Do you remember being in school and trying to learn by just reading the textbook? Or perhaps you can recall the pre-smartphone days when a friend would try to talk you through directions to their house?
Both cases were frustrating learning experiences. It took the teacher lecturing and writing on the whiteboard to really grasp the key concepts. And it wasn’t until you saw a map and visualized the route that your friend’s directions made sense.
Effective learning comes down to how the information is presented. A combination of written text, spoken words, and visuals is more impactful than one of those methods on their own.
So what does this mean for organizations and their employee training programs? Using a modern learning management system (LMS), courses can be built in a variety of formats—and trainers should take full advantage of the opportunity to create rich, multimedia-driven learning experiences.
What is multimedia training?
Multimedia is a vague term so let’s start off by defining exactly what it means. Multimedia is training that is delivered in two broad formats—words and graphics. Within each overarching category are specific channels information can be delivered. Here are some specific examples of both “words” and “graphics” you can deploy in your employee training programs:
- Words – Written text, standalone audio, and the narration in a video.
- Graphics – Images, graphs/diagrams, and dynamic graphics (video and animation).
Training comes to life when courses include a combination of both words and graphics (hence, the name multimedia). This could mean having a PowerPoint slide with key concepts presented in text while an instruction talks through the idea in-depth. It also includes having a video where the instructor shows how to do something while providing verbal instructions (think how-to YouTube videos). As you create employee training courses, consider what combination of words and graphics makes sense for the topic.
Why is multimedia learning effective?
If you want to truly understand why multimedia employee training is important, you have to first understand the science of learning. Information is “learned” when it is successfully stored in the long-term memory. That means the trainee can recall the concept and act on it whenever they please.
However, the process of learning requires information to first pass through the sensory and working memories before it can be stored in the long-term memory.
The sensory memory is the top-of-the-funnel for the rest of the brain. Everything a person sees, hears, smells, touches, and tastes passes through the sensory memory or is forever forgotten. The brain is limited in what can be remembered so mundane, unimportant details are removed at this stage.
The working memory is a tighter filter for information and where the learning process really begins. If a piece of information is important, it’s temporarily stored here while the person learns it through repetition or deconstruction.
Once information clears the working memory, it is established in the long-term memory. But the goal of employee training isn’t just for your employees to learn information critical to their work—it’s for them to learn as efficiently as possible. And that can be accomplished by using multimedia employee training.
Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning
Renowned educational psychologist Dr. Richard E. Mayer presented the Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning in 1973. The basic premise is when information enters the human brain through multiple channels or senses, it’s more efficiently processed into the long-term memory.
When an employee sits down to complete their training, they can focus on hearing, reading, and watching the lesson materials. The reason the approach is so effective is because the auditory and visual channels to the mind each have limited capacity. When used in tandem, information has multiple routes to the sensory and working memories.
For example, an instructor demonstrating how to do something is seen and the explanation they give is heard. Information takes two paths to the working memory where it’s combined and processed into the long-term memory.
Create multimedia employee training courses
Poorly designed employee training overloads your team members’ cognitive capacity. They lose track of the lesson and fail to learn what you intend them to. It can also shake their confidence and cause them to question if they have what it takes to do the job.
Remember, you want the employee training experience to be seamless and pleasant for the trainee. Asking employees to slog through a long presentation or reread the same document until they “get it” isn’t beneficial to your organization or staff. We’ll conclude with a few tips to keep in mind when creating multimedia employee training courses.
Don’t overdo it
Hopefully, you’re now excited to create multimedia courses for your employees. However, don’t jam too many words and visuals into a single course.
For example, adding on-screen text to a narrated video is too much. Think of how much attention is required to watch a movie with subtitles.
Use text for emphasis
While text should be used sparingly with video and audio, it’s great for driving an important point home. A few words on a slide is an excellent way to help an important takeaway standout in your employees’ memories.
Break up complicated concepts
You can also keep your employee engaged throughout their training by focusing on a single idea at a time. Break up a large concept into multiple courses. And within each course, focus on one idea at a time so employees can easily process new information.
Deliver meaningful learning experiences
The goal of employee training is to help everyone learn and retain information with little-to-no-difficulty. You want them to grasp the important takeaways with ease so they can apply what they learn to their regular tasks and deliver great results.