Debating Multimedia Learning by Mayer

Debating Multimedia Learning by Mayer
Tuesday, 24 November 2020, 4:37 PM



This is to debate Multimedia Learning by Mayer. You may want to read the text The Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning by Stephen D. Sorden, available on the Moodle (adapted version also). You may also want to read the text  Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning by Michelle Rudolph, which is mostly directed to multimedia material designers (educational videos in particular)


In the book Multimedia Learning (Cambridge Press, 2001), Richard Mayer discusses 12 principles that shape the design and organization of multimedia presentations:

1. Coherence Principle – People learn better when extraneous words, pictures and sounds are excluded rather than included.
2. Signaling Principle – People learn better when cues that highlight the organization of the essential material are added. (in L2, there is Input Enhancement here and here)
3. Redundancy Principle – People learn better from graphics and narration than from graphics, narration and on-screen text (there is the reverse redundancy effect for L2 learners, eg. here).
4. Spatial Contiguity Principle – People learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented near rather than far from each other on the page or screen.
5. Temporal Contiguity Principle – People learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively.
6. Segmenting Principle – People learn better from a multimedia lesson is presented in user-paced segments rather than as a continuous unit.
7. Pre-training Principle – People learn better from a multimedia lesson when they know the names and characteristics of the main concepts.
8. Modality Principle – People learn better from graphics and narrations than from animation and on-screen text.
9. Multimedia Principle – People learn better from words and pictures than from words alone.
10. Personalization Principle – People learn better from multimedia lessons when words are in conversational style rather than formal style.
11. Voice Principle – People learn better when the narration in multimedia lessons is spoken in a friendly human voice rather than a machine voice.
12. Image Principle – People do not necessarily learn better from a multimedia lesson when the speaker’s image is added to the screen.

source here


The author also talks about the principles involved in:

reducing extraneous processing – coherence, signaling, redundancy, spatial contiguity, temporal contiguity

managing essential processing – segmenting, pre-training, modality

fostering generative processing – multimedia, personalization, voice, image


Also, you may want to look at the diagram, below, proposed by the author, to explain the whole process of comprehension based on both visual and auditory input (via the two different channels).


 mayer s diagram



Picture of Tatiana Köerich Rondon (202000714)
Re: Debating Multimedia Learning by Mayer
by Tatiana Köerich Rondon (202000714) - Saturday, 20 February 2021, 9:58 PM

Good evening, everyone! wink

I have a few comments related to the main elements of the theory presented in the text. According to the Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning (CTML) proposed by Mayer, “…learners attempt to make meaningful connections between words and pictures” (p. 2). I would go beyond that and say that learners try to put together all the information coming through their senses. That said, perhaps Mayer will have to update his theory when technology can provide learners with olfactory, gustatory, and tactile input.

The dual-channel assumption, one of the three principles supporting CTML, is based on Baddeley’s multicomponent working memory model. In the beginning, there were three components: the phonological loop, the visuospatial sketchpad, and the central executive (Baddeley, 2015). The first two components were responsible for storing and processing the information from auditory and visual channels, whereas the last one would coordinate information coming from different sources. After being criticized by several researchers, Baddeley included a fourth component called the episodic buffer. This component had two primary functions: dealing with input from the other senses and establishing a connection with previous knowledge stored in long-term memory (LTM).

Another part of Baddeley’s model that received much criticism is his claim that information stored in long-term memory is downloaded into the episodic buffer. Similarly, in the text, Sorden (2005) claims that “we are only conscious of information in long-term memory when it has been transferred to working memory” (p. 3). The alternative view is that working memory is the activated portion of LTM. Cowan (2015) explains that different stimuli have the power of triggering several features stored in LTM, reflecting a “temporary activation of long-term memory information” (p. 33). This view is supported by studies conducted using neuroimaging techniques: they show that several brain areas are simultaneously active when performing specific tasks.


Baddeley, A. (2015). Working memory in second language learning. In Z. Wen, M. Mota & A. McNeill (Eds.), Working Memory in Second Language Acquisition and Processing (pp. 17-28). Multilingual Matters.

Cowan, N. (2015). Second language use, theories of working memory and the Vennian mind. In Z. Wen, M. Mota & A. McNeill (Eds.), Working Memory in Second Language Acquisition and Processing (pp. 29-40). Multilingual Matters.

