Readings: E-learning, Chapter 5 Contiguity Principle 91-113


This week @anbaria & @acwetter are leading the discussion.


Click Reply, Don’t reply-as-linked-topic

Read the Chapter. Write your response by Thursday. Reply to at least 2 people’s posts. At least one of your responses should be written after Thursday when everyone has had a chance to post.

###Explanation: Unlike the other chapter readings, it is @anbaria & @acwetter’s responsibility to provide prompts for the reading and guide the discussion.

###What to Look for

Pay careful attention to “Violations of contiguity Principle 1” (p. 95).

Something to think about: fixed screens are recommended in e-learning, why it is not a good idea to listen to an explanation first and then watch the graphics.

###What to do: ####Read chapter 5: Applying the Contiguity Principle.

  1. Reply to at least 2 people’s posts. Write your responses by Thursday.  At least one post should be after Thursday.
  2. Explain and give examples of how extraneous processing in an e-learning lesson interferes with learning.  
  3. Share an example in which you have encountered at least one of the violations of contiguity as a student and/or share a screen shot illustrating an example.
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Alison Baria and I read the chapters prior to our meeting. We had a summary of the chapter and highlighted the most important information. We discussed the format of our entry and after agreeing we tried to post it. We were not able to post it right away and had to e-mail @pfaffman to open a link to the wiki page. After he approved our entry, we opened the wiki and post it.

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@acwetter and I read Chapter 5 independently before meeting to discuss the contiguity principles. We emailed and texted before we met up and compared notes on what we each felt was the most important information to take from the chapter. The violations of contiguity principles we felt was a great place to learn about what not to do. We chose this for our ISD581 chapter 5 reading post.

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Clark and Mayer (2011) focused on the idea that graphics and narration or text should be integrated to reduce extraneous processing. It is not good to listen to an explanation first and then watch the graphics because it puts too much of a strain on the cognitive load. the working memory is having to jump back and forth between the word and the graphics. It is trying to hold the narration in the working memory, and then apply it to the images. This overloads the working memory, taking away from any possible deep learning.

I found this video. I really liked the beginning of it, but about 7:37 a random pair of hands obscures the words. This breaks up the narrative (visual words) and the narration. The words act as the graphics, but the hands completely obscure what is being written. At that point, I found that I was focused on the hands and especially on the rings on the hands. It was really hard to focus on what the message at the end was.


Extraneous processing is when your brain is having to process more information without increasing learning outcomes (Mayer and Clark, 2011). In a book study I was doing for work, I read that our brain can only keep information in our working memory for 30 seconds (Tapper, 2012)! When our brain is overloaded, we cannot grasp concepts at a deeper level.

Chapter 5 discussed two main ideas that contribute to extraneous processing (Clark and Mayer, 2011):

  • place printed words near corresponding graphics
    • When you have a large graphic and text on a scrolling screen, and it prevents you from seeing the text and graphic at the same time. I see this a lot with data reports we had at school. The websites that would train us would have examples that were not able to be seen while you read about the different attributes of the report. It led to a lot of scrolling and note taking EXTRANEOUS PROCESSING!
    • The text is displayed at the bottom of the screen instead of with the graphic it is describing. I’m super guilty of this one! :grimacing: I liked the idea of using text rollovers to combat this issue though! I see this a lot in PowerPoint presentations. The presenter adds text at the bottom of the screen to describe the graphics. This makes me think of how much easier it would be to read a standardized test report if the text was connected to the graphic of the report through lines and arrows and text boxes.
  • synchronize spoken words with corresponding graphics
    • When the narration associated with the animation comes before or after the animation. I agree with Clark and Mayer, that superficially it seems like a good idea. It lets the learner have more control, but what it comes down to is the excessive workload on memory. The brain is having to try to hold on to what it just heard while it processes the animation. I have experienced this when I try to watch soccer drills. The timing is off on the audio, so you are hearing one thing but seeing another. It is confusing!

Contiguity #1: place printed words near corresponding graphics


Graphic from PDF found [here] (


Slide from PowerPoint found here.

