Cognitive theory of multimedia learning: what it is and what it offers

When we talk about the lessons of a lifetime in school, high school or any other educational level, we all agree that a picture book or a classroom documentary was something much nicer. than reading simple notes in which only words came out and no more words.

It is not that a picture is worth a thousand words, but it seems that pictures combined with words, whether read or heard, make the information to be learned more powerful, more easily assimilated.

This is what the cognitive theory of multimedia learning advocates., In which it is argued that the combination of information that activates the verbal and the visual serves us to do deeper learning. Let’s see below.

    What is the cognitive theory of multimedia learning?

    All types of professionals who know how to design them and know how the human mind works must participate in the production of multimedia content for educational purposes. Educators and psychologists, designers, illustrators, programmers and communicators should be responsible for designing these resources as multimedia, in itself, will not encourage learning, but the way it is designed and results in better acquisition of the content taught.

    The designer, whatever the field, must know how to take advantage of new technologies and adapt the contents so that by combining different visual and auditory elements, the didactic objectives to be acquired in the academic course are supported. Planning and processing information must be very carefulBecause turning them into multimedia is not an easy task and requires a lot of time and effort to invest.

    With all of this in mind, we enter fully into the central premise of cognitive multimedia learning theory, a model in which it is argued that certain information is learned more deeply when presented in the form of words. and pictures rather than just words and pictures. words. That is, by transforming classic content, traditionally in written form, into something that has visual or auditory support, better self-learning is acquired.

    This idea came from the hand of Richard Mayer in 2005, Which proposes the cognitive theory of multimedia learning based on the idea that there are three types of memory storage (sensory memory, working memory and long-term memory) and further argues that individuals have two separate channels to process information, being one for verbal material and the other for visual. Each channel can only process a small amount of information at a time and can be supported by processing the content presented in two different and complementary ways.

    Meaningful learning from a multimedia element is the result of learner activity when presented with information that activates both channels, building orderly and integrated knowledge. Since working memory has a rather limited cognitive load, if too many items of the same type are presented at the same time, it can overload, exceed processing capacity and cause some of that content not to be treated satisfactorily. So, to reduce its load, it pays to activate two slightly different channels instead of one and in excess.

    Richard Mayer’s multimedia learning

    Within the framework of the cognitive theory of multimedia learning, Richard Mater argues that in order to reduce the cognitive load on working memory when presenting content, it should be presented in multimedia format, i.e. say activate the two information reception modes: visual and verbal. His principles on multimedia learning are directly linked to the ideas that emanate from John Sweller’s cognitive load theory.

    It should be noted the idea of ​​what is meant by multimedia content. We refer to multimedia content when certain information is presented, such as a presentation or communication, which includes words and images intended to encourage learning. Based on this idea and based on his scientific research, Mayer has formulated up to eleven different principles that serve as a guide when designing multimedia material and focus on facilitating learning, whether you have any skills. previous knowledge related to new information as if not.

    Thus, from the cognitive theory of learning, it is argued that understanding how information treats the human mind of a learner will be able to maximize the acquisition of certain content. With this in mind, it will be possible to design guides for the management and design of multimedia content, with the intention that the student will be easier to build mental schemas on new content and be able to automate and automate them. introduce long term. Memory.

    The three foundations of the theory

    There are three foundations of the theory that justify its central premise, arguing that certain content is learned more deeply when presented as a combination of words with pictures.

    1. Pictures and words are not equivalent

    It is not true to say that a picture equals a thousand words. Images and words are not equivalent or provide the same information, but complement each other. Through words we can better understand a picture, and through pictures we can get a better idea and better understand what is being said in a text.

    2. Verbal and visual information is processed through different channels

    As we have already suggested, verbal or auditory information and visual or pictorial information are stored and processed in different channels. Processing information on more than one channel gives us advantages in terms of capacity, encoding in our memory, and retrieval. This strengthens memory and its storage in long-term memory.

    3. The integration of words and images allows for deeper learning

    Integrate into working memory a word accompanied by an image or a verbal representation with an image it involves cognitive effort and treatment. In turn, it is easier to relate this new information to previous learnings, resulting in deeper learnings that remain in long-term memory and can be applied to problem solving in other contexts.

