What’s Your Type of Overload?

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Reducing learner overload is a little like “playing doctor.” We diagnosis the issue, prescribe and apply the instructional salve or principal directly to what is causing the overload. Let’s look at 5 overload scenarios and their associated instructional fixes.

75pxOverload Scenario #1:[edit]


Problem:

Essential processing in the visual channel is greater than the cognitive capacity of the learner’s visual channel. This is caused by too many words and pictures presented at once.

Multimedia Principal to Apply:

Modality- best use of visual and auditory channels

Instructional Rx:

Off-Load. Move some of the essential processing from the visual channel to the auditory channel.

How:

Replace some or all of the printed words with verbal explanations of the graphics.

Why this Works:

Students learn better from a combination of animation and narration, rather than from animation and on-screen text. Explaining graphics with audio improves learning. It reduces the cognitive load in the visual channel and reroutes it to the verbal channel.

75pxOverload Scenario #2:[edit]


Problem:

Essential processing (in both channels) > cognitive capacity. This is caused by too many pictures and/or words and audio at one time.

Multimedia Principal

Modality- best use of visual and auditory channels

Instructional Rx:

Segmenting:

Break up the topic or concept into to smaller bites.

How:

Break up concepts in the most logical places. Provide navigation to move forward and backward within the instruction (learner control).

Why this Works:

Better transfer occurs when a lesson is presented in learner-controlled segments rather than as a continuous unit. (It will be important at some point to bring all the bits back together.)


What if you can’t segment the instruction for some reason? Try this:

Instructional Rx:

Pretraining:

Helping the learner construct a mental model of the components of a system before learning how those components operate within the system.

How:

Provide training in names and characteristics of components before training on the system itself.

Why this Works:

Helps to reduce overload by introducing components before the entire system instead of asking the learner to absorb both at the same time.

75pxOverload Scenario #3:[edit]



Problem:

One or both channels overloaded by essential and incidental processing (attributable to extraneous material.) Too much nonessential "stuff" in terms of pictures, words and/or audio.

Multimedia Principal:

Coherence --"less is more”

Instructional Rx:

Weed:

Separate and then eliminate the nice-to-know, keeping the need-to-know. Eliminate anything that is unnecessary and distracting.

How:

Visual -- Weed out as many words as possible without losing meaning. Cut graphics and pictures to a minimum.
Sound -- Be careful about adding music to your multimedia presentation. If you decide for some reason to do it, keep it very low in
volume,melodious, and absolutely no lyrics.
Words -- Just like you weed out words from the visual presentation, the same should be done with the audio presentation. Simple,
concise,and clear should be your motto when using narration.


Why this Works:

Better transfer because overload has been relieved of the "nice" but not "necessary."

“OK, but what if I can’t get rid of the nice” you ask? Try this:

Multimedia Principal:

Signaling –helps them focus on the necessary and be less distracted by the nice.

Instructional Rx:

Signaling

How:

Provide cues for how to process the material by guiding the learner’s processing and organizing in the following ways:

  • Stress keywords in the verbal narration
  • Add red and blue arrows to the animation
  • Add an outline and headings for written instruction
  • Add a map showing which of the parts of the lesson are being presented.


Why this Works:

It helps to point learners to the important and away from the unimportant.

75pxOverload Scenario #4:[edit]


Problem: Essential processing + incidental processing (caused by confusing presentation) > cognitive capacity.

Multimedia Principal:

Redundancy –best use of text and audio

Instructional Rx:

Spatial Contiguity- best placement of words and pictures

How:

Align: Place printed words near corresponding parts of graphics to reduce need for visual scanning.

Why this Works:

Better transfer when printed words are placed near corresponding parts of graphics.

Instructional Rx:

Redundancy--best use of text and audio

How:

Eliminate redundancy when the system is overloaded by incidental processing demands attributable to how
the essential material is presented. This is often caused by explaining graphics with audio and redundant text. Avoid reading on-screen text.

Why this Works:

Students learn better from animation and narration, than from animation, narration, and on-screen text.

75pxOverload Scenario #5:[edit]


Problem

Essential processing + representational holding > cognitive capacity. This is can happen when one or both channels are overloaded with essential processing and representational holding

Multimedia Principal:

Temporal contiguity-- best sequencing of words and pictures

Instructional Rx:

Synchronize

How:

Present corresponding visual and auditory material simultaneously rather than successively.

Why this Works:

Lessens representational holding.


If synchronizing is not possible try this:

Multimedia Principal:

Spatial ability-- best placement of words and pictures (Spatial ability is the ability to generate, retain, retrieve, and transform well-structured visual images.)

Instructional Rx:

Individualize

How:

Place text near graphics that are being described or discussed. Keep in mind that design effects are stronger for low-knowledge learners than for high knowledge learners. (Prior knowledge) but when it comes to spatial ability, the effects of the design are more strongly felt by the high-spatial learner than the low-spatial leaner. Bottom line: Some learners are better able to deal with distraction, overload, holding and other effects of an instructional design than are others. To the extent possible, know who your learners are and design accordingly.

Why this Works:

The instruction is pitched to the knowledge and ability level of the learner.


Now it's time to test your understanding. Click Next to continue.

Instructional Design Reducing Cognitive Load Objectives Coming to Terms Theory of MML MML Continued < Back Next >