Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-66d7dfc8f5-tqznl Total loading time: 1.051 Render date: 2023-02-09T12:35:57.683Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

35 - Multimedia Learning in e-Courses

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Ruth Colvin Clark
Clark Training and Consulting
Richard Mayer
University of California, Santa Barbara
Get access



E-learning is on the rise in both the public and private sectors. However, learning outcomes are either flat or remain unknown. Therefore, it is important to ground e-learning design, development, and selection on the basis of credible evidence. Research on multimedia instruction in the last two decades has moved beyond “Which media is best?” studies to more productive questions regarding the best use of instructional methods that support cognitive learning processes. This chapter reviews research evidence on what we know about how best to use three unique media features that together distinguish e-learning from other delivery media: audio modality, animations, and simulations. In each case, evidence suggests that practitioners exploit unique media capabilities by applying guidelines for their use that accommodate the strengths and limits of human cognitive processes.

Introduction to E-Learning

Although still a distant second to classroom instruction, e-learning is steadily increasing in media market share as an instructional delivery alternative for learners from 5 to 85. Sixteen percent of instruction in business and industry was delivered by computer in 2003 – up from 12% the previous year (Galvin, 2003). Almost 90% of all universities with more than 10,000 students offer some form of distance learning – nearly all of which use the Internet (Svetcov, 2000). Public education has also invested heavily in information technology with multimedia computer ratios dropping from 21 students per computer in 1997 to fewer than 10 in 2000 (Cuban, 2001).

