A meta-meta-analysis on multimedia learning

Christian Bokhove shared this meta-meta-analysis on Twitter during the past week, and while most of the insights have been known for a while, it’s handy to have this overview by Noetel et al.

We found that interventions that leveraged our two channels of information processing (visual and auditory) improved learning (e.g., captioning second-language video; modality effect). We also found benefits for strategies that reduced extraneous cognitive load (e.g., contiguity, signaling, segmentation, personalization, removing seductive details). Many such interventions have robust support for their causal models, with randomized experiments showing improvements in both learning and hypothesized mediators (e.g., cognitive load, eye movements). While the quality of the reviews was inconsistent, the consistency of the results and strength of the effects provide strong support for these models of multimedia learning. Results show good multimedia design can have a transformative effect on a range of educational outcomes. As a result, mastering these design principles is a critical competency for all educators.

Abstract of the meta-meta-analysis:

Multimedia is ubiquitous in 21st-century education. Cognitive load theory and the cognitive theory of multimedia learning both postulate that the quality of multimedia design heavily influences learning. We sought to identify how to best design multimedia and review how well those learning theories held up to meta-analyses. We conducted an overview of systematic reviews that tested the effects of multimedia design on learning or cognitive load. We found 29 reviews including 1,189 studies and 78,177 participants. We found 11 design principles that demonstrated significant, positive, meta-analytic effects on learning and five that significantly improved management of cognitive load. The largest benefits were for

  • captioning second-language videos,
  • temporal/spatial contiguity,
  • and signaling.

We also found robust evidence for

  • modality,
  • animation,
  • coherence/removing seductive details,
  • anthropomorphics,
  • segmentation,
  • personalization,
  • pedagogical agents,
  • and verbal redundancy effects.

Good design was more important for more complex materials, and in system-paced environments (e.g., lectures) than self-paced ones (e.g., websites). Results supported many tenets of both theories. We highlight a range of evidence-based strategies that could be implemented by educators.

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