Article Category: Book Reviews, Visual Aids

Book Review: Multimedia Learning by Richard E. Mayer


Multimedia Learning by Richard MayerGarr Reynolds, Nancy Duarte, and Cliff Atkinson are the authors of three hugely popular books on presentation design in the last five years.

What else do all three have in common? They all point to Richard E Mayer’s Multimedia Learning as recommended reading for presentation design.

And I agree.

This article is the latest of a series of public speaking book reviews here on Six Minutes.

How does Multimedia Learning compare to other books?

Let’s set the context:

All three of these are:

  • More popular than Mayer’s work. [In fact, these are three of the 9 most popular books on PowerPoint, according to amazon.com.]
  • More applied in nature.
  • More directly tied to public speaking.

Yet, all three offer advice which is, in part, based upon research explained by Mayer in Multimedia Design.

So, who should read Multimedia Learning?

Given that Richard Mayer is a professor of psychology, it is not surprising that Multimedia Learning is written in an academic style. I believe it is this style which hinders its mainstream appeal. (And the pedestrian cover design.)

However, the content is fascinating and provides scientific explanations which leads to deep understanding of much of the contemporary approach to slide design.

For this reason, I think the primary audience for Multimedia Learning is:

  • Professors, teachers, and trainers who create, design, and deliver instructional courses
  • Professionals who are frequently involved with slide design
  • Public speaking instructors and coaches

12 Principles You Learn from Multimedia Learning

Multimedia Learning is fascinating and provides scientific explanations which leads to deep understanding of much of the contemporary approach to slide design.

Mayer’s work is organized around 12 key principles. Each chapter introduces the principle, describes the methodology used to study it, and summarizes research results.

  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.
  3. Redundancy Principle
    People learn better from graphics and narration than from graphics, narration, and on-screen text.
  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 when 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 narration 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.

About Richard E. Mayer

Richard E. Mayer is Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

From his home page:

His current research involves the related disciplines of cognition, instruction, and technology with a special focus on multimedia learning and computer-supported learning. […]

He was ranked #1 as the most productive educational psychologist in the world for 1991-2001. […]

He is the author of more than 390 publications including 23 books, such as Multimedia Learning: Second Edition (2009), Learning and Instruction: Second Edition (2008), E-Learning and the Science of Instruction: Second Edition (with R. Clark, 2008), and the Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning (editor, 2005).

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Multimedia Learning by Richard E. Mayer Andrew Dlugan 3 September 15, 2009 An academic review of cognitive research which provides guidelines for the design of visual presentation aids.

This article is one of a series of public speaking book reviews featured on Six Minutes.
Subscribe to Six Minutes for free to receive future book reviews.

Comments icon2 Comments

  1. Buried in the academic treatment are some very sound principles about the right use of slides and visuals in general for more memorable presentations: avoid text slides, use ‘narration’ and images or graphics together, make the structure clear. All of this is good public speaking practice.

  2. lisa says:

    definitely going to buy this book because I think it will help me expand creative ideas inside my head.

    Thanks.

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