Multimedia instructions and cognitive load theory: Effects of modality and cueing

  • Tabbers H
  • Martens R
  • Van Merriënboer J
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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Recent research on the influence of presentation format on the effectiveness of multimedia instructions has yielded some interesting results. According to cognitive load theory (Sweller, Van Merriënboer, & Paas, 1998) and Mayer's theory of multimedia learning (Mayer, 2001), replacing visual text with spoken text (the modality effect) and adding visual cues relating elements of a picture to the text (the cueing effect) both increase the effectiveness of multimedia instructions in terms of better learning results or less mental effort spent. AIMS: The aim of this study was to test the generalisability of the modality and cueing effect in a classroom setting. SAMPLE: The participants were 111 second-year students from the Department of Education at the University of Gent in Belgium (age between 19 and 25 years). METHOD: The participants studied a web-based multimedia lesson on instructional design for about one hour. Afterwards they completed a retention and a transfer test. During both the instruction and the tests, self-report measures of mental effort were administered. RESULTS: Adding visual cues to the pictures resulted in higher retention scores, while replacing visual text with spoken text resulted in lower retention and transfer scores. CONCLUSIONS: Only a weak cueing effect and even a reverse modality effect have been found, indicating that both effects do not easily generalise to non-laboratory settings. A possible explanation for the reversed modality effect is that the multimedia instructions in this study were learner-paced, as opposed to the system-paced instructions used in earlier research.

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