Multimedia-Enhanced Instruction in Online Learning Environments

Publication Date


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction


Curriculum, Instruction, and Foundational Studies

Major Advisor

Carolyn Thorsen, Ph.D.


With newly developing multimedia technologies, incorporating simultaneous presentations of narration, images, and text, the possibilities for instruction are vast. Yet, how and when should educators use these technologies in the most effective ways to enhance learning? This is the driving question behind this research investigating the effectiveness of multimedia-enhanced instruction in online learning environments, one of the most rapidly expanding fields in education today. The basis for the use of multimedia is the assumption that when users interact with the various media technologies they learn more meaningfully (R. C. Clark & Mayer, 2003; R. E. Clark, 1983; Mayer, 2003). Multimedia learning principles, motivation principles, transactional distance theory, dual channel theory, computer self-efficacy, and visual/ verbal learning preferences provide the theoretical bases for designing and analyzing these instructional enhancements.

In this study, two different groups were examined: an experimental group (MM) which interacted with multimedia-enhanced instruction and a control group (No MM) which used a textbook for instruction. The research was conducted in an educational setting, with the researcher examining other possible variables that might affect student learning, such as learning styles in the visual/verbal range, computer self-efficacy, and experience with database software. It was the intent of the researcher to find out if a more dynamic form of multimedia instruction might improve learning outcomes when compared to a static, textbook-based format.

Although learning outcomes were no better for the experimental than the control group, each group had statistically significant increases in test scores, which confirms Mayer's (2003) multimedia principle which states that carefully chosen words and pictures can enhance a leamer's understanding of an explanation better than words alone.

Students in the "Very Low" category of computer user self-efficacy (CUSE) did not have significant gains from pre- to post-test scores. These students also had the lowest post-test score of all of the CUSE groups. These findings confirm other researchers' suggestions that a student's belief in his/her own capabilities affects performance. Also, gain scores were significantly higher for the MM Group than the No MM Group in the Above Average CUSE ranking. The more confidence a student has with computers might be a contributing factor in a student's success with multimedia instruction.

Students having no experience with database software had significant gain scores, consistent with Mayer's individual differences principle which says that multimedia design effects are stronger for low-knowledge learners. Students who rated themselves as "Very Low" on a computer self-efficacy survey had no learning gains, consistent with self-efficacy research. Moderate to strong visual learners did not experience improved test scores, raising questions of the importance of assessment alignment with instruction. Additionally, having high speed Internet access also may have had an effect upon learning in the multimedia group.

Ongoing research in dynamic versus static multimedia instruction is needed to add knowledge to this rapidly growing field. As a result, the researcher continues to probe and ask the following questions:

  • How can multimedia be most effectively used in online learning environments?
  • When should it be used?
  • What other variables involved in multimedia instruction might be important?

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