Apply: how to create active content

Topic Focus

To identify some features of online content that makes them interactive and engaging for students

45 minutes

Applying the principles: examples of good and bad design

We’ve been talking in slightly more abstract terms about key principles for designing multimedia content. Let’s now try to put some meat on the bones and see if we can look at some examples of content and decide what’s right or wrong about them. 

Below you’ll see 3 examples of less than perfect online content design. For each of them make notes on these two questions:

1) which of the following multimedia principles does this content violate (could be more than one): modality principle, multimedia principle, redundancy principle, coherence principle, contiguity principle, signalling principle.

2) Can you think of one or two things you could do to improve the content?

After each one, you’ll be able to click Suggested answers to see if your ideas tallied with mine. You can also click the Improved Version switch to see a better way to realise the content. However, do try to make notes first before viewing both of these.  

Here is an example of introductory content to a reading topic on an online course. It’s only one slide. Look at the questions below and analyse. 

1) which of the following multimedia principles does this content violate (could be more than one): modality principle, multimedia principle, redundancy principle, coherence principle, contiguity principle, signalling principle.

2) Can you think of one or two things you could do to improve the content?

  1. Certainly the coherence principle has been broken as there’s far too much information on the screen, they don’t need to know everything they are going to do. The language itself is also rather challenging for students. The content would also benefit from some visual support, possibly images or tables to introduce the content better. So, it also violates the multimedia principle and possibly the signalling principle as well. 
  2. Simplify and humanise the language a little, reduce the amount of information given and introduce a visual element to it. 
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see improved version

Here is an example of a reading activity that’s part of an online course. There are several pages to work through so use the buttons to navigate. Look at the questions below and analyse. 

1) which of the following multimedia principles does this content violate (could be more than one): modality principle, multimedia principle, redundancy principle, coherence principle, contiguity principle, signalling principle.

2) Can you think of one or two things you could do to improve the content?

  1. The main one that this content violates is the contiguity principle. By putting the text and questions on different pages, it becomes more of a memory test than a reading activity. Also, possibly, the signalling principle isn’t really observed on the first page as it may not be clear that there is a scroll bar that needs to be used to find the rest of the text. 
  2. Reorganise the content and navigation so that it’s possible to see both the reading and questions at the same time. Remove the scroll bar option as it is possibly confusing and inelegant. 
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see improved version

Here is an example of a grammar presentation that’s part of an online academic writing course. It is just this one page. Look at the questions below and analyse. 

1) which of the following multimedia principles does this content violate (could be more than one): modality principle, multimedia principle, redundancy principle, coherence principle, contiguity principle, signalling principle.

2) Can you think of one or two things you could do to improve the content?

  1. Similar to example 1, this doesn’t really follow the multimedia principle as it might benefit from visuals to support the context and/or language, even if just a picture or table. Also, the signalling principle is probably ignored as the examples come from disparate disciplines and it’s not clear how they are connected. 
  2. Make the content more interactive and engaging by making it more visual and interactive. Also, present the language within a context that is familiar to the students. 
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see improved version