EdTech 513 – Multimedia Design Dilemma

Design Dilemma:
Your school principal has asked you to explain why you don’t include text to match your narration of multimedia instruction. (S)he cites different learning preferences as being the reason, along with adding additional modalities to improve learning. How would you answer?


According to the Modality Principle it is helpful to have printed words on a screen concurrent with graphics when you have a student that is hearing impaired and therefore can’t access audio or when bandwidth, sound cards, headsets are not available or up to par within the learning environment creating more of a hindrance with using narration. (Meyer, p. 120) Given the bandwidth concerns and digital divide within the community when we are designing multimedia instruction we need to be cognizant of the factors as they will make our overall network slow if we use these in all classrooms simultaneously on a regular basis. It can be helpful to have labels in conjunction with graphics when the graphics are complex or the flow of the instruction is fast paced in nature. When providing audio is not possible then we should limit the text to only that which is necessary as to not overload the viewer of the multimedia instruction. Presentations should be concise and not be lengthy when possible. The attention span of the end user needs to be considered when designing multimedia presentations. When students are viewing images and there is text also present they are taking in both the graphic representation and the text in through their eyes this will overload the visual portion of the brain actually decreasing the students ability to process information. This is the case when the text is present as a portion of the written words an instructor says. However, if we use audio narration with the visual image and limited labels this will actually increase students retention of the content because the instruction will not be over stimulating the visual pathways. Learners also need time to process content so it needs to be chunked into digestible bites.

The Redundancy Principle states that in certain circumstances it can be helpful to have both text and narration (Meyer, p. 143). I appreciate your concerns about ESL students and those students that may have auditory processing issues. For these students we could have a different presentation they access without the audio that has the text present. These particular learners are the exception to the rule of multimedia best practices under the present circumstances as they would benefit from having the narration in a written form rather than in an audio form. Having these options available would assist us in making sure that we are 508 compliant.


Clark, R., & Mayer, R. (2008). Chapter 6 & 7. In E-Learning and the science of instruction: Proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia learning (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.

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