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Multiple Sensory Channels Increase Learning Opportunities

Multiple Sensory Channels Increase Learning Opportunities

I’ve given workshops about multimedia learning at the university level. My last article on this website, in fact, looked at the importance of sound in the learning process. There is no doubt that multimedia – emphasis on multi – is more effective than one form of media delivered solo. The Picture Superiority Effect tells us that concrete concepts presented as pictures are encoded into both our verbal and our image memory systems.1 So adding images to content delivered as text is very important for memory retention. But I came across this study today about toddler-aged learners and the effectiveness of ebooks over traditional paper books that was consistent with what we know about adult learning. No surprise, we all value the additional channels of engagement regardless of our age. But I thought I’d share their study given the timeliness of it and my article on sound.

What the researchers Gabrielle Strouse and Patricia Ganea discovered in their study is that out of 102 toddlers aged 17-26 months, randomly assigned to read two commercially available electronic books or two print format books with identical content with their parent, the children reading the electronic books paid more attention and produced more content-related comments during reading than those reading the printed books, and could also more readily identify novel objects in the book.

So often I have heard faculty or other instructors say that learning isn’t meant to be “fun.” They don’t believe animation, interactive media, serious games or gamification belongs in the classroom. This has been more prevalent with graduate student instructors, believing multimedia makes the content somehow easier. And this is bad? If used appropriately it likely just makes the content more comprehensible. Fortunately, this view is retiring. But the interesting thing about this study is that the parents who read the electronic book with their child were also more engaged in reading it. We all enjoy multiple forms of stimuli when we learn, no matter what age! And isn’t the actual learning what’s important?

You can read their research paper online. Unfortunately it is just text. 😉



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