Before we dive into the principle and its need in E-learning, let’s go through two basic scenarios.
SCENARIO 1: It’s one of those days when your sweet tooth strikes and you feel like having a nice fresh chocolate pastry. So, you go to a nearby restaurant and order one. The restaurant chef wants to please you really bad as he knows you are a regular customer. In an attempt to do so, he gives you five different options of Chocolate desserts to choose from.
Will you be pleased or confused?
While you think, let’s move on to another scenario.
SCENARIO 2: You are an e-learning professional and your client comes to you with a requirement of teaching a simple web-based tool to their employees. You consider developing a simulation for them with a step-by-step instruction. Now, what does that simulation need:
- The tool based stimulus
- On-screen captions with instructions
Really? Does the simulation need on-screen instructions when we are already providing the learner with both audio and visuals that combine on-screen actions (like mouse click)? Does repeating the audio in-sync with on-screen captions help?
Coming back to the scenarios. Can you draw the comparison between two?
Well! The answer is Redundancy.
Be it presenting five different chocolate desserts to the customer (when asked for one!) or giving the same information twice to the learner via text and audio, the customer/learners requirement is really simple in both the scenarios; they are still caught between two stools.
As per Definition (Shamelessly copied from google): The use of words or data that could be omitted without loss of meaning or function; repetition or superfluity of information.
Time to reveal the elephant in the room!
The redundancy principle comes from Richard E. Mayer’s seminal Multimedia Learning and states that “people learn better from graphics and narration than from graphics, narration and on-screen text.”
It suggests that redundant material interferes with rather than facilitates learning. As an e-learning professional, it is easy to assume that the step-by-step onscreen instructions mapped with audio and graphics might help the learner but it is totally counterproductive. Just the other day, I was watching a movie with subtitles and while I got subconsciously engrossed in mapping the audio with subtitles, I missed the scene. According to cognitive load theory, coordinating redundant information with essential information increases working memory load, which may interfere with learning. (Take some time to read about how brain responds to cognitive load). Although, this doesn’t always mean that graphics and audio will suffice for a good learning experience.
P.S. As a designer your foremost job is to meet the learners need and not to impress them with multiple elements on-screen.
Here’s a great article that shows a couple of ways to apply redundancy principle in E-learning: LINK