Readings: E-Learning: Chapter 6


Applying the Modality Principle: Present Words as Audio Narration Rather Than On-Screen Text (pages 114–130)

Read the Chapter. Write your response by Thursday. Reply to at least 2 people’s posts. :heart: at least 3 that seem interesting, provocative, that you agree with, or otherwise wish to acknowledge. At least one of your responses should be written after Thursday when everyone has had a chance to post. Ideally, you’ll participate on at least three different days.

What @AshleyBurton @athompson think you should look for

What to do:

  1. Discuss how using spoken rather than printed text with graphics is more beneficial for knowledge construction.

  2. Consider the type of course(s) you teach or will teach. Provide an example of when you would use the modality principle or when you would not necessarily want to use the modality principle. Keep in mind the limitations to on pages 119-121.

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Clark and Mayer (2011) give ample evidence in Chapter 6 why using spoken narration rather than printed text is more beneficial for knowledge construction. Basically, to reduce the demand on the visual channel that is processing both the picture and the written words, instructors should use a spoken narration to describe their graphics. The capacity of the visual processing is limited. The learner has a tendency to focus just on the printed words or on the graphics, but they are unable to give both attentions at the same time. On the other hand, the auditory processing system can process the spoken narration, while the visual process can take in the visual graphic.

In the future, I could be working at a hospital. I know that at the South Alabama Trauma center, the nurses have been training on a new dialysis machine. Several nurses have had to learn how to use this machine. I think a good use of the modality principle would be to complete a computer based training that has the machine illustrated with a master nurse discussing the process. The nurses would be able to see how the machine functions, while listening to an expert.

This training would not be feasible if there were several different computer based training going on at one time in one room. It might be too distracting to have multiple explanations occurring at once. Even if headphones are used, often times noise can still be heard by another learner.


According to C & M, spoken text, rather than printed text, accompanying a graphic is more beneficial for knowledge construction. The main reason is is due to the amount of information that the learner’s auditory and visual channels are processing. When the learner is required to look at a graphic and read text, all of the processing is having to go through the visual channel. Even if the graphic and text are accompanied by audio, the visual channel is still going to be overloaded with information thus effect the learning outcomes in a negative way. When there is audio accompanying the visual, the learners processing is split between the audio and visual channels. This provides better attainment of learning outcomes.

I believe the modality principle would be valuable in many of my opportunities to work with teachers and students virtually. My work is focused on building strong mathematical understanding in teachers and students. C & M discussed using spoken text to accompany explanations of the algorithms. When I was in the classroom, I have used this idea with parents of my students. Many parents are hesitant to help their students with homework, because the work their children are doing builds understanding in a way that we are not familiar with. Instead of having parents just look at worked examples of problems, I used student-generated examples for parents to watch. The students would work the example through the app Educreations and narrate their strategy. I would then post these examples online for parents to review. I believe that using students’ voices to narrate the examples created more parents buy-in of the strategies. If I also included text with the animation, parents would probably focus more on the “steps” they used to solve the problem and actually analyze the student strategy less. I think that having to watch and listen allows the brain more opportunity to make sense of what you are seeing.

In considering when I would not use the modality principle, I considered an asynchronous learning environment. When I was learning how to use GIMP, I watched a youtube video that explained how to scale and crop my photo to use as a social media post. I had to keep stopping the video and clicking back to parts to stay on track with the steps. I think that if the explanation for using GIMP were still frames with narration that included the text. I would be able to look at the graphic while I hear what the step was, but I could also refer back to the text if I forgot or became confused about what the step included. Then, I could click a button to move to the next step instead of automatically changing slides.

I would like some feedback on another idea. If I think back to the GIMP example, I wonder if this would break the modality principle. The viewer could watch the animation and hear the spoken text, without any written text. After the animation is complete, the words of the narration appeared to “recap” the steps. That would allow the viewer to see how to do it, but it also gives reference if you get stuck. Any thoughts?


Good way of spoken narration to describe the graphics. Being in the medical field, when going through simulations or training, it is extremely helpful to have a subject matter expert on hand to guide the training. It is easy to stop the spoken narration and have a short discussion if questions arise on a particular issue within the training.


You have brought up a great point here. I do not believe the book touches on this in chapter six, but with narration consuming all ears aside from the learners, I would believe it would be mandatory to use headphones. I see how using this type of training could distract learners if they are all completing the training self-paced, especially if verbal cues are required for students to give back to the training program.