Picture of William Gottardi (202003499)
Re: Debating Multimedia Learning by Mayer
by William Gottardi (202003499) - Tuesday, 23 February 2021, 4:03 PM

Hey there, everyone!

The Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning brings some interesting topics into the discussion. As Tatiana argues, there is this central debate about cognitive faculties such as working memory and long-term memory. Besides, the author brings this idea of the cognitive load and divided attention/distractedness that were also discussed during the first unit of this course.

Regarding the principles, the ones that especially caught my attention were the coherence, the signaling, the pre-training, and the personalization principle. I will definitely pay more attention to these principles while creating new presentations and multimedia resources for my students. I must admit that the pre-training principle was not under my radar at all. Furthermore, these principles can be applied not only to digital resources but to printed ones as well. Thus, I will bear this in mind when I have to decide what textbook I should use with my students.

In addition, I also want to share some of these tips with my students. I teach adults and most of them have to give presentations at work or at a higher education institution. Although the principles apply to the development of pedagogical materials, many of them can be applied for different purposes. For instance, in a business meeting, it might be appropriate to draw attention to some specific parts of the deal (signaling principle).

Picture of Flávia Roberta Felippi Rucki (201905682)
Re: Debating Multimedia Learning by Mayer
by Flávia Roberta Felippi Rucki (201905682) - Wednesday, 24 February 2021, 9:00 PM

Mayer presents the Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning, claiming that multimedia resources can lead to meaningful learning. For him, learning is defined as ‘a change in Knowledge attributable to experience’  and as a personal and internal (cognitive) process.  He says that meaningful learning is learner centered: ‘an active learning where the learner constructs knowledge’ (p.06)

I agree with him and I think that the instructional multimedia area is of paramount importance for language teaching, especially nowadays where e-learning is in the spotlight.

As proven by many studies, learners learn better from auditory/verbal channels and visual channels. In this perspective, multimedia offers learning from pictures and words, activating learner’s sensory memory which selects new words and images. After that, learner’s working memory leads to the organization of selected words in verbal and pictorial mode and, finally, the selected pieces of information are integrated to the learner’s prior  knowledge in long- term memory.   

Mayer establishes 12 principles that must be taken into account when designing multimedia activities for meaningful learning. While reading the 12 principles, I could identify some of the principles that I usually follow when using or designing multimedia resources.  According to my experience as a language teacher, I can see how effective the principles of signaling and sequencing are, especially for beginners. Learners feel safer and their cognitive capacity is not  overloaded. Another principle that I am familiar with refers to pre-training. I guess that if there is no preparation for the multimedia activity, results are usually poorer. The other principles were very enlightening, particularly, the extraneous one. Reflecting on it, I understand that I must be aware to the excess of (unnecessary) information provided to the learner.  If the multimedia does not respect the pace of the learners I believe that it loses much of its effectiveness. This may be the reason some students do not like video related activities.

After reading Mayer, I could realize that using multimedia requires a ‘science of instruction’ to guide teachers’ pedagogical decisions. This science bases its tenets and principles on evidences and extensive research, providing lots of valuable insights into our teaching practice.

It was a very helpful reading!  

Picture of Fernanda da Costa Alves (202001313)
Re: Debating Multimedia Learning by Mayer
by Fernanda da Costa Alves (202001313) - Thursday, 25 February 2021, 12:10 PM

Hello everyone! 


The CTML is based on the assumption that learners will build more meaningful connections when images and words are combined (p. 2). As mentioned by other students, and argued by the author, this is also highly connected to the capacity of our memory (especially the working memory). One of the things I liked the most about this theory is that it puts the focus on the learners and takes into account the processes that they go through while trying to learn. It is not a fixed method and it does not try to tell teachers what to teach, but how to better present the content to students.

Moreover, I also thought that the 12 principles presented by the author were very interesting. And just as Professor Celso's students, when presenting something I usually have problems with principle number 01, which is about eliminating the extraneous materials! As William have mentioned, these principles are definitely something I will pay more attention to especially when preparing material for my students. 

The principles that caught my attention were: coherence, signaling and segmenting (thus, I agree with what the Professor said in the class we had about this topic). The challenge now is how to best apply this when teaching or even when presenting something. 

