How OVS Applies Mayer’s 12 Principles of Multimedia Learning

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More and more high school students are considering switching from a traditional day school to an online school or supplementing their traditional pathway with online courses to help them get an edge. Many are attracted to learning in a virtual environment because they find that being freed from conventional school schedules opens up time for important volunteer work, or allows them to build vital work experience before graduation.

However, not all online schools are created equal. There’s more to developing a cutting-edge online education program than just recording lectures and putting them on a website! The best online learning institutions base their educational philosophy on decades of research and experience in online teaching techniques.

The Ontario Virtual School (OVS) has over a decade of experience delivering such techniques. We also have one of the most comprehensive lists of online courses in Ontario. These courses range from the introductory level to advanced courses such as MCR3U, a university preparation course in mathematical functions.

By anchoring online learning on these principles, OVS has developed a cutting-edge online education experience that is tailored to help students learn effectively and efficiently. Let’s go through the 12 principles and see how they can be used to deliver optimal self-directed learning experiences.

Principle 1: The Coherence Principle

This principle is simply stating that people learn best when teachers include only the information needed. By focusing only on what’s required for student comprehension, teachers can keep them focused on the information needed to succeed. OVS has used this principle when developing its programs, and every lesson within a larger framework is compartmentalized to best aid learner retention.

Principle 2: The Signaling Principle

People learn best when they’re directed on what to pay attention to. Otherwise, it’s easy to lose sight of the main learning objective. OVS teachers serve this principle by ensuring that learners are directed, whether through graphics or other indications, to guide learners’ focus where it needs to be.

Principle 3: The Redundancy Principle

This principle states that redundant ways of communicating information can hinder people’s ability to digest it. This means that students are best served by narrated text, or text with graphics; but including all three together can be confusing. OVS has driven the adoption of this principle by avoiding the display of redundant information at all times. Of course, it is immensely valuable to include closed captioning as an optional feature for those that need it!

Principle 4: The Spatial Contiguity Principle

This principle has a simple message: Keep your presentations organized! This principle means that students learn best when related information is kept close together. This helps people better process and store information, spending less time and energy stitching together content all over their screen. Every OVS syllabus has been crafted by experienced educators and topics are nestled close to related concepts, ensuring that there is a logical flow to the student’s journey through the course.

Principle 5: The Temporal Contiguity Principle

Similar to the previous principle, this means that you should keep presentations organized in time as well as space. When teachers make sure to include related information close together, they aid students’ processing and comprehension. Through careful introduction and marshaling of information, OVS instructors ensure that topics are introduced in a coherent and structured manner so that students are introduced to the appropriate topics as they progress.

Principle 6: The Segmenting Principle

This principle is critical in the development of effective online learning, and it’s one that OVS has taken to heart. It means that students work best when their material is presented in segments, rather than in one continuous stream. When students are able to control the pace of their learning, such as when and how long they attend classes, they improve their recall and comprehension.

Principle 7: The Pre-Training Principle

It’s common sense that people learn best when they have some existing experience with the material, but it’s something that a lot of online learning programs seem to ignore. It’s a quick and easy win to introduce students to courses by having an introductory lecture or guide introducing key concepts.

Letting students come into the course knowing the lay of the land can give them a great boost. You can get a sense of this principle in practice from the introductory lecture to SCH4U high school chemistry online, where students are treated to a starting lecture laying out the scope and content of the course, highlighting the ground they will be covering.  

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Principle 8: The Modality Principle

Modality is a complicated word, but in its essence it is quite simple. It means that people generally learn better from spoken words than from printed words. To create an engaging online education program, it’s smart to keep an eye on minimizing the amount of text visible on the student’s screens. However, just like in Principle 3, it’s important to include the ability to access closed captioning for users if they need it. OVS lessons have been developed by professionals with a keen eye for this principle, and lessons are presented cleanly and crisply, rather than drowning students in unnecessary text.

Principle 9: The Multimedia Principle

As befits the name, this principle is the lynchpin underlying all the other of Mayer’s principles. It means that students learn best with a combination of words and pictures, rather than words alone. OVS knows that this principle does not mean to just randomly add pictures to presentations, it means that lesson designers are selective in their use of images, only using pictures and graphics where necessary to aid student comprehension.

Principle 10: The Personalization Principle

People learn better in an informal, conversational mode of communication than a dry, droning lecture. Educators thinking carefully about multimedia learning will seek to keep language and text simple and easily digestible. They should aim to avoid jargon whenever possible and use simple language to convey ideas.

A sensitivity to the demographics of students in the course is immensely important as well, particularly in such a diverse province as Ontario, where many students speak English as a second language.

Principle 11: The Voice Principle

This one should hopefully go without saying! Please, teachers, don’t use robotic text to speech applications to deliver your classes! Students will not respond as well to Alexa or Siri as to the sound of a real, actual human being; even if they don’t have the delivery skills of Sir Ian McKellen!

OVS teachers are professional educators, who often have decades of experience delivering lectures and presentations over the internet and are experts in delivering lively, engaging lessons.

Principle 12: The Image Principle

The final of Mayer’s twelve principles is still in its infancy, but research seems to indicate that, contrary to popular opinion, students don’t engage well with talking head videos. It’s surprising, but the evidence states that, instead, a combination of graphics, animations, and text can help keep students’ attention and focus.

Videos of the teacher speaking have their place, of course — at the beginning of a course they can be great for establishing trust and confidence in the teacher. However, this format should not be a constant.

Through this principle, OVS utilizes talking head videos strategically, ensuring that they are not oversaturated in the course, relying instead on engaging, clear lesson presentations.


There you have it! Mayer’s’ 12 principles and how OVS strives to implement them in our online education delivery.