Theoretical Framework

In the article "Nine Ways to Reduce Cognitive Load in Multimedia Learning," Richard Mayer and Roxana Moreno (2003) claimed that multimedia instruction enhances students' multimedia learning, defining multimedia instruction as the combining of words and pictures to foster learning and multimedia learning as a deep understanding of the material presented. Their definitions offer a starting point for our discussion. While their definition of multimedia instruction discusses the use of pictures and words to improve student retention of course material, we employ the term "multimodal instruction," defining our term as the use of multiple modes of representation, including animation, verbal instruction, and written text, in order to maximize the learners' methods of learning the critical considerations required when designing and constructing multimodal texts.

We draw our distinction from Claire Lauer's (2009) discussion of the terms "multimedia" and "multimodal," which stated that "multimodal" is the preferred term in the field of rhetoric and composition, as it is "theoretically accurate to describe the cognitive and socially situated choices students are making in their compositions" (p. 225). Whereas Mayer and Moreno's (2003) use of multimedia instruction focused primarily on improving retention of course content, our use of multimodal instruction focuses on helping students critically consider the rhetorical strategies and composing processes necessary for creating projects that vary according to audience and purpose; therefore, the term "multimodal" is more appropriate for our approach. Further, in "What's In a Name? The Anatomy of Defining New/Multi/Modal/Digital/Media Texts," Lauer (2012) discussed the use of various terms to define multimodality, including digital and new media, making the argument that the use of such terms depends upon the audience to which one is writing or speaking. As our audience is the readers of Kairos, who are familiar with multimodal composition and the term "multimodal," we appeal to our readers to focus on new ways to approach a concept they may already recognize. Thus, using the term "multimodal" is twofold: The term is not only appropriate for our rhetorical approach in our courses, but it is also appropriate for the readers of this article.