Picture of Janaina Fernanda de Almeida (202001525)
Re: Debating Multimedia Learning by Mayer
by Janaina Fernanda de Almeida (202001525) - Thursday, 25 February 2021, 6:10 PM

Hello! smile

In defense of the assumption that people learn better when using the two channels (auditory and visual) rather than only one, Richard Mayer presents a theoretical framework for the proper use and development of multimedia learning resources. One of the central tenets of theory is that, although humans have separate channels for storing visual and auditory information, they are limited in storage capacity. Therefore, multimedia materials designers have to consider the characteristics of human cognitive processing.

In this regard, some principles are discussed to guide the preparation of resources for educational purposes. But some of the principles, mainly Segmenting and Pre-training, are also helpful to better select and make use of ready materials. Thus, the theory is interesting not only for designers but also for teaching in general.

I enjoyed the readings a lot, mostly because I haven’t really thought about the topic before. I found the tips very useful, and I’ll try to apply them in future situations. Besides, the discussion reinforced the need to have well-prepared classes for using multimedia pieces, such as videos. The teacher should previously introduce the content of the material, signalize the main aspects that learners are expected to pay attention to, and prepare a post-task to systematize the learned information.  

Picture of Daniele Perezin Mizuta (202004424)
Re: Debating Multimedia Learning by Mayer
by Daniele Perezin Mizuta (202004424) - Thursday, 25 February 2021, 6:51 PM

If I had to select a relevant point in the article by Mayer (2001) and summarize it in a few words in the same way Prof. Celso asked us in our last meeting, I would say “administrate cognitive load”. The 12 multimedia instruction principles cited in the article aim at “reducing extraneous processing, managing essential processing and fostering generative processing”, and may, thus, guide the choices of instructional designers and teachers on how to create and use meaningful multimedia content without overloading learner’s processing capacity.

As Flávia highlighted above that “meaningful learning is learner-centered”, I was also fond of the passage in which the author stated it is common for the design of the multimedia material to be driven by technology rather than the needs of the learner. Although some multimedia material is not originally designed for educational purposes, I would assume that the ones initially intended for such use should be developed considering scientific aspects, such as CTML.

In addition, the article also emphasized the importance of reducing extraneous cognitive load, considering that our working memory has a limit to what it can process and we should eliminate stimuli that are not essential in the materials. Practically speaking, I asked myself while reading: How much of the information I present to students is distracting/unnecessary? After reading this paper, I believe I will question my own practice much more whenever I use multimedia materials in class.

Picture of Marcella Lorenzato Barontini (202004434)
Re: Debating Multimedia Learning by Mayer
by Marcella Lorenzato Barontini (202004434) - Monday, 1 March 2021, 11:12 AM

Hello, everyone!

I particularly enjoyed reading the CTML article by Stephen D. Sorden, because of the amount of useful information I realized I am able to incorporate to my pedagogical practices. Studying the passages while being a teacher and currently performing pedagogical competences contributed to better analyze the theory presented along with what actually happens in the classroom. I would like to highlight some key words and expressions that summarize my understanding and perspective of the content discussed.

First, recognizing the learner as an ACTIVE PARTICIPANT of his/her own learning process is, in my view, a crucial conception when elaborating educational strategies. As mentioned in the text, teachers – as mediators – ought to encourage students to created connections with their prior knowledge in order to allow the inputs to become intakes. In this sense, it converges with the fact that CTML is considered to be LEARNER-CENTERED, in the first place.

Second, because it is “learner-actively participating-centered”, I agree with Mayer when he defends that learning conception could be viewed as “a change in knowledge attributable to experience”. This means that students’ background and world perspective are to be considered when presenting a new information. And their prior information and experience can either facilitate or enhance the learning process or create an obstacle to be driven off (such as mother language interference).

Third and finally, having all these conceptions in mind, it’s possible to achieve what Mayer defines as MEANINGFUL LEARNING (I would say this is the information students can actively utilize when in working memory and internalize in long-term memory). When says that educators need to consider strategies that REDUCE COGNITIVE LOAD and INCREASE THE LEARNER’S INTEREST, I could especially relate that to my practices in the classroom. If the student is interested in the content, even though it may be complicated, he/she will spontaneously make an effort to work it through, because it is relevant.

I strongly believe that the quality of my competences to filter educational strategies and materials will be improved after reading the 12 multimedia instruction principles presented by Mayer!