      Multimedia learning and memory model

      As we said, the model is based on the idea that our brain works with two information processing systems, one for visual material and one for verbal. The advantage of using these two channels is not something quantitative, but rather qualitative since, as we mentioned before, visual and auditory information complement each other, do not replace or are equivalent. Deep understanding occurs when the learner can make meaningful connections between verbal and visual representations.

      When multimedia material is presented, information received in the form of words will be heard by the ears or read by the eyes, while the images will be seen by the eyes. In both cases, the new information will first pass through sensory memory, where it will be briefly retained as visual (image) and auditory (sound) stimuli.

      In working memory, the individual will perform the main activity of multimedia learningBecause it is the space of our memory where we will process new information while keeping it conscious. This memory has a very limited capacity and, as we mentioned, tends to overload. On the other hand, long-term memory has almost no limits, and when information is processed in depth, it ends up being stored in the latter space.

      In working memory, the selection of sounds and images will be made and the information will be organized by transforming it into mental representations with coherence, that is, we will become a verbal mental model and a pictorial mental model based on what we have read. , heard and seen. The information will be given meaning by integrating the visual representations with the verbal representations and by relating them to the knowledge acquired on the previous data. As we can understand from all of this, people are not passive recipients of new content, but we actively process them.

      Having in mind all this, we can end by summarizing this point in the three cases below.

      1. Two-channel hypothesis

      This model assumes that people process information in two separate channelsOne being that of auditory or verbal information and the other that of visual or pictorial information.

      2. Limited capacity assumption

      It is claimed that both channels of the above hypothesis have limited capacity. People’s working memory can retain a limited number of words and images at a time.

      3. Hypothesis of active treatment

      It is argued that people actively participate in learning deal with new relevant incoming information. This selected information is organized into coherent mental representations and these representations are integrated with other prior knowledge.

      The 11 principles of multimedia learning

      Looking in depth at the whole cognitive theory of multimedia learning, we finally see the eleven principles to be taken into account when designing multimedia material to optimize learning. These are principles that must be taken into account in any classroom and course considered suitable for the 21st century., Especially if you want to make the most of new technology and multimedia and online resources.

      1. Principle of multimedia

      People learn best when content is displayed in image format combined with text instead of single words, This principle being the main premise of all cognitive theory of multimedia learning.

      2. Principle of contiguity

      We learn best when images and words that refer to the same content are placed nearby one another.

      3. Principle of temporality

      People learn best when words and their corresponding images simultaneously appear on the screen.

      4. Principle of modality

      People learn best when multimedia content comes in the form of pictures with narration than pictures with text.

      5. Principle of redundancy

      We learn best when the images used they are explained either by a story or by a text, but not with both modalities at the same time. In other words, presenting an image, a text and telling a story is rather a waste of time and resources, because its effect is neither cumulative nor multiplying beyond the use of two supports.

      6. Principle of consistency

      People learn best when pictures, words or sounds that are not directly related to the content to be taught are removed from the screen.

      7. Signaling principle

      People learn best when added signs that indicate where we need to pay attention.

      8. Principle of segmentation

      We learn best when the content presented to us is divided into small sections and when you can navigate freely and easily through them.

      9. Principle of pre-training

      We learn best when we are pre-trained in the key concepts to be explained before we see the content developed. In other words, that is to say it is better to be introduced briefly or to give a “summary” of what we are going to see before starting with the program itself, Giving us the opportunity to remember prior knowledge before the session, bring it to working memory and recount it while the lesson is explained.

      10. Principle of personalization

      When presenting multimedia material, both in text with image format and narration with image type, it is best to present them with a close and familiar tone; you learn more than when the tone is too formal.

      11. Principle of voice

      If the chosen modality is the image with a heard narration, the people we learn best when a human voice is used in digital assets rather than in software created by software that reads text in robotic audio.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Andrade-Lotero, Luis Alejandro (2012) Cognitive load theory, multimedia design and learning: a state of the art Magis. International Journal of Educational Research, 5 (10), 75-92.

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