Home Best Education and Technology Videos Mayer’s 12 Principles of Multimedia Learning are a Powerful Design Resource

Mayer’s 12 Principles of Multimedia Learning are a Powerful Design Resource


What you Need to Know to Create the Best Videos for Learning


One of the many great sessions I attended last week at UBTech 2017 was Brian Klaas's “Spielberg not Shakespeare: What we can Learn from YouTube When Flipping Classrooms”. Klaas is Senior Technical Officer at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

I've seen Klaas speak before, he is an engaging, dynamic presenters. He is an avid fan of Mayer's 12 Principles of Multimedia Learning, and he very successfully walks the walk in his own presentations.

One interesting thing about these principles is their applicability over the long haul. While education's growing use of technology as an instructional aid calls for the use of guiding constructs like these more than ever, these fundamental principles were published back 2001 and it's a safe bet that they will remain relevant for decades to come.

Here are Mayer's Principles:

  1. Coherence Principle – People learn better when extraneous words, pictures and sounds are excluded rather than included.
  2. Signaling Principle – People learn better when cues that highlight the organization of the essential material are added.
  3. Redundancy Principle – People learn better from graphics and narration than from graphics, narration and on-screen text.
  4. Spatial Contiguity Principle – People learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented near rather than far from each other on the page or screen.
  5. Temporal Contiguity Principle – People learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively.
  6. Segmenting Principle – People learn better from a multimedia lesson is presented in user-paced segments rather than as a continuous unit.
  7. Pre-training Principle – People learn better from a multimedia lesson when they know the names and characteristics of the main concepts.
  8. Modality Principle – People learn better from graphics and narrations than from animation and on-screen text.
  9. Multimedia Principle – People learn better from words and pictures than from words alone.
  10. Personalization Principle – People learn better from multimedia lessons when words are in conversational style rather than formal style.
  11. Voice Principle – People learn better when the narration in multimedia lessons is spoken in a friendly human voice rather than a machine voice.
  12. Image Principle – People do not necessarily learn better from a multimedia lesson when the speaker’s image is added to the screen.

Let's look at how some of these principles relate to truly effective learning content.


The best learning materials limit extraneous content. It doesn't help. Keep it simple. Think of the many ridiculously dense, loud, cluttered slides you've seen from time to time. It's very hard to learn from content like that. This page contains a couple good examples of violations of the Coherence Principle.


The two contiguity principles inform us that people learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented near rather than far from each other on the page or screen, and when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively.

I borrowed this image from this site – this is a great example of the contiguity principles in action:  Contiguity-Principle


This principle tells us to break things into user-paced segments. An excellent application of this principle when it comes to video to create multiple short videos rather than one long one.


Words and Pictures together are better than words or pictures alone (but, following the other principles, keep it simple). Klaas illustrated this with simple elegance by showing the word “circle”, then a separate picture of a circle, followed by a picture of a circle with the word “circle” on the same slide. It was quite obvious that the latter slide provided the best learning experience.


When I first read this principle, it reminded me of the first part of the three part adage, “tell them what you are going to teach them, then teach them, then tell them what you taught them”. However, the video below, from Sarah Martin, gives a different perspective to signaling (I suppose both of these ideas are essentially signaling, i.e. reminding the learner what to expect and pay extra attention to).

So that's a quick look at some of these powerful principles from Mayer. I look forward to exploring them further in future articles, and to applying them in content I create from this day forward.

For a deeper dive into Mayer's Principle, you can consider buying or renting the book. It is expensive it print format, but I found it available for rent in digital format on Amazon for $13.44.





  1. Hi….
    To help us create the most effective multimedia learning experiences, Richard Mayer has developed a theory of 12 Principles of Multimedia Learning. Think of these principles as ‘guidelines’ as you develop your digital learning experiences – learning videos, eLearning courses, and instructor-led PowerPoint presentations.

  2. Thanks Richard. Google’s advances with AR development are certainly exciting. I don’t know that I see this to be quite as impactful as you do, but I do look forward to seeing AR adoption increase in the education world, delivering advances in engaging and powerful learning content.

  3. These are going to be very interesting trends. I think it will be interesting to see what 5G does to bring streamed multimedia learning to more people.

    Google recently announced they are bringing AR to search. This is something I think will have a huge impact on Education. I wrote a post about it https://www.theschoolbell.net/google-as-a-mooc

    I think the fact that it appears realistic instead of a flat image or video means that it will change the way reviews and learns.

  4. Hi Marco – Fascinating question. Of course, I do not pretend to be an expert in Multimedia Learning – I simply shared this resource. I am rather fascinated by it, partly because some of the advice seems possibly counterintuitive (at least to my frame of reference). I have to imagine that the use of a digital “agent” in place of a picture or video of the speaker still falls under the Image Principle, but at the same time it seems to crossover into other principles, like 3, 5, and 8. I often see videos with animated “talking heads” (like those created in Powtoon) that provide both audio and text versions of their content at the same time, which would seem helpful, but also runs up against the Redundancy Principle and the Modality principle. Another technology challenge that runs headlong against some of the advice offered by the Multimedia Learning Theory is assessibility – when we add text AND voice, we are helping to ensure that those with hearing or vision problems can consume the content, but multimedia learning theory tells us NOT to do this. I guess ideally turning on text accompaniment should be an option (and there are browser add-ins and other techhnologies that can help accomodate that). Like I said – fascinating question!

  5. Nice article. I’m wondering if the Image Principle is still valid or not.
    I searched about that in the 2016 edition of the book “e-Learning and the science of Instruction”.
    The book talks about ”agents”, and there are some considerations about how they should be (human vs cartoons, realistic vs fictional) and how they should speak and behave.
    I was not able to extrapolate a definite answer about the topic anyway.
    Can you shed some light on this topic, please?
    Marco Zuppone

  6. Great article …Thanks for your great information, the contents are quiet interesting. Thank you so much for sharing your important post.


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