And on another not-in-the-chapter note, voice control of computers? Not what anyone wants in a classroom.


C&M made it very clear that we have limited ability to process multiple channels of information. Making it important not to overload the learner by containing graphics, audio, and the text of the audio recording all on the same learning medium. By creatively using graphics and spoken words, the training designer can reduce the cognitive load of the learner, creating better results from the learner and an overall more positive learning experience.

In my training world we utilize these principles when teaching students about complex aircraft systems and how they operate. We visually show the system in full operation and through verbal discussion in the e-learning module discuss different possible failures. The audio uses specific failure key words to clue the student into identifying the failure while the student can visually see how that failure effected the overall system.

I have experienced online training, where there is graphics, spoken words, and text of the narration all on the same page. There is an overload to process what I see and to comprehend the information. In my experience, I am drawn to reading along with the audio and not paying attention to the graphics. Additionally, it seems that the audio is either slower or faster than my reading level and it becomes frustrating and defiantly hampers my learning ability.


Couldn’t you say this is why YouTube has become such a powerful tool? For just about any task, it seems there is a tutorial (although not always professional) out there. If I want to learn how to use the clone tool in GIMP or change the rear brake pads on my truck. I can watch videos and learn about the topic before I try it. I have the ability to pause and “try along” with the video if I want. Like you said, it also give me a reference if I need additional help.

This is a powerful media for instruction. As technology increases the cost of producing training videos had decreased so they can be more widely used.


As described by Clark & Mayer (2011) the modality principle states that audio is more effective than on-screen text for e-learning. Employing audio instead of on-screen text allows for more efficient distribution of the cognitive load. As sited by Clark & Mayer (2011) several studies have shown that learners have a greater transfer of knowledge with audio accompanying graphics than printed text. On-screen text with graphics overloads visual processing and audio accompanying graphics allows for a more efficient distribution of information processing.

There are limits to the modality principle and obviously audio will not work in all learning situations. On-screen text should be used to reinforce learning when the information to the learner is not in their native language, technical or unfamiliar terms are used, or procedural steps assist to facilitate learning. Also, audio is not always economical, accessible or practical.

One area in my current position in Career Services that could possibly benefit from using the modality principle is in giving resume reviews. When USA students upload their resume for the first time in Jaguar Job Link one of our staff members will review it and email the student to log into their Jaguar Job Link account to view any revisions. The suggested revisions are explained in track changes in their Microsoft Word resume document. To ensure greater understanding of the suggestions I recommend an audio link file could be sent to explain the changes the student may want to consider on their resume.


@LR_Hunter This is a really clever idea. I know at my school parents are particularly hesitant to help with math because they say they did not learn “this kind of math”. It is the common core way of doing math. Giving examples with narration would be a great way to open your classroom to the students and parents. If a child is struggling with the content on the homework, he can refer to the examples. This reminds me of Khan academy, but it would be more personalized and tie into the students prior knowledge.

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This has always been true. In the 60s we had “new math.” Math was all about sets then.


##Chapter 6

C&M use this chapter to expound upon some of the evidence that supports the use of audio to explain on screen graphics. Technical considerations are a major limitation to using audio and video in a large health care organization. All of the software must be integrated and the major systems win the technical battle. If, for example, the EMR (electronic medical record) requires XP and your perfect course needs Windows 7, the EMR has priority. You have to use another course.

People have separate channels for auditory and visual information. Spoken words reduce the visual load. Some of the courses that we use allow the end user to select whether or not they use the audio version of a course. Additionally, I spend a lot of time dividing text heavy slides into 2 or 3 separate slides.

After giving this some thought, I believe that I would use audio for basic concepts or courses that strictly provide information. However, I personally appreciate some written information for more complex topics as it gives me the ability to review, re-read and summarize. I need the actual words for “memory support”. I think courses that teach new or modified behavior require some words on the screen.


When I read your statement, I had to stop and think about myself as the student learning a new topic. I had never thought about it before, but I think I prefer audio feedback. (“Great job!” for example.) However, I would prefer a summary to be written. In my mind, it acts as a sort of visual checklist. It also provides a path to trace if something doesn’t work as expected.


@pfaffman’s question about voice control of computers made me think of the importance of audio in the world of teachers of students with severe visual disabilities.

This population of students have been able to follow careers in diverse fields by receiving instruction mostly through spoken rather than printed text.

