Reflections on Multimedia Design and Technology

Instructional design is a multi-layered process involving more than just book theory.  It also involves creativity, balance, and practicality.  Solid theory allows for effective practice.  This is one of the many things I have learned in my studies of instructional design and technology.  As an instructional designer, there are many tools that I can use to help learners meet instructional and learning goals.  Multimedia is one tool that has the potential to create effective, robust learning opportunities.

In reflecting upon my previous understanding of multimedia, my perspective on its use in the instructional design and education process has changed.  I used to think multimedia encompassed access to a video, use of computers, software for publishing and writing, and minimal interactive websites.  Not so!  This is only the tip of the iceberg in regard to new technologies available to help learners reach instructional goals.  Amy Pointer’s presentation taught me that multimedia involves “text, audio, video, and animation” as well as having an understanding of the different backgrounds of people who use multimedia (Laureate, 2010a; Locatis, 2001).  For instructional design, one has to take into consideration the goal and purpose of the instruction.  This helps the instructional designer to design or choose the most appropriate vehicle for learning.  We always have to begin with the end in mind.

Multimedia is not just about interactivity and “cool” tools or games.  There is a theory that underlies the use of multimedia.  Richard Mayer’s presentations taught me the multimedia principle that shows how learning is enhanced when audio and visual aids are used (Moreno, 2008; Mayer and Moreno, 2002; Moreno and Mayer, 2007).  It never occurred to me that there were reasons why some things did or did not work in various multimedia samples.  Multimedia can help learners increase their cognitive skills when it is well designed.  The instructional designer has to guide learners in the process by remembering three main principles of multimedia that can engage learners in the cognitive thinking; they are dual processing, limited capacity, and active processing (Laureate 2010b).  The instructional designer should remember that humans process information visually and by auditory.  I cannot expect learners to pay attention to many things at once and expect to learn efficiently (Laureate, 2010b).  Limited capacity involves moving knowledge from working memory to long-term memory so that it can be later integrated.  Active processing is the goal in designing multimedia lessons because it involves teaching learners to select information, organize it, and integrate it or apply it to something new (Laureate, 2010b).  These principles affect the use of multimedia.  Learners cannot be inactive or else no real learning or transfer can occur.  They have to be actively involved and mentally engaged in the process.  When the learners are cognitively engaged, they develop deeper knowledge and understanding.

The most important ideas I learned from this course revolved around how learners process information in regard to the use of multimedia in the instructional design process.  I have to make sure that in the design process, I reduce anything that is cognitively unnecessary.  Mayer calls this “extraneous processing,” and it happens when the learner has too much to focus on and gets lost in the learning process (Laureate, 2010b; Mayer and Moreno, 2002; Mayer 2007; Mayer 2008).  Lessons have to be coherent.  The goal, as I have learned in this course, should be to focus the attention of learners on the instructional goal.  If I do this as an instructional designer, then I can manage what Mayer refers to as “essential processing” meaning that items are placed appropriately within the multimedia or text design (Laureate, 2010c; Mayer 2007; Moreno and Mayer, 2007; Mayer 2008).  These were ideas I had not previously considered, but I know they are an integral part of ensuring that learners are able to meet the instructional goal.  Along with managing processing comes the idea of “fostering generative processing” in which learners take what they are learning and apply it to new and different situations (Mayer, 2007; Laureate, 2010d).  This is key for effective multimedia design because it produces transfer of material and knowledge; and it means the learner is thinking more critically and solving problems.  They have the basic foundation, but generative fostering leads them to problem solve and become invested in their own learning.  Bridging the gap between learning the material and using it relevantly is now more important than ever.  Another major idea I have come away with from this course is that I have to teach my learners to move beyond rote memorization or drill and kill practices.

With the advent of myriad Web 2.0 tools, come greater responsibility and a critical need for instructional designers to teach learners how to effectively use multimedia tools.  As a high school educator, I can help my students bridge book knowledge with real world practice.  I am astounded at just how much technology has changed in the classroom.  Students are more likely to use multimedia and social networks.  It only makes sense that I include the use of these when appropriate in my instructional design.  My students live in a world that is fast moving and where knowledge is changing.  My students have to be able to work alone and with others while efficiently using multimedia tools.

I can leverage multimedia instruction by providing my students opportunities to work more collaboratively in ways that encourage them to think about issues and solutions to those issues.  Brown and Adler’s (2008) statement that “ our understanding of content is socially constructed through conversations about content and through grounded interactions with others around problems or actions” is certainly true in the 21st century.  My students have more access to information and personal learning networks.  I can use Web 2.0 tools to help my students move from “learning about to learning to be” (Brown and Adler, 2008).  It means designing instruction that leads students to use their knowledge in practical, tangible ways.  Sitting in the classroom and listening to the teacher lecture does not make a student a participant.  Creating opportunities for students to “[seek] knowledge when it is needed in order to carry out a particular situated task” is a goal I want to focus on in my instructional design practice (Brown and Adler, 2008).  Doing so will help my students take ownership of their learning.  It may be the spark many of them need to find cures for diseases or answers to complicated questions, or they may contribute to learning communities built around common interests.  I can facilitate the process by designing lessons that follow solid multimedia principles.