Picture of Mauricio de Bortolli Lattmann (202004435)
Re: Debating Multimedia Learning by Mayer
by Mauricio de Bortolli Lattmann (202004435) - Monday, 1 March 2021, 12:11 PM

Hello everyone,

Both Sorden and Rudolph provided readers a summarized but yet very enriching comprehension of Mayer's Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning (CTML). I found both articles not only to be very useful for multimedia developers but also teachers who might be able to better incorporate the Twelve Principles of Multimedia Design when preparing multimedia materials for their students. These principles aim at providing learners meaningful learning by assisting them to make connections between information on both visual and verbal processing channels in their working memory. Using these principles in the most effective way is also intended to not overload learners' working memory since it might compromise learners' retention of what is being presented. As Mayer and Moreno (2003) state that this possible cognitive overload happens "when the learner's intended cognitive processing exceeds the learner's available cognitive capacity (p. 43)".

As I was reading Mayer's Twelve Principles of Multimedia I was quite enthusiastic on how to better incorporate these principles when preparing multimedia presentations, also paying attention on how to balance both visual and verbal information in a effective way to promote meaningful learning to my students. Even though all principles have its importance and must be taken into account in the multimedia design process, the Segmenting, Signaling and Coherence principles are the ones I found to be the most helpful in the process of preparing multimedia content. Having a coherent presentation, where no irrelevant or extraneous elements are included; being able to "break'' the lesson into chunks instead of presenting all the topic in one multimedia piece and also signaling relevant content through the use of arrows or call outs is quite important when considering preparing a multimedia presentation. 

Mayer also created a Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning diagram for people to better understand how memory works in instructional multimedia. This diagram is connected to three assumptions, which are the Dual channels, Limited capacity and Active processing. The diagram is based on the fact that learners, when watching a particular instructional multimedia piece, are presented to words and pictures (physical representations) consequently using their eyes and ears to access the sensory representations. Learners then select what elements they will put into working memory to later decide what will be stored into the long-term memory.

I would like to finish by also stating something I found quite interesting while reading these particular texts and that should be taken into account when designing multimedia lessons which is the fact that instructional designing should be learner-centered instead of technology-centered. As Sorden says that "multimedia instructional designers often fall victim to letting the technology drive the instructional design, rather than looking at the design from the perspective, and limitations, of the learner".


Mayer, R. E., & Moreno, R. (2003). Nine ways to reduce cognitive load in multimedia learning. Educational Psychologist, 38(1), 43-52.


Picture of Celso José de Lima Junior (202001592)
Re: Debating Multimedia Learning by Mayer
by Celso José de Lima Junior (202001592) - Thursday, 4 March 2021, 10:23 PM

Hello smile

Building on Baddeley’s model of working memory, Mayer’s basic premise with multimedia learning is that we can learn more deeply from words and pictures together than we can from just words alone (p. 47). However, Mayer states that simply adding visual information to verbal information is not an effective way to achieve multimedia learning, because we may select and dynamically organize them with our prior knowledge to produce logical constructs in our mind.
Bearing this in mind, as teachers, we can use this basic premise to include materials that are filled with charts, diagrams, maps, and pictures in our lessons. Of course, we need to reflect and balance coherent verbal and pictorial information to help our students in processing information.


Picture of Thaisy da Silva Martins (202001387)
Re: Debating Multimedia Learning by Mayer
by Thaisy da Silva Martins (202001387) - Friday, 5 March 2021, 5:09 PM

I found the Cogntive Theory of Multimedia Learning very interesting and helpful. The text was enlightening and it helped me to reflect about teaching practices. Regarding the twelve principles proposed by Mayer, the Pre-training Principle (people learn better from a multimedia lesson when they know the names and characteristics of the main concepts) especially caught my attention. As a student, I notice that I learn better and feel more confident when I "know" what I'm learning. That is, I feel more grounded when there is a "pre-training" where I know what to expect and the learning process becomes more fruitful. I believe this principle reflects the importance of a solid contextualization, in order for the students to be able to focus on what is expected of them, and not feel lost from the beginning. 

Picture of Pierre Silva Machado (202004425)
Re: Debating Multimedia Learning by Mayer
by Pierre Silva Machado (202004425) - Monday, 8 March 2021, 5:45 PM

In my opinion, two aspects were major while reading about multimedia learning: knowing its definition and what it is and understanding the gist of the cognitive theory. For me, I had basic information on what multimedia learning is, so the reading was essential. From its definition, what made me more aware of its importance was to think about the fact that people learn better from words and pictures than from words alone. Bearing this in mind, teachers may plan classes whose digital resources are used in a more meaningful way. Although I have used digital resources since I started teaching, I guess sometimes I made a wrong use of them. 

