Success of E-Learning lies in the fact that it can include a variety of learning opportunities – self-paced training, just-in-time information as well as guidance from experts. With the help of technology, e-learning deliveries readily accessible digital content and creates a learner-oriented environment. E-learning promotes the notion of life-long learning and promotes the growth of a learning society – in educational institutes as well as organizations.
Effective design of e-learning materials relies on appropriate instructional design processes. The change in learning context from classroom to online medium is an important factor when creating e-learning material. Multimedia has been effectively utilized in learning and its benefits for classroom learning are well documented. Multimedia is also well adjusted to online learning and with the development of technology there are many multimedia elements to choose from and infuse in learning to create suitable impact and increase the appeal of learning content among all learners. With the plethora of options available, what to choose and how to present it – this is often a dilemma for many e-learning developers.
In his book, Multimedia Learning, Richard E. Mayer discusses principles that shape the design and organization of multimedia presentations. These principles hold true when creating effective e-learning content and can serve as a well-suited guide for many developers who face the challenge of infusing multimedia in e-learning.
1. Coherence Principle – This principle states that learners learn better when extraneous words, pictures and sounds are excluded rather than included. In other words, when creating multimedia for e-learning, less is more. Choose carefully what is needed and avoid elements that do not contribute to learning but just create clutter. Not only will the visual appeal of a content increase, the learner will be able to concentrate on few elements that are needed and not get distracted with unnecessary elements.
2. Signalling Principle – This principle encourages developers to organize the learning content well. Simpler concepts should precede complex ones, to make sure learners are not overwhelmed. Important parts of the learning content should be suitably highlighted with summarizing or other instructional strategies. This helps to learn and process the information better and remember essential parts of the learning content.
3. Redundancy Principle – When creating multimedia elements in an e-learning course, it is important to remember that learners prefer not more than two or three multimedia elements at one go. So it is better to include graphics and narration or animation and narration than an onslaught of all available elements – on-screen text, graphics, animation as well as narration. Here too, the principle of ‘less is more’ applies and can be utilized for effective e-learning content creation.
4. Multimedia Principle – This is a well-known principle that learners prefer to learn better from words and pictures than from words alone. The inclusion of graphics in e-learning is thus very important. It is an easily available option as well as a budget-friendly one. Readily available generic images as well as content-specific images like graphs or screenshots can be utilized – the choice is wide and varied.
5. Spatial Contiguity Principle – This principle shares that learners prefer it when corresponding words and pictures are presented near rather than far from each other on the screen. This simple alignment can effectively increase the impact of learning, by making sure that words explaining a concept and the accompanying images are not far away. Learners can then understand them both together and proceed to fully understanding the entire concept.
6. Temporal Contiguity Principle – To continue on the same vein, this principle shares that learners prefer it when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively. This is also an easy step to follow and make certain that learners understand the concept as a whole better with words as well as
Images appearing on the screen in the most impactful manner.
7. Segmenting Principle – It is important to note that e-learning is mostly self-paced. Learner proceeds to learn at his or her own pace and this is the basis of the principle that learners learn better from a multimedia-infused lesson when it is presented in user-paced segments rather than as a continuous unit. Suitable breaks in between the flow of information is necessary to make sure that learner takes some time to process what he or she is reading and understands it well. A well-paced e-learning course will definitely be the most effective one.
8. Pre-training Principle – The benefits of creating pre-training opportunities benefits all types of training – including e-learning. The principle states that learners benefit best from a multimedia lesson when they know the names and characteristics of the main concepts. So if you are introducing new concepts, names and titles of essential topics can be shared on the first few screens to make sure that learners feel comfortable with the idea of going ahead with that knowledge.
9. Personalization Principle – Audio is often a worthy accompaniment to all e-learning courses. The principle states that it is better to include audio in conversational style rather than formal style. When learning is informal and not forced it not only puts the learner at ease, but it increases their attention as well.
10. Voice Principle – Also, when creating audio, it is best to follow the principle that learners prefer narration in a friendly human voice rather than a machine voice. So even if machine generated narration is available and is a cheaper option, it is better to create a voice-over narration to make sure that learners remain engaged and are suitably inspired to listen and learn.
With increasing reach of internet and mobile devices, multimedia is increasingly becoming a popular and preferred tool for learning across corporates as well as educational institutes. Following these design principles, a variety of multimedia elements can be infused into e-learning, with better results.