Tapper, J. (2012). Solving for why: Understanding, assessing, and teaching students who struggle with math, grades K-8. United States: Math Solutions Publications. Citations, Quotes & Annotations


Extraneous processing in an e-learning lesson interferes with learning because it causes the reader to focus on the structure of instruction where mental energy and capacity could be spend on the learning content. I have never put it in to mind as to how poorly created instruction can throw a student off in regard to mental load and capacity. I know that I personally get frustrated when I see that instruction can be simplified, but hadn’t considered how much mental focus is stolen from my purpose when encountering such problems. For example, the chapter 5 mentions avoid separating the graphics and narration through icons (Clark & Mayer,2011). I can’t imagine why an instructor would set it up that way, but As the book noted, they have their reasons.

A personal example that I experienced this week while taking a timed quiz online was that the quiz only showed one question at a time. When I finished selecting all my answers, I like to review them before submitting. In this case, instead of reviewing all of my questions on one scrolling screen, I had to click the “Previous” and “Next” button numerous times. When taking a timed quiz, not only does this take away from my working memory, but adds unwanted stress.

In previous online tests or quizzes I have taken, often do I see that there is a “separation of feedback from questions or responses” (Clark & Mayer, 2011, p. 97). Having to go look for the feedback on another page places extraneous processing on students. While we could be receiving correct, valuable information instantly, there is a lag in time in operating instructional sites.


Part of this video around 1:28 when they are drawing his face made me think back to chapter 4 and the types of graphics there are. As creative as the face-drawing was, it took my attention from what he was saying, to what was being drawn and what it would eventually turn out to look like. That graphic was merely a decorative graphic.

I suppose it’s times like that, designers of instruction, especially in narrated animations, graphics that are used must be selected with caution.


That video had a lot going on between the static hands that the hands writing. I personally think it distracted from the overall theme of the video. The video was approximately 9 minutes long of us watching at the same things (hands). In this case, I feel it was too long to be looking at the same things. I wonder if that’s why we started to pay more attention to the hands towards the end of the video? In a video like this, length is an important aspect. The longer the video, the harder it is to maintain the attention of the viewer. Especially when there is that fast-forward button at the bottom!


One important aspect in e-learning is being able to give appropriate feedback to the learner. In face-to-face learning a simple smile or nod of the head is often all the feedback that is needed to keep the learner motivated. With that aspect missing in e-learning situations, developers must think of creative ways to incorporate that feedback.

I have taken a few courses on Sakai where the instructor elects not to provide feedback on test or quizzes until everyone in the class has taken the assignment. This can easily result in the learner not getting the feedback for over a week. This eliminates the learner from going back to the source and figure out what topics they might not have a complete understanding on. In order for feedback and reinforcement to be effective it needs to be done shortly after the action. This ensures the learner can solidify the proper material. The counter to my argument would be the integrity of the other students sharing the information. But I feel the advantage minimizes the risk.

I like the format of this website when giving feedback or committing on other peoples post. The ability to navigate through many different posts while composing a commit is very helpful. It minimizes the use of additional windows and allows users to provide more accurate feedback.


Extraneous processing is when the brain has to use resources to process information other than the desired goal. When there are violations of the contiguity principle, learners are at risk for extraneous processing because they have to use processing to connect the information accurately before accomplishing comprehension.

Having text separated from corresponding images is a common contiguity principle violation. I know I have encountered it, but I could not think of a specific example. Below is an screen shot showing the correct way to present images and text and the incorrect way.

Another common violation I have encountered is having feedback separated from work. It makes it difficult to fully process what you did, what you did wrong, and how to correct it.


I have taken those quizzes, and Sakai does not make navigating back and forth easy. I would go through the same issues of stress you described because the information was scattered, it was timed, and making corrections or double-checking was difficult and meant risking running out of time. Sometimes reading about one topic in a question would stimulate recall about an answer I was unsure of earlier in the quiz, but it was ridiculous to try to get back and forth. Also, though the information was connected by topic, the format of the quiz made everything seem very disconnected.