Along with that, understanding the spatial contiguity principle reinforced something I had already thought of, but had no clue in terms of theory. I remember using presentations and students sometimes were confused. After some years teaching, we get the gist of it and throughtou the readings, I could find the answers for the questions I was not able to give back then.

Picture of Natália Pinheiro (202001301)
Re: Debating Multimedia Learning by Mayer
by Natália Pinheiro (202001301) - Saturday, 20 March 2021, 10:39 AM

Reading Mayer's (2012) principles the main thing that I was left wondering is about the duration of any multimedia-based class. 

Now, regarding his fifth principle, "people learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively" I wonder how would that relate to the results of a study I recently read (and cited in assignment 1). From my assignment:

"Dönmez and Akbulut (2020) investigated how multi-tasking during an online class may affect the learning performance of 365 undergraduate students. In the control condition participants watched a video lecture lasting 8 minutes and 54 seconds without any distractions. On the other hand, the multitasking experimental conditions were subdivided into relevant-sequential, relevant-concurrent, irrelevant-sequential and irrelevant-concurrent. Participants had to answer questions in a chatbox that were either relevant or irrelevant to the lecture. Moreover, the video was either automatically paused or not while answers were written. The results showed that learning gains significantly decreased in every experimental condition except for the relevant-sequential."


DÖNMEZ, O.; AKBULUT, Y. Timing and relevance of secondary tasks impact multitasking performance. Computers and Education, 2021. v. 161, n. October 2020

Picture of João Luiz Coelho (202002413)
Re: Debating Multimedia Learning by Mayer
by João Luiz Coelho (202002413) - Monday, 29 March 2021, 5:20 PM

I have always enjoyed multimedia content, especially when they are well-designed and act as another way to provide meaning to what is being told. Since I started to give English classes and creating slides, the design and content of my slides has always been one of my top priorities. I think that it is very important that what the student is seeing is tightly related to what they are hearing to learn. Making it beautiful is another challenge, as It requires knowledge of many tools and making it aesthetically pleasing.

Mayer was very successful in his work on the 12 principles of multimedia learning, as it is extremely helpful and important for teachers. I found particularly helpful the coherence principle, as too much images and resources are not helpful for students, only the necessary information; and the segmenting principle, which is something that is not only important for multimedia, but for classes too. I was surprised to read the image principle, in which students do not necessarily learn better when they are seeing the image of the person who is speaking.

Picture of Rayla Rocha dos Santos (202001012)
Re: Debating Multimedia Learning by Mayer
by Rayla Rocha dos Santos (202001012) - Tuesday, 30 March 2021, 8:47 PM

I did not know much about the Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning, and I found it essential mainly for teachers to have in mind how we learn as understanding the dual-channel assumption, the limited capacity assumption, and the active processing assumption. Moreover, the principle that this theory is learner-centered caught my attention as well because it is expected that the learner builds the connections and that the learner is active.

Reading Sorden's (2012) and Rudolph's (2017) texts the challenge that remained for me is to be concise and to be careful as a teacher to not overload students with too much information.

In relation to the principles, the one that I most like is the “pre-training principle” as Thaisy argued, I feel that I learn better when I have an idea of what I am learning.

Picture of Andreia Dalla Costa (201901088)
Re: Debating Multimedia Learning by Mayer
by Andreia Dalla Costa (201901088) - Tuesday, 6 April 2021, 8:05 PM

I really enjoyed reading the texts from this unit. 

Regarding the 12 principles from Mayer (2001) I have to say that I have always considered my audience when making presentations and trying not to break the principles even though I was not well aware of them. After reading the text, every time I am going to prepare a class that has something visual I try to consider them and revise it many times in order to check whether it will be appropriate or not. 

Regarding Sorden, makes a very interesting point when he writes that “it is the instructional method rather that the technology that matters” (p. 10). It does not matter the kind of technology a teacher uses, what really matters is the way that teacher is going to relate the media being used to what is relevant for that specific student/class. For example, a teacher who decides to use a YouTube video in his class should do it with intention and in a goal-directed activity, otherwise, it won't make any difference in the overall learning of the students.