Keep It Short

When developing an online multimodal curriculum, there are many aspects to consider, including the length and content of the material. In our classes, we found that students continued to ask questions that could be answered by watching videos embedded in the course, indicating that some students were not watching the videos. Mayer et al. (1999) claimed that comprehension is enhanced when instruction is presented in "successive small bites" rather than large bites, meaning students retain more information in smaller chunks (p. 642). Supporting this argument, we suggest that instructors create instructional content on concepts using screen capture videos or sound clips that are under three minutes in length, in order to commit the information to the students' memory.

Mayer et al. (1999) also indicated that students are too often overloaded with one channel over another, thus splitting their "visual attention," meaning that they are required to read text, view images, and listen to narration at the same time. We encourage our instructors to use narration when possible instead of heavy text within videos and to use images that complement voice-overs in order to reduce channel overload. For Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, students had access to print-based documents that duplicated video content. Other solutions for reducing overload include "pretraining," which includes asking students to read a series of instructions or text before watching a supplemental video. In our courses, we used pretraining in such ways that asked students to read an assignment sheet and a textbook chapter before viewing a few short videos that explain the assignment and the process of writing or creating the project.