Cognitive theory of multimedia learning is one of the cognitivist learning theories introduced by an American psychology professor Richard Mayer in the 1990s. This theory is a sub-theory of John Sweller's cognitive load theory applied especially for multimedia learning, and therefore has many similarities with it. Basic assumption of Mayer's theory is that the human working memory has two sub-components that work in parallel (visual and verbal/acoustic) and that learning can be more successful if both of this channels are used for information processing at the same time.
Together with cognitive load theory, which offers a more detailed description of cognitive load types and possible causes of cognitive overload, the mentioned assumptions of cognitive theory of multimedia learning form a framework and theoretical basis for most contemporary research on learning. This research is mostly oriented on two goals:
Research results have revealed a number of so called principles and effects describing different phenomena related to learning, instructional aids and ways of reducing cognitive load.
As mentioned, research in frames of cognitive theory of multimedia learning and cognitive load theory has revealed a number of principles and effects introduced by Sweller11), Mayer12), and a number of other researchers. Simplified, these principles and effects suggest that students learn better:
All of these design effects are stronger for low-knowledge learners than for high knowledge learners, and for high-spatial learners rather than for low-spatial learners.
Still, all of the mentioned suggestions for more efficient learning should be implemented with caution, since real-life learning environments are always much more complex than laboratory conditions. For more details and research status on every of the mentioned suggestions visit the principles and effects page.
Cognitive theory of multimedia learning is mostly subjected to same criticisms as the cognitive load theory since it is an extension of it.
Mayer, R. E, J. Heiser and S. Lonn. Cognitive constraints on multimedia learning: When presenting more material results in less understanding. Journal of Educational Psychology 93, no. 1: 187–198. 2001.