Multimedia instruction should be learner-centered, expert says
Psychologist Richard E. Mayer
4:01 p.m., July 11, 2007--Keynote speaker, Richard E. Mayer, professor of psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara, launched the Summer Faculty Institute, held June 18-22 at UD, with an overview of how learner-centered instruction and multimedia technology can produce high-quality instruction.

Mayer asked participants to consider, “What opportunities to improve learning are afforded by multimedia technologies? It's not the specific media that creates learning, it's the educational design that creates learning,” he said.

Historically, two approaches have been used to combine multimedia technology with instruction. The first, a technology-centered approach, uses the capabilities of cutting-edge technology to create multimedia instruction. Unfortunately this approach doesn't take into account research that has established the way people learn and hasn't influenced the learning process, Mayer noted.

The second approach is a learner-centered approach. “A learner-centered approach is designed to influence the learning process; you must adapt the technology to the way the human mind works,” Mayer said.

“People learn better when multimedia messages are designed in ways that are consistent with research-based principles that have revealed how the human mind works,” Mayer said.

Nearly every decade has produced a new technology that promised to be of educational value: movies in the 1920s; instructional radio in the 1930s; and educational television in the 1950s. Initially these technologies provided great promise as educational tools. However, much of the instruction created with these technologies was technology-centered and did not fulfill their educational promise. “Meaningful learning is our goal; the behavioral activity alone does not foster meaningful learning,” Mayer said.

“Research has shown that the best way to help students learn is through integrating three cognitive processes: selecting, organizing and integrating,” Mayer said.

Research also has revealed the challenges that must be overcome to create meaningful multimedia learning. “The goal of the technology is to act as a productive communicator and provide cognitive guidance,” Mayer said, “not to get in the way of it.”

First, people learn more deeply when extraneous information is excluded. “Remove as many extraneous details as possible. Keep it simple,” Mayer said. “For example, people learn more deeply from animation and narration than from animation, narration and on-screen text,” he explained.

Second, essential information must be managed to make it easier for people to find. “Instructors can manage essential information by using the segmenting principle to break down relevant information into smaller parts--people learn more deeply when the information is presented in smaller pieces,” Mayer said.

Another example is called the pre-training principle--teaching pre-concepts. “People learn more deeply from a narrated animation when they have had training in the names and characteristics of the main topic,” he said.

Third, instruction must foster generative processing, which can be accomplished using the personalization principle and the voice principle. “People learn more deeply when words are in conversational style rather than formal style and when narration is spoken in a human voice rather than a computer voice,” he said.

“As educators, our true goal is to teach students to apply skills to new situations,” Mayer said. “Students become better at dealing with new situations because they can transfer their knowledge and skills to real world situations.”