Multimedia Affordances Learning


 Mini Project 4 of Assignment 1 (MMEL)

Image via http://michaelhanley.ie/elearningcurve/tag/sound-forge/

This mini project will discuss research into cognitive theory and analyse application of the principles of multimedia affordances through a multimedia artefact (Health & Safety).

Mayer (2003) argues that in order to encourage deeper learning it is not the learning environment that is important, rather it is the learners ability to cognitively process the learning material.  It is, therefore, important to understand the nature of learning, and design multimedia learning materials which promote that cognitive process.   Mayer (2003) suggests a framework for multimedia learning which considers three assumptions suggested by cognitive science: the dual channel assumption, the limited capacity assumption, and the active learning assumption.

The dual channel assumption suggests that short-term, working memory is comprised of two interacting processing channels: the visuo-spatial in the form of images, and the verbal-acoustic in the form of words (Baddeley, 2010). Mayer’s (2003) research found that learning materials that encourage the use of both channels were likely to encourage cognitive processes. In the Health and Safety video, the author effectively uses each of these components in several ways: the words are displayed as text, the words are spoken, and an image is displayed on screen.

The second assumption is that each processing system has a limited capacity.  For example, “a learner can retain one sentence of narration, or ten seconds of animation at any one time” (Mayer, 2003, p4). In addition, Mayer (2003) found that the inclusion of irrelevant material would have a damaging effect on the learning process. There are clear links between words, both spoken and written), and images in the Health and Safety video.  In addition, the images and texts are displayed for no longer than five seconds.

The final assumption is that meaningful learning can only occur when the learner integrates their knowledge by engaging in active cognitive processing.  This supports Biggs’ constructive alignment principle which suggests that the learner constructs their own learning through relevant learning activities (Biggs, 2003).  In the Health and Safety presentation, the video is followed by a series of interactive slides where the learner can select and organise the textual and pictorial representations. Mayer (2003) suggests that it is this process of building connections with words and images that will be stored in long-term memory.

Clearly, the Health and Safety presentation has been designed within a clear framework which encourages cognitive processing and promotes meaningful learning. It could also be argued that the multimedia format enables the learner to access the materials repeatedly, and therefore can help to re-inforce learning.  Moreover, the video is presented in a humanistic way which, as Mayer (2003) also suggests, has a positive effect on the learning process.


Baddeley, A (2010)., Working memory, Current Biology, Vol 20, Issue 4, pp 136-140

Biggs, J. (2003) Aligning Teaching for Constructing Learning, Higher Education Academy [online]

http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/resources/detail/id477_aligning_teaching_for_constructing_learning   Accessed: 28th November 2011

Health and Safety, MSc Multimedia and elearning, 2011, [DVD] School of Education and Professional Development, UK: University of Huddersfield.

Mayer, R.E., (2002) The promise of multimedia learning: using the same instructional design methods across different media, Learning and Instruction, Vol 13, Issue 2, pp 125 -139



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