Multimedia Presentations

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Many instructors use multimedia, including presentation tools such as Microsoft PowerPoint, in the classroom to hold students' attention and to streamline class preparation. Here is what the latest research tells us about the effective use of multimedia presentations:

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  • Be wary of redundancy. Research by Jamet and Le Bohec in 2006 showed a negative effect on several forms of information recall for students presented with PowerPoint presentations that directly mirrored the instructor's lecture.
  • Concise is better. Research in 2003 by Bartsch and Cohern showed that elaborate PowerPoint features such as unrelated images, sounds and extraneous information impaired student learning.
  • Draw your own graphs. Research in 2003 by Stern, Aprea and Ebner showed that groups presented with a graph that was ‘actively illustrated’ performed better in recall tasks than groups passively presented with the same graph.

Click here to access Starting Point: Teaching and Learning Economics, a website with additional information on effectively employing multimedia learning in the economics classroom.

"9 Ways to Reduce Cognitive Load in Multimedia Learning" (Mayer & Moreno, 2003)

Mayer and Moreno propose a theory of multimedia learning and Cognitive Overload based on 3 assumptions: the dual-channel assumption (humans process verbal and visual in separate systems), the limited-capacity assumption (a limit exists as to the amount of information each system can process at any given time), and the active-processing assumption (meaningful learning represents necessitates higher cognitive processes such as building connections between verbal and visual representations of information). The authors propose several ways of alleviating Cognitive Overload here.



Multimedia should serve as a guide to lecture, not compete with the teacher. This means teachers have to be careful to not only keep student attention, but also make smart multimedia decisions to ensure every minute of lecture is transmitting information to the student in an efficient, engaging way.