ELSI in chapter 4 expressed that using words and pictures together will positively affect learning. It explained five types of graphics that could be used to support learning. Studies showed that students who used a combination of texts and graphics scored an average of 89 percent higher than those who used only text (p.81). Chapter 5 provided additional information on best methods for placing text or narration with a graphic. One example that stood out was the use of captions at the bottom of a graphic. We should avoid doing this because it puts a strain on learning by requiring the learner to go back and forth from the image to the text. Instead place the text next to the image, segment it if it is long and use guiding lines to bring attention to particular parts. Chapter 5 had a number of tips that were both practical and surprising.
Last semester, I wrote a paper on metacognitive strategies for reading comprehension. One section of the paper was about students developing metacognitive thinking by asking self-questions in three stages of reading: prior to reading, while reading, and after completing the reading. I used a table to show sample self-questions that students could ask, which was in line with the multimedia principle but not done in an effective way. The reason being that the topic description was on page 5 while the table was located in the appendix on page 16. Contiguity principle 1 stated that text and graphic should not be separated. Instead the two should be in close proximity of each other, preferably the text within the graphic and placed to the side. Thinking back on it now, it did seem inconvenient and excessive on the cognitive load trying to remember the textual information and then scrolling through the pages to access the table.
After reading chapters 4 and 5, I would modify this in several ways. First, I would create a new table which would include only a portion of the questions from the original table. This would reduce its size so that both the table and the text could occupy the same page. ELSI said it is best to place the text next to the graphic but I think it wouldn’t apply in this situation. So instead, I would try arrange the text so that it would fit in the top half of the paper and the table occupying the bottom half. The reader could read the information and then directly view the table below with the sample questions. If by chance a portion of the table gets cut and continues on the next page, I would further modify the arrangement to avoid would violating the contiguity principle. One option might be to reorganize the table as an ordered list to see if that uses the space more efficiently.
The table below shows the actual title and how the questions would be organized. I wouldn’t change the title because it aligns well with the signaling principle from Five Ways to Reduce PowerPoint Overload. The title “explains the main idea” using a subject and verb in active voice to help remind the reader the purpose of the graph.
Multimedia & Contiguity Prinicples by Robert Sanders is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.