Canvas Spotlight

Create Presentations Using Multimedia Principles

Last updated on September 15, 2022

Every educator’s goal is to hold their students’ attention for as long as possible. This is often challenging, but the learning materials we create can be designed to improve each learner’s focus as well as their ability to recall information later. Well designed presentations are informative, engaging, and minimize the fatigue learner’s can experience. By integrating a few tried-and-tested principles in your multimedia presentations, they will be easier to create and more rewarding for your audience.

Best Practices

Use Dual-Channel Encoding to Reinforce Material

  • Often, humans process information through two different cognitive pathways or channels, verbal and visual. Engaging both channels simultaneously can create stronger outcomes for later recall of information.
  • Images and text in your presentation should reinforce one another to more fully engage the learner.
  • Using appropriate images alongside text can help the student recall the information by creating a visual association.
  • Avoid overloading your presentation with irrelevant images, as extraneous visual content will diminish the overall effect.
  • Simple images are preferable to more complicated images as they can be interpreted and associated with the information more quickly.
  • Visual information should always be paired with verbal information, so avoid adding an image with no associated text or explanation.

Consider the Timing of Your Presentation

  • Chunking your presentation, or breaking a longer presentation into smaller segments, can create a better experience for synchronous and asynchronous learning. 
  • Learner attention drops off quickly after 10-15 minutes. It is a good idea to avoid going beyond that timeframe without an intervening activity or opportunity for a break.
  • When chunking a long presentation for asynchronous viewing, break it into discrete pieces or chunks. For example, don’t present new information at the end of one chunk and immediately expand on it in the next with no recap.
  • Move at a lively pace through your presentation. It’s a good idea to stay on a slide for about 30-60 seconds. If you’re staying on any slide longer than that, it’s likely you’re overloading it with information or not using dual-channel encoding efficiently.
  • Having a large amount of slides with only essential info that you move through efficiently is key.

Present Information in Clear, Well-Designed Slides

  • When designing slides, remember that less is more. Keep written information solely to the most important points and expand on those ideas when presenting.
  • Busy, cluttered slides distract your students from the actual content of your presentation. Their focus should be on you and what you’re saying, not reading lengthy paragraphs of text or parsing complicated images.
  • An attractive theme and other design elements make your presentation more visually pleasing to watch, but don’t overestimate their importance. Keeping things simple is more effective than devoting time and energy into adding lots of little visual details.
  • Animations can add energy to your presentation and increase student attention, but be careful not to go overboard. A dramatic transition from one slide to the next pulls your viewers’ attention away from the content.
  • For recorded presentations, be mindful of the various kinds of devices students might access your presentation through. Students are increasingly likely to be accessing online courses on smartphones, so don’t fill up slides with dense material that might not be legible on smaller screens.

Make Your Presentation Accessible to All Learners

  • When designing your presentation, bear in mind how it will be experienced by students with hearing, vision, or other impairments. 
  • Substantive images, or those that convey important information and are not merely decorative, will need to be described audibly by you during the presentation. See our Audio Annotations Spotlight for more info.
  • For recorded presentations, ensure that the closed captions are accurate.
  • Avoid using color alone to convey meaning and ensure that text contrasts highly with the background of each slide to keep your presentation accessible for students with color-blindness. Use this Contrast Checker to ensure readable text.