breaking a complex lesson into smaller chunks can help reduce cognitive overload.

The pretraining principle.

Ensure that learners know and understand key terms and concepts related to the learning objective prior to introducing the main learning experiences.


Further Reading



  1. Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2011). E-learning and the science of instruction: Proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia learning (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.