As an instructional designer, my job is to lead the learners in the right direction. The idea of the “set-and-get” model I have seen and been a part of in various teacher and other job trainings is no longer a viable option.  I sat, listened, did a couple of activities, and then forgot much of what I was supposed to learn.  Why?   It was because I was not cognitively engaged in ways that made me problem solve.  This was an Aha! moment for me because it forced me to put myself in the learner’s shoes.  I have been more thoughtful in my lesson designing at school.  I have considered the group and individual needs of my students.  I have become more cautious about the types of media and tools I use in the classroom because not all of them are effective or purposeful.  I have developed the understanding that multimedia involves knowing if the learners are at ease with using the technologies of multimedia as well as if they have access to those technologies.

I used to be fearful of what I would learn in this class.  Much of that fear came from an ignorance of multimedia and design principles and not understanding the theory of how it could enhance instruction.  My fears have been alleviated because of the solid principles explained throughout this course, and now I feel confident in my design skills.  I may not be a professional graphics designer, but I have a firm foundation in the principles behind multimedia.  I hope to design and implement lessons that cause my students and other learners to acquire knowledge and use it practically.  I want to lead others to have a lifetime of Aha! moments.


Brown, J. S., & Adler, R. P. (2008). Minds on fire: Open education, the long tail, and learning 2.0. EDUCAUSE Review, 43(1), 16–32.

Chou, C. (2003). Interactivity and interactive functions in web-based learning systems: a technical framework for designers. British Journal of Educational Technology, 34(3), 265–279.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2010a). Pointer, A. What is multimedia? Retrieved from

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2010b). Mayer, R.E.  Multimedia learning theory. Retrieved from

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2010c). Mayer, R.E.  Triarchic model of cognitive load: parts 1 and 2. Retrieved from

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2010d). Mayer, R.E. Triarchic model of cognitive load:part 3. Retrieved from

Locatis, C. E. (2001). Instructional design theory and the development of multimedia programs. Retrieved from

Mayer, R. E., & Moreno, R. H. (2002). Animation as an aid to multimedia learning. Educational Psychology Review, 14(1), 87–99.

Mayer, R. E. (2007). Five features of effective multimedia messages: An evidence based approach. In Fiore, S. M., & Salas, E. (Eds.). Toward a science of distributed learning (pp. 171–184). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Moreno, R., & Mayer, R. (2007). Interactive multimodal learning environments.   Educational Psychology Review, 19(3), 315–323.

Mayer, R. (2008). Applying the science of learning: Evidence-based principles for the design of multimedia instruction. American Psychologist, 63(8), 760–769.

2 thoughts on “Reflections on Multimedia Design and Technology

  1. Good evening “humanimpulse”. I came across your blog when it was recommended by one of my classmates at Walden U in the IDT program. I really enjoyed this particular blog because of my fascination with multimedia design and technology.

    Your insight on how to leverage multimedia tools in your classroom is very inspiring. I can only hope that more teachers will follow your lead and integrate these same principles.

    I particularly like how you pointed out that not all multimedia is relevant and that it is extremely important to always keep the learner in mind. In fact, if too much multimedia is used without being focused on a primary purpose or goal, it can in fact become a distraction.

    Ormrod, Schunk and Gredler state that processing systems can be overloaded by competing stimuli. This is mainly due to the inability to block out irrelevant stimuli effectively and stay focused on the primary task (2008).

    I have learned that there are ways to help students focus their attention on the main points intended through instructional design. One example is to keep moving around, encourage interactivity with the class, vary the materials or examples used and to switch up the presentation style (Ormrod, Schunk and Gredler, 2008).

    I see that you are also following these same principles by considering not only the groups needs, but also the individual needs of your students. You seem to be more concerned with how effective or purposeful the types of media or tools you use are, and less concerned with how cool it looks! That definitely helps the student to not only stay focused on what you are teaching, but to be actively engaged through relevant media tools that you hand picked.

    I personally do not have as much experience on the instructional planning/design as I do with graphic design, so I hope to be able to get to where you are by the time I complete this program and integrate what I have learned into the federal government’s learning and development strategies. I wish you all the best in your instructional design efforts and many, many “aha moments”. I am sure you are already doing great!


    Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction (Laureate custom edition). New York: Pearson.

    • Thank you. I’m in the journey with you and still learning as I go. My goal now is to take all that I learn and create new learning opportunities for at-risk youth. It’s a tough job, but I think it will be well worth it. I also want to continue branching out into new fields. Best wishes to you in your studies.

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