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Extraneous processing occurs when the brain is trying to make sense of information that has nothing to do with the instructional goal at hand. Ormrod (2012) states that attention plays a major role in information being moved from sensory registry to working knowledge. If cognitive functions are busy trying to determine how an image on one page and text on a second page correlate, then the the attention is not on the meaning itself. A major way in which attention can be influenced is through incongruity. Psychologically, a person’s attention is drawn to instances where objects do not seem to fit within the surrounding text, or lack there of (Ormrod, 2012). An example of this in an e-learning could be text pop ups for a graphic that when opened cover up the graphic. Neither the graphic nor the text can be seen simultaneously. My personal favorite example is having a graphic without explanatory text. The text is way down at the bottom of the image in tiny words with numbers that are supposed to correspond with the graphic. I always feel as though I am being asked to solve a puzzle as opposed to learn something.

Ormrod, J. (2012). Metacognition, self-regulated learning, and study strategies. In J. Ormrod (Ed.), Human Learning. (163-166). Boston, MA, Pearson Education.

Reading this chapter made me appreciate multimedia that try to uphold the contiguity principle. Many of our examples in the chapter illustrated multimedia that is relayed over a computer. But I started to think about iPhones. The iPhone form factor is incredibly small. Smart phone appcreators must struggle with contiguity rules more so than others. I wanted to share some screen shots from a foreign language smart phone app called Duolingo. I believe they uphold the contiguity principles pretty well.

Duolingo pronounces the word or phrase for you in French as soon as the page opens. You can see the “listen” icon in case you need to replay the pronunciation. On the same page you see a female character.

The options for the fill in the blank are on the same page as the graphic. The submit answer button is easily found at the bottom of the screen.

As a learner you receive real time feedback without having to leave the page you are working on. Had I chosen the wrong answer, it would have provided me with the correct answer, and I believe there is an explanation button to help explain why you got the answer wrong.



I appreciate your illustrated examples. Yes! those hands are in the way!

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Exactly. I almost emailed my professor and suggest she change it because it throws me off my mental game far too much!

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I absolutely LOVE Duolingo!! Their “courses” are great, the feedback is on time. They give you different options to speak, type both in English and Espanol, and to listen. The perfect mobile foreign language course ever. I must say it is better than the online Spanish class I actually took except for the fact that it does not explain principle so much

Great example!

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##Chapter 5 - Applying the Contiguity Principle In chapter 5, Clark and Meyer explain the contiguity principle by giving examples of how this principle is violated and how it those violations could be corrected. Many of the contiguity violations mentioned in this chapter make sense to me and seem like they wouldn’t be a problem to avoid during lessons. However, upon more reflection I can see where some of these violations could be easy to commit if the presenter wasn’t aware that the violation was a problem and how that problem could damage learning. Clark and Mayer mention that one of the contiguity violations is when the feedback is displayed on a separate screen from the question. I can relate this problem to those silly quizzes that are sometimes passed around on Facebook. Most of those quizzes withhold the feedback until the end of the quiz and by the end it only tells you what problems you got wrong. The quiz results don’t show you the actual question which really irritates me because if I want to see the exact question, I have to restart the quiz AND remember which questions I got wrong.

Extraneous Process Example

Clark and Mayer describe extraneous processing to be when a person has to spend too much time and mental capacity trying to remember details from the previous page, causing them to be too overloaded to actually learn what the lesson is about. I have seen this happen with students trying to keep up with notes written in class. As the student is spending most of his/her time writing, they are missing out on all of the important discussions about the class material.

Contiguity Violation Example

The picture below is of an example of the the violation of contiguity principle 1 because the text was placed below the graphics on the bottom of the screen and the violation where main elements are numbered in a legend. I do not think novice learners, like my 5th graders, would find this page/information useful because of these violations.

photo credit:

For the most part, the animation on this website seems to be an example of a valid animation explaining how our eyes and brain work together to be able to see. The animation itself seems to to not violate any of the contiguity principles, however the quick quiz at the end of the animation puts the question and feed back on separate pages, so this section is a violation.


Extraneous Processing

Our brains are only geared to process a certain amount of content before it goes into information overload. A lecture being too wordy with minimal or even an obtrusive amount of media can deflect from the information the instructor is trying to get across. It is important to have a set of objectives clearly presented at the beginning of the lesson. This should allow the instructor to stick to the main information surrounding the objectives so the class doesn’t veer too far off the beaten knowledge path. Yes instructors want to push information for transfer of knowledge, but they need to remember to not get too obscure with extraneous information, whether it be text or media.

