Cognitive Load Theory

Commentary on Managing cognitive load—recent trends in

cognitive load theory by Maria Bannert

(University of Koblenz-Landau, Department of General and Educational Psychology, Thomas-Nast-Str.44, 76829 Landau, Germany)

  1. Intrinsic cognitive load (ICL)
  2. Extraneous cognitive load (ECL)
  3. Germane cognitive load (GCL)

New technologies make available new presentation formats (e.g., animation, narration,

and cueing), which should improve learning. But too often computer-based

learning environments are rather cluttered. Thus, the question arises whether the

learner will be unnecessarily mentally overloaded by such formats or techniques, or

in more general terms, by bad design.

The paper of Mayer and Moreno (this issue) presents a review of several empirical

studies investigating different design guidelines for multimedia learning environments.

Based on their cognitive theory of multimedia learning, which relies not only

on CLT but also on dual coding theory and constructivistic learning theory, five

design principles for effective multimedia instructions are recommended which are

fully in line with CLT (except the principle of multiple representation). Since they

all lead to higher learning outcomes one can conclude that they are effective measures

for the reduction of ECL in multimedia instructions.

Bimodal presentation is probably only advantageous in case of system-paced instruction, whereas the visual-only format is probably better for learner-paced instruction, where the earner can compensate higher ECL by scrolling back- and forward in the material.

In the first part of instruction presented to learners, CL was reduced by not presenting the whole information at once; instead individual elements that could be processed serially were offered. In the second part of instruction, however, all information was presented at once and thus had to be processed simultaneously in working memory. In agreement with the authors’ assumptions, this mixed method significantly improved training efficiency and understanding in the long run compared to instructional formats which present all elements of information simultaneously from the very beginning.

The crucial role of adequate design of computer-based learning environments which should rely on the recommended CLT-design principles.

The way to reduce Extraneous cognitive load (ECL)

  1. Contiguity principle
  2. Modality principle
  3. Redundancy principle
  4. Coherence principle

2 thoughts on “Cognitive Load Theory

  1. Following principles of CLT in your VR learning environment design are useful – making sure you don’e over complicate the VR environment with extraneous information or too much digital overlaying, but the key to these learning environments in your case is how authentic is the learning experience so that users can assimilate the VR learning experience with their real world experience. Utilising participant eye-tracking and comparison between novice and expert practitioner eye-tracking in the VR environment may be useful indicator of how authentic the VR environment is…


  2. Hi Jin, good work on the CLT post. In addition to Thom’s comments, it would be good to see how the design principles identified for reducing ECL can be mapped out against design principles related to high-risk education / mountaineering education. In other words, how could the ECL deseign principles be applied in the context of your research? Also, have you found any literature addressing CLT and AMS? Check this article from Pablo Rebolledo (in spanish but english abstract):


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