e-Learning and the Science of Instruction | Ruth Colvin Clark

Summary of: e-Learning and the Science of Instruction: Proven Guidelines for Consumers and Designers of Multimedia Learning
By: Ruth Colvin Clark


In the fast-paced digital world, e-learning has emerged as a popular and efficient means of instruction, accounting for about 40% of learning today. This book summary highlights the core learning principles and powerful design strategies behind successful e-learning, based on extensive research and experimental findings. It emphasizes the importance of a multi-faceted learning approach that blends media, while keeping the context, technology, culture, time, and budget in mind. With this helpful guide, you will gain insights into optimizing e-learning design and content by focusing on human learning processes, memory, and cognitive capacities.

Mastering the Art of E-Learning

The efficiency, cost, and social factors of various learning methods differ, but the quality of learning depends on effective design and instruction that follows core learning principles grounded in high-quality research. E-learning has gained popularity and proves effective, provided the design follows a blend of media, pays attention to human memory processing, and considers the context, technology, culture, time, and budget. The design must avoid extraneous content and balance the pace and complexity of content. E-learning uses job-relevant content and examples to foster engagement and add value. E-learning’s effectiveness derives from years of peer-reviewed, empirical research that supports these principles.

Graphic Design for Effective Learning

The combination of words with graphics enhances learning. Animations and diagrams grab attention and reinforce the message. Effective graphic design is essential for efficient learning by drawing attention to the most important elements.

Effective Graphics in E-Learning

In e-learning, avoid cognitive overload by not putting words under graphics or embedding feedback, examples, audio, animations or video as separate clickable elements. Learners should see words next to relevant graphics to easily remember information. Biometric eye movement studies show that those who see words and visuals next to each other perform significantly better. Use static illustrations unless there is a compelling reason for animation, and ensure audio and video accompany graphics closely. Avoid making learners open a new screen for multimedia.

Enhancing Learning with Audio

The combination of audio and complex graphics boosts learning capacity by engaging two separate “cognitive channels,” the eyes and the ears, which reduces cognitive load and expands learner capacity to absorb information. Eye-tracking experiments reveal that presenting words in audio rather than on-screen text generates significant learning gains. Audio groups significantly outperform text groups in problem-solving tasks, at times doubling the number of correct solutions.

Learning Styles Debunked

The belief that people have different learning styles is a myth. Adding audio and text options to learning materials may do more harm than good by overloading cognitive channels, according to research. Accompanying text may help in complex situations where learners control the pace of learning or when no graphics are involved. It’s best to avoid e-learning courses with redundant on-screen text and graphics during narration.

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