Violations of Contiguity

I think we all have encountered more than one violation of the contiguity principle at some point in our educational career. One of the worst is when there are categories at the left of the screen that then have dropdowns that lead to different paths where you would like to see everything contained on one page. Too many paths can lead to the information being forgotten between the screens. For an example, I’ll use Scalar…not the simplest to navigate with all the paths and dropdowns.

With QuickStart, the topics are a certain path and then within the path are tabs to take the learner to more paths with in-depth directions.

Another one that I feel is of issue is with in Sakai, which I know we have all encountered when taking a quiz, the quizzes are the most functional to take. Having to click from next and then back again adds to the confusion of the information within the quiz.

Also, in the medical field, there are too many graphic representations that are way too much to process. Sometimes it’s necessary to break down the graphic into small graphics. Instructors have to remember that the students all learn at different levels and also have different methods of which they prefer to learn the information.

This depiction could easily be broken down further into different areas of the respiratory system where it can be easily processed.


In the book, Clark & Mayer (2011) discuss how the use of both text and graphics on a fixed screen in e-learning formats can affect learning. Whether the affect is positive or negative is determined by how they are presented. This is the premise of the “contiguity principle” If the text and graphic are not presented in a contiguous state, it can be detrimental to learning when the cognitive load is too great due to a separate cognitive task overtaking the task of learning the concept being presented. This is a “violation of contiguity principle.”

It is always annoying to me when I complete quizzes and then turn to find the answers in the back of the book for comparison. I find it to be a greater nuisance when reading a statement in book that refers to a figure and then I have to turn the page to find that figure or graph. If it’s not clearly stated in the figure/graph, I have to turn back and reread the concept/idea being represented by the graphic. Regardless, it is just annoying to have to search for the figure/graph.

##I created a simple example below:

  1. Low tech (single/multi message switch, mod cost))
  2. No tech (PECS, eye gaze frame, communication board, min cost)
  3. Mid tech (multi-level, multi-grid communicator, mod cost)
  4. High tech (dynamic display, pre-programmed, internet interface capability, high cost, DME)

According to the contiguity principle, the integration of text with graphics allows the user to focus cognitive efforts on understanding, rather than searching for, the instructional materials. For example, the sequential presentation of an audio explanation, followed by a visual graphic, seems on the surface to be an ideal way to present material, because the learner experiences complementary exposures in different channels. However, the separation of words and graphics, and the resulting need to make sense of the information by matching up the words and pictures, creates a heavier cognitive load. Extraneous cognitive processing, unrelated to the goal of the instruction, occurs because the learner must retain the spoken word in working memory until the graphic is presented. In this situation, the demand on working memory lessens the potential for deep learning.

As I searched for examples of violations of the contiguity principle, I came across this graphic, which I’m pretty sure I’ve seen in a geography text before. There’s a lot of work involved for the learner to match the text with the image, both with cognitive load and eye movement.

(Bosarth, 2010).

A much better way to present the information is shown below. This image integrates the text with the image and is easier for the user to understand.

(Bosarth, 2010).

Reference Bozarth, J. (2010, May 4). Nuts and bolts: Principles of multimedia learning. Learning Solutions Magazine. Retrieved from __


Extraneous processing occurs when there is extra material that does not meet the learning outcome and the material may be designed in a confusing manner. As I read through this chapter, I could pinpoint almost all of the violations discussed. Two that stuck out to me while reading Clark and Mayer’s (2011) Chapter 5 the most were: 1.) Avoiding separation of feedback from questions or responses and 2.) Avoid displaying captions at the bottom of screens. These two are violated often within simple, educational Powerpoint presentations. I am using a particular teaching strategy this year within my classroom. I learned about this particular resource through a summer professional development I attended this past summer and it’s a great program! However, the Powerpoints provided through this program, have broken many of these guidelines……especially the two listed above. Every so often, a lesson will involve a short quiz through the Powerpoint. The Powerpoint will have a question on one slide and then only the correct answer on the following slide. One way they could have solved this is to provide the correct answer alongside the question on a duplicated slide. This same program has also provided slides where the caption was typed beneath a graphic.

Below is an example of the violation of contiguity principle #1 where a legend has been used at the bottom of a page to indicate the parts of a graphic.

The source for this example is [Biology blog] (