When it comes to the Coherence Principle, the best thing for e-Learning is to keep the content uncluttered. According to Clark and Mayer (2011), The Coherence Principle is “the process of avoiding extraneous audio, graphics, or graphic treatments and words to minimize irrelevant load imposed on memory during learning” (p. 456). Within this, there are three main principles to avoid when delivering content to learners. The first principle within e-lessons is to avoid extraneous audio, the second is to avoid extraneous graphics, and the third is to avoid extraneous words.
One example of unsuccessful implementation of the Coherence Principle came when I was covering for a teacher that had to leave school at the last minute. My task was to give a Power Point presentation that was embedded with as many of the extra features and effects as possible. Each time I would advance the slide, there would be some type of transition and sound that accompanied. Throughout the entire presentation, the students and I were both distracted by the sounds and effects and were unable to focus on the content.
One example of successful implementation of the Coherence Principle was in a back to school presentation done by my district’s director of technology. In his presentation, he had less than 10 words per slide or he had just one image per slide. His presentation was very uncluttered and was easy to focus on.
In Clark and Mayer’s (2011) text, they highlight various instances where the Coherence Principle is violated. One example of this violation is where there is extensive text (p. 167) on a presentation. Another example is where there is interesting but unrelated graphics (p. 163) added to a presentation.
When comparing and contrasting the Coherence Principle to other Multimedia Principles from Clark and Mayer (2011), I notice that they all build upon each other. The major theme I see amongst many of these is to keep learning as simple as possible. The Redundancy Principle (p. 133), Modality Principle (p. 115), and Contiguity Principle (p. 91) are all based upon keeping content purposeful and congruent. Often times, educators get so excited by a new multimedia tool they discovered that they try implement as many visual and auditory stimulating techniques as possible in order to spice up content that may seem boring.
According to Clark and Mayer (2011), “adding interesting but unnecessary material to e-learning can harm the learning process” (p. 152). When extraneous pictures or words are added, “this can interfere with the process of sense-making because learners have a limited cognitive capacity for processing incoming material” (p. 161). “The cognitive theory of multimedia learning predicts that students will learn more deeply from multimedia presentations that do not contain interesting but extraneous sounds and music than from multimedia presentations that do” (p. 156-157).
What I do like about the Coherence Principle is keeping delivered content uncluttered. From my own experience, I have learned that I comprehend information better when I can focus on the content rather than on the added multimedia. This is especially true when I am learning information for the first time.
One major limitation to the Coherence Principle is how much interesting and extraneous multimedia effects learners that are not novices to the content being delivered. Clark and Mayer (2011) do mention this in their section titled “What We Don’t Know About Coherence” (p. 172)
Clark, R. & Mayer, R. (2011). E-Learning and the science of instruction: Proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia learning. (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Wiley & Sons/Pfeiffer.