09-01 Innovative Learning Arrangements

A Psychological Approach to the Design of Multimedia Learning Environments

Multimedia learning environments (MLE) involve the simultaneous presentation and processing of verbal information presented visually or auditory and static or dynamic pictorial information to foster learning. MLE need to consist of motivating arrangements for learning that aim at the development of complex and higher-order skills, deep conceptual understanding, and metacognitive skills. These outcomes foster the productive use of acquired knowledge and skill, or, the ability to apply what is learned in new problem situations and thus allow for transfer of learning. Although in the last decade, research has been conducted on the necessary characteristics of these learning environments, very little is yet known about the basic components and the systematic design of such environments.

This course adopts a cognitive load approach to multimedia learning environments, which assumes that the instructional design of the learning arrangements can be guided by knowledge gained from multidisciplinary research relating to how people process and learn information. The course will closely examine the cognitive structures and processes involved in the learning process This course aims to explore the basic instructional design requirements to align MLE with human cognitive architecture, and to demonstrate how the psychology of learning and instruction can benefit from discoveries in other disciplines, which can inform the research and instructional design of innovative learning environments. This course focuses on instructional design that optimizes cognitive load and stimulates transfer both at the level of single learning tasks as well as sequences of tasks. Another point of focus in this course is the multimedia learning environments potential to manage and present complex instructional information in flexible, accessible, and learner-individualized formats. The potential for individualization in MLEs is amplified when the design process is able to draw from a growing body of knowledge in the field of cognitive science. This part will deal with assessment and task-selection with a view to optimizing and individualizing the design of learning arrangements.

This course is intended for PhD students with an interest in multidisciplinary approaches to the research and design of MLEs. The course will be conducted in an interactive way with ample opportunity to relate to the students own research projects. The sessions will focus on discussions at an advanced and theoretical level on several research questions.

Course objectives

This course is intended to review and discuss state-of-the-art developments in research on multimedia learning. It will introduce students to major research topics and research methods in the area of human information processing, especially attention and memory that are relevant to the design of multimedia learning environments.

Important theories: Dual Coding Theory, Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning, Cognitive Load Theory.


Participants are required to:
· have basic knowledge of multimedia learning
· have basic knowledge of cognitive architecture (memory systems)


Fred Paas (coordinator)
Professor of Educational Psychology
Open University
The Netherlands

Liesbeth Kester
Assistant Professor Educational Technology Expertise Center
Open University
The Netherlands

Tamara van Gog
Associate professor Educational Technology Expertise Center
Open University
The Netherlands

Guest lecturer:
Paul Chandler
Dean Faculty of Education
University of Wollongong


· In advance: self-study: literature cognitive architecture
· Day 1: cognitive architecture
· self-study: design principles for multimedia learning tasks
· Day 2: design of learning tasks
· self-study: design of multimedia learning arrangments
· Day 3: design of learning arrangements
· writing paper on research question related to own project or if own research is not within multimedia learning- a fictive research question, describes theoretical framework and experimental design to study this question
· Day 4 & 5: paper presentations & feedback (8 per day)
· revise paper and hand in to lecturers

The first three days will be divided across a two-week period. Then after a four-week period during which the students have to write a paper and send it to the lecturers, two consecutive days are planned to present the papers. The guidelines and assessment criteria for the papers will be given on the first day of the course. A week before the last two days, the students send their papers to the lectures to give them the opportunity to give feedback on each individual paper. After the last meeting students have two weeks to revise and submit their paper.

Self study of literature: 32 hours (4 x 8 hours)
Contact hours: 30 hours (5 x 6 hours: 10 AM - 4 PM)
Paper: 26 hours
Revision: 12 hours


Assessment takes place based on:
· input in discussions during the first 3 days
· initial paper and presentation
· revised paper


Below please find some relevant literature to get acquited with multimedia learning and cognitive architecture:

Basic knowledge multimedia learning

Mayer, R. E. (Ed.) (2001). Multimedia learning. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Chapter 1: The promise of multimedia learning (pp. 1-17).
Chapter 2: Multimedia instructional messages (pp. 21-39).

Mayer, R. E. (2005). Cognitive theory of multimedia learning. In R. E. Mayer (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning (pp. 31-49). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Schnotz, W. (2005). Integrative model of text and picture comprehension. In R. E. Mayer (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning (pp. 49-71). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Sweller, J. (2005). Implications of cognitive load theory for multimedia learning. In R. E. Mayer (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning (pp. 19-31). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Basic knowledge cognitive architecture

Baddeley, A. D. (1992). Working memory. Science, 255, 556-559.

Baddeley, A.D. (2000) The episodic buffer: A new component of working memory? Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 4, 417-423.

Baddeley, A. D. (2008) What's new in working memory? Psychology Review, 13, 2-5.

Dates and locations

Meetings will take place on:

6 March 2009, 10 AM - 4 PM
13 March 2009, 10 AM - 4 PM
20 March 2009, 10 AM - 4 PM
28 April 2009, 10 AM - 4 PM
29 April 2009, 10 AM - 4 PM

16 April 2009: paper submission

All meetings will take place at Vergadercentrum Vredenburg, Vredenburg 19, Utrecht.


The deadline for registration for this course is 23 January 2009.
Before you register, please read our regulations for registration.
To register, please go to our registration form.
The maximum number of participants for this course is 16.