Use different media: image, audio, video and text

Find out how different media can support learning.

Dominik avatar
Written by Dominik
Updated over a week ago

When designing learning content with text, images, videos and audio, it is important to understand how the various sensory impressions are processed during learning. Before we construct new knowledge and concepts in our long-term memory, the sensory impressions enter our working memory.

Cognitive Load Theory

The Cognitive Load Theory has formulated the assumptions that:

  1. the working memory is limited and

  2. auditory and visual sensory impressions use different channels in our working memory.

The utilization of the working memory depends on the complexity of the learning content and the design of the learning materials. Vocabulary, for example, is less complex (each word can be learned individually) than the grammar of a language. Sometimes content can be simplified, but it is more important for teachers and content creators to design the content in such a way that it is clearly understandable and does not distract from unimportant information. If this is successful, most of the cognitive resources can flow into the actual learning process: the construction of new knowledge and new concepts.

Building on Cognitive Load Theory, Richard E. Mayer first formulated seven fundamental principles for multimedia learning in 2001. Multimedia here means any form of language and image such as books, lectures and digital learning content. The theory has been adapted and expanded over the years. Since 2020, it has included a total of 15 principles and is now backed up by a large number of experiments.

Basically, it helps with learning if we present content not just as text, but as a meaningful combination of image and text (the multimedia principle). The following principles are particularly relevant for the interaction of images and text in spoken and written form.

The coherence principle

"People learn better when extraneous material is excluded rather than included."

  • Less is more!

  • Only embed content that is relevant to learning objectives.

  • Avoid decorative pictures.

  • Avoid background music.

  • Use simple graphics instead of realistic or detailed images.

The redundancy principle

"People learn better from graphics and narration than some graphics, narration, and printed text."

  • In ovos play, this principle is particularly relevant for presentations.

  • Your voice during a presentation is processed in the auditory channel of the working memory, the slides in the visual channel.

  • Avoid reading out the text on a presentation slide.

  • Use as little written text as possible in a presentation (e.g. keywords, technical terms).

  • Prepare content specifically for a presentation rather than copying it one-to-one from decks of cards (which are intended for self-learning).

  • If you use an audio narration on self-learning cards, make sure to reduce the written text and show either the picture or the text on the card, not both.

Spatial and temporal arrangement

"Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented near rather than far from each other on the page or screen [and] when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively."

  • Place text near the graphic to which it refers.

  • Use the answer resolution at the end of the task cards to display feedback directly on the questions or answers to which it relates.

  • If you use animations or videos with audio: Make sure that the audio narration is timed to match the image.

  • When giving a presentation, make sure that the card you show matches what you are saying.

The modality principle

"People learn more deeply from pictures and spoken words than from pictures and printed words."

  • A video or animation with spoken text is particularly helpful for complex content, as both the visual and auditory channels can be used and the cognitive load is thus better distributed.

Subtitles should only be offered for accessibility reasons and should be deselectable. Otherwise they are more of a hindrance to learning (see redundancy principle)

The various principles are not always equally effective. Their application is particularly relevant when addressing learners who are new to the subject. For experts, the effect of the principles can diminish considerably.

Linguistic tips

Professional tips:

  • Address the learners directly, e.g.: "Look at this in the next chapter" or by directly adressing them by name. The feeling of being in direct conversation with the teacher promotes motivation when learning.

  • Use words that create images in the learner's mind.

  • Use active verbs because they describe actions that your learners can do.

  • Work with forms of presentation such as headings, bold word markings or bullet points - but use them sparingly.

  • Pay attention to simple formulations and avoid nested sentences.

  • Explain foreign words or abbreviations, e.g. with the Glossary function.

  • Formulate positively if possible. Avoid double negatives and negatives in questions.

  • Think about the language of your target group and remain authentic.

More information:


  • Mayer R. (2020): Multimedia Learning 3rd Edition

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