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2005

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Baddeley, A. D., & Logie, R. H. (1999). Working memory: The multiple component model. In Mikyake, A., and Shah, P. (Eds.), Models of working memory: Mechanisms of active maintenance and executive control. New York: Cambridge University PressCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bergin, R. A., & Fors, U. G. H. (2003). Interactive simulated patient: An advanced tool for student-activated learning in medicine and healthcare. Computers and Education, 40, 361–376CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Burkhardt, H., & Schoenfeld, A. H. (2003). Improving educational research: Toward a more useful, more influential, and better-funded enterprise. Educational Researcher, 32(9), 3–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chandler, P., & Sweller, J. (1996). Cognitive load while learning to use a computer program. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 10, 151–1703.0.CO;2-U>CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chase, W. G., & Simon, H. A. (1973). Perception in chess. Cognitive Psychology, 4, 55–81CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Clark, R. C. (2000). Four architectures of learning. Performance Improvement, 39(10), 31–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Clark, R. C. (2003). Building expertise. Silver Spring, MD: International Society for Performance ImprovementGoogle Scholar
Clark, R., & Lyons, C. (2004). Graphics for learning. San Francisco: PfeifferGoogle Scholar
Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2003). E-learning and the science of instruction. San Francisco: PfeifferGoogle Scholar
Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (in press). Using rich media wisely. In Dempsy, J. and Reiser, R. (Eds.), Trends and issues in instructional design and technology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall
Clark, R. E. (1983). Reconsidering research on learning from media. Review of Educational Research, 53(2), 445–459CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Clark, R. E. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42, 21–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cuban, L. (2001). Oversold and underused: Computers in the classroom. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University PressGoogle Scholar
Jong, T., & Joolingen, W. R. (1998). Scientific discovery learning with computer simulations of conceptual domains. Review of Educational Research, 68(2), 179–201CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dillon, A., & Gabbard, R. (1998). Hypermedia as an educational technology: A review of the quantitative research literature on learner comprehension, control, and style. Review of Educational Research, 58(3), 322–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gagne, R. M. (1985). The conditions of learning and theory of instruction (4th Ed.). Forth Worth, TX: Holt, Rinehart & WinstonGoogle Scholar
Galvin, T. (2003). 2003 Industry Report. Training Magazine, 40(9), 19–45Google Scholar
Gott, S. P., & Lesgold, A. M. (2000). Competence in the workplace: How cognitive performance models and situated instruction can accelerate skill acquisition. In Glaser, R., (Ed.), Advances in instructional psychology, 5. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum AssociatesGoogle Scholar
Grantcharov, T. P., Kristiansen, V. B., Bendix, J., Bardram, L., Rosenberg, J., & Funch-Jensen, P. (2003). Randomized clinical trial of virtual reality simulation for laparosopic skills training. British Journal of Surgery, 91, 146–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Harp, S. F., & Mayer, R. E. (1997). The role of interest in learning from scientific text and illustrations: On the distinction between emotional interest and cognitive interest. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89, 92–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Harp, S. F., & Mayer, R. E. (1998). How seductive details do their damage: A theory of cognitive interest in science learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90, 414–434CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hegarty, M., Narayanan, N. H., & Freitas, P. (2002). Understanding machines from multimedia and hypermedia presentations. In Otero, J., Leon, J. A., & Graesser, A. C. (Eds.), The psychology of science text comprehension. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum AssociatesGoogle Scholar
Hickey, D. T., Kindfield, A. C. H., Horowitz, P., & Christie, M. A. T. (2003). Integrating curriculum, instruction, assessment, and evaluation in a technology-supported genetics learning environment. American Educational Research Journal, 40(2), 495–538CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jeung, H., Chandler, P., & Sweller, J. (1997). The role of visual indicators in dual sensory mode instruction. Educational Psychology, 17(3), 329–343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kalyuga, S., Ayres, P., Chandler, P., & Sweller, J. (2003). The expertise reversal effect. Educational Psychologist, 38(1), 23–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kalyuga, S., Chandler, P., Tuovinen, J., & Sweller, J. (2001). When problem solving is superior to studying worked examples. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93(3), 579–588CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kamin, C., O'Sullivan, P., Deterding, R., & Younger, M. (2003). A comparison of critical thinking in groups of third-year medical students in text, video, and virtual PBL case modalities. Academic Medicine, 78(2), 204–211CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Leahy, W., Chandler, P., & Sweller, J. (2003). When auditory presentations should and should not be a component of multimedia instruction. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 17, 401–418CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Maddux, C. D. (2003). Twenty years of research in information technology in education: Assessing our progress. Computers in the Schools, 20(1/2), 35–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mageau, T. (2004). A closer look at scientifically based research: What the words mean. T. H. E. Journal, 31, 26–30Google Scholar
Mayer, R. E., (1997). Multimedia learning: Are we asking the right questions?Educational Psychologist, 32(1), 1–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mayer, R. E. (2001). Multimedia learning. New York: Cambridge University PressCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mayer, R. E. (2004). Should there be a three-strikes rule against pure discovery learning?American Psychologist, 59(1), 14–19CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Mayer, R. E., & Anderson, R. B. (1991). Animations need narrations: An experimental test of a dual-coding hypothesis. Journal of Educational Psychology, 81(4), 484–490CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mayer, R. E., & Chandler, P. (2001). When learning is just a click away: Does simple user interaction foster deeper understanding of multimedia messages?Journal of Educational Psychology, 93, 390–397CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mayer, R. E., Heiser, J., and Lonn, S. (2001). Cognitive constraints on multimedia learning: When presenting more material results in less understanding. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93, 187–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mayer, R. E., Mathias, A., & Wetzell, K. (2002). Fostering understanding of multimedia messages through pre-training: Evidence for a two-stage theory of mental model construction. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 8(3), 147–154Google ScholarPubMed
Mayer, R. E., Mautone, P., & Prothero, W. (2002). Pictorial aids for learning by doing in a multimedia geology simulation game. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94(1), 171–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mayer, R. E., & Moreno, R. (1998). A split-attention effect in multimedia learning: Evidence for dual processing systems in working memory. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90, 312–320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mayer, R. E., & Moreno, R. (2002). Animation as an aid to multimedia learning. Educational Psychology Review, 14(1), 87–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Michas, I. C., & Berry, D.C. (2000). Learning a procedural task: Effectiveness of multimedia presentations. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 14, 555–5753.0.CO;2-4>CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Miller, G. A. (1956). The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psychological Review, 63, 81–97CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Moreno, R., & Mayer, R. E. (1999). Cognitive principles of multimedia learning: The role of modality and contiguity. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91, 358–368CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Moreno, R., & Mayer, R. E. (2000). A coherence effect in multimedia learning: The case for minimizing irrelevant sounds in he design of multimedia instructional messages. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92(1), 117–125CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Moreno, R., & Mayer, R. E. (2002). Learning science in virtual reality multimedia environments: Role of methods and media. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94(3), 598–610CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Moreno, R., Mayer, R. E., Spires, H., & Lester, J. (2001). The case for social agency in computer-based teaching: Do students learn more deeply when they interact with animated pedagogical agents?Cognition and Instruction, 19, 177–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mousavi, S. Y., Low, R., & Sweller, J. (1995). Journal of Educational Psychology, 87(2), 319–334CrossRef
Nadolski, R. J., Kirschner, PlA., Merrienboer, J. G., & Hummel, H. G. K. (2001). A model for optimizing step size of learning tasks in competency-based multimedia practicals. Educational Technology Research and Development, 49(3), 87–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Powell, W. (2001). Like life?Training and Development, 56(2), 32–40Google Scholar
Roberts, G. (2003). Teaching using the web: Conceptions and approaches from a phenomenographic perspective. Instructional Science, 31, 127–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Svetcov, D. (2000). The virtual classroom vs. the real one. Forbes, 166, 50–54Google Scholar
Sweller, J., & Cooper, G. A. (1985). The use of worked examples as a substitute for problem solving in learning algebra. Cognition and Instruction, 2(1), 59–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sweller, J., Merriënboer, J. J. G., & Paas, F. G. W.C (1998). Cognitive architecture and instructional design. Educational Psychology Review, 10(3), 251–296CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tindall-Ford, S., Chandler, P., & Sweller, J. (1997). When two sensory modes are better than one. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 3(4), 257–287Google Scholar
Cited by

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats