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Use Of Graphics In Multimedia Instructional Materials: Research Based Design Guidelines

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Curriculum Development and Applications

Tagged Division

Engineering Design Graphics

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1369.1 - 11.1369.10



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Paper Authors


Eric Wiebe North Carolina State University

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Dr. Wiebe is an Associate Professor in the Graphic Communications Program at NC State University. He has authored or co-authored four texts on technical graphics and has been involved in Computer-Aided Design (CAD)/3-D modeling development and use since 1986. He has also worked on the integration of scientific visualization concepts and techniques into both secondary and post-secondary education. Dr. Wiebe has been a member of the EDG Division of ASEE since 1989.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Use of graphics in multimedia instructional materials: Research-based design guidelines


Engineering education, along with other disciplinary areas, uses a wide range of media and sensory modalities to communicate ideas and concepts to and between students. Put into the context of a modern classroom, text and graphic combinations are likely to come in a number of different forms. With the explosion of use of multimedia tools has come an increased interest in learning sciences research into the cognitive basis of multi- representational learning. This paper will explore current cognitive theory and the design heuristics that have been derived from it on the use of multimedia elements—especially graphics—in instructional materials. Research by the author will be presented demonstrating the use of eye tracking methods to help further understand the basic cognitive processes of multimedia learning. Findings have helped explain the interaction of text, graphics and narration. In addition, the results help provide guidance as to when it is or is not appropriate to differing combinations of these three mediums.


Engineering education has been witness to an ever-evolving array of technologies used to communicate science and engineering concepts. While many of these communication technologies have changed over the years, others have remained relatively constant (e.g., the textbook) and—even more important—many of the underlying forms of representation have continued to be in regular use. Dominant among these forms are text and static graphics. Regardless of the medium of delivery, these two representational forms continue to play a primary role in education. If there has been a shift over the years, it has been the increased use of graphics as their production and dissemination costs have decreased. Popular engineering graphics textbooks1 often have four or more full color graphics on a two-page spread. A survey by Roth, et al.2 showed that there are about 17 photographs on every 20 pages of high school biology textbooks.

An increasingly popular medium for supplementing textbook instruction is slideware applications such as PowerPoint™. PowerPoint has become a mode of communication at nearly every level, from professional conferences through elementary school. Most commonly, it allows the presenter to supplement their speaking with graphics as well as highlight key points with bulleted text. An alternative approach is to use PowerPoint for self-paced instruction. In this case, PowerPoint can be used as supplement to or in place of a textbook. The PowerPoint file can be delivered as a file disk, or via a website. In addition to providing visual text and graphics, audio narration can be added to the presentation, replacing the traditional role of the presenter/lecturer. While approaches such as these are most commonly seen in various types of distance education offerings in post-secondary STEM education, it is becoming increasingly common in secondary education. Clark3 reported that an estimated 40-50,000 K-12 students took an online course during the 2000-2001 school year.

Wiebe, E. (2006, June), Use Of Graphics In Multimedia Instructional Materials: Research Based Design Guidelines Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--235

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