In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Multimedia Learning

  • Introduction
  • Journals

Education Multimedia Learning
Richard E. Mayer
  • LAST REVIEWED: 21 April 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 April 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0026


Multimedia learning refers to learning from words and pictures. The words may be spoken or printed, and the pictures may be static (such as illustrations or photos) or dynamic (such as animation or video). Examples of multimedia learning environments include a paper-based lesson with text and illustrations, a face-to-face PowerPoint presentation, an online encyclopedia entry involving words and graphics, a computer-based narrated animation, an online video lecture or demonstration, a lesson involving words and graphics delivered via an intelligent tutoring system, a computer-based educational game or simulation, or an interactive lesson in immersive virtual reality. For hundreds of years, educators have relied mainly on verbal modes of instruction, such as textbooks or face-to-face lectures and tutoring. Advances in computer and information technologies now allow for the inclusion of dazzling graphics in instructional presentations and materials. The promise of multimedia learning is that adding graphics to words can improve learners’ understanding of new material. Research on the instructional effects of multimedia reveals that people can learn better when material is presented with pictures rather than just with words—a finding that Richard Mayer, in Multimedia Learning (2021), calls the “multimedia principle.” A challenge for instructors and instructional designers is to determine how to create effective multimedia instructional messages—materials with words and pictures intended to promote learning. This article examines evidence-based principles for how to design multimedia learning environments that promote student learning.

Foundational Texts

This section presents core books, classic books, and historical books in the field of multimedia learning. Core books include edited volumes on multimedia learning research and integrative research reviews that have been published since John Sweller’s Instructional Design in Technical Areas (Sweller 1999, cited under Classic Books). Classic books include edited volumes on research in multimedia learning as well as theoretical books related to multimedia learning published before 2000. Historical books explore the use of graphics.

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