In Western Australia, the school of information systems developed a fully accessible e-learning environment to teach advanced IT network curriculum to adults with acute vision disabilities to get IT Cisco certified. This information was published by Helen L. Armstron,


As a second language speaker, I process new information better when the visual stimuli is paired with the verbal stimuli.

For example, I usually take notes or draw diagrams as I read (process) portions of new information. I repeat the words or statements in my head as I take notes. So, am I a visual or auditory learner? Yes, I can hear voices in my head..


In this chapter C & M (2011) introduce the Modality Principle, which is the presentation of speech (audio) rather than text in e-learning and the research supporting its implementation as well as highlighting its success. Basically, the cognitive load is divided by the use of the two modalities rather than singularly overloading the visual process with images/animation combined with text.

This is easy for me to understand based on my prior experiences, personal preferences, and learned knowledge. I have been bombarded with multiple modalites for learning throughout my life. Maybe combined in various combinations or maybe just singularly. In the classroom, I preferred lecture with visual support rather than copying notes from the board and I loved watching the films. So let’s think about that… watching a movie with subtitles is okay when the language is our primary language (mine is English) for support but whenever I am watching a film in a foreign language and reading subtitles in English, I really have to be in the mindset for it or I will turn it off. I get annoyed when the text is removed before I finish reading it and I have to rewind to either read the text or view the corresponding scene. I love watching foreign fantasy action films but many of them have subtitles paired with fantastic scenery, graphics, or action so I have to be alert in order to fully appreciate them.

With webinars or e-learning modules, I get annoyed when the speaker talks so slow or pauses so frequently that I feel like it… will… last… forever. But ultimately I find that the modality principle holds true for me and I see the merit in implementing the principle.


I would remember to create presentations limiting the cognitive load and following the guidelines of the modality principle. For example, in creating an e-learning module for navigating an augmentative communication device I would use visual supports and audio only.


Oh, absolutely great example: [quote=“nrhudson, post:8, topic:2499”] Couldn’t you say this is why YouTube has become such a powerful tool? For just about any task, it seems there is a tutorial [/quote]

It is such a powerful tool and favorite past time/activity for some. I personally get annoyed if it is too lengthy and I fully appreciate the videos with the time lapse feature for processes!


In order to help prevent extraneous processing, or overloading the cognitive channel(s), C&M suggest using audio narration instead of on-screen text, or following the Modality Principle. Spoken text with graphics or animation allows for more knowledge retention compared to spoken and typed text with animation or graphics. The visual channel becomes overloaded if a learned is having to process both visual text and animations or graphics. This will occur because the learner will be unable to give proper attention to both printed text and animations/graphics due to the cognitive capacity of the visual channel. However, if the learner is processing only audio text along with an animation or graphic, then the learner will benefit more from this design due to an adequate load processing through the visual and audio cognitive channels.

I would use the modality principle within my science classroom for a presentation discussing density. It would be a lab demonstration of a density column. Students would be able to listen to the audio on density and see the density column form as each liquid (of varying densities) is poured in. This could be done as a class or in smaller groups at individual stations (depending on the availability of technological equipment, such s chrome books, iPads, or computers).

I would refrain from using the modality principle in a presentation on how to calculate kinetic and potential energy (or any other science related calculation). One of the limitations to the modality principle includes times “when the words should remain available to the learners for memory support” and will be needed for future reference (p. 120, C&M). Mathematical formulas are discussed as options to be part of the audio explanation but may be allowed on the screen as text due to complexity.


By using the spoken word with graphics, students are using their auditory channel to process the spoken word and visual channel to process the graphics. This helps to eliminate overload when processing the information, which allows for deeper and more accurate comprehension. When there are technical or unfamiliar words, the instructor may want to consider using text also.

The example I thought of actually is related to lecture. One of the professors I took for multiple Economics classes was a madman when it came to lecturing. I would write non-stop in his class, but when he was explaining any type of graphics, he would stop writing on the board and walk us through the graphics verbally while pointing out specific aspects. If there was an important related term, he would write it down. Then he would go back to writing on the board with his crazy paced lecture. If I would have tried to understand the graphics and continue reading and copying text, it would have been near impossible to comprehend. This was several decades ago, so his technique was most likely self-learned.


Clark and Mayer (2011) stated that the modality principle has more research support than any other principle that is explained in their book. I know from one of my previous x-ray classes that hearing the audio while being able to see the graphic helped me comprehend more than printed text. I enjoyed your example about the resumes. Perhaps you can help make those changes happen!