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e-Learning and the Science of Instruction by Richard E. Mayer, Ruth C. Clark

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CHAPTER 6 Applying the Modality Principle Present Words as Audio Narration Rather Than On-Screen Text

CHAPTER SUMMARY

The modality principle has the most research evidence of any of the principles described in this book. Technical constraints on the use of audio in e-learning may lead consumers or designers of e-learning to rely on text to present content and describe visuals. However, when it’s feasible to use audio, there is considerable evidence that presenting words in audio rather than on-screen text can result in significant learning gains. In this chapter we summarize the empirical evidence for learning gains that result from using audio rather than on-screen text to describe graphics. To moderate this guideline, we also describe a number of situations in which memory limitations and the transient nature of audio require the use of printed text rather than audio.

The psychological advantage of using audio presentation is a result of the incoming information being split across two separate cognitive channels—words in the auditory channel and pictures in the visual channel—rather than concentrating both words (as on-screen text) and pictures in the visual channel. Presenting words in spoken form rather than printed form allows us to off-load processing of words from the visual channel to the auditory channel, thereby freeing more capacity for processing graphics in the visual channel.

In this edition, we expand our discussion of the boundary conditions for the modality ...

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