Tradeoffs in aesthetics

For the LDA debate this month, Ruth Clark talked to Matt Richter and I about aesthetics in learning. Ruth, you should know, is the co-author of eLearning and the Science of Instruction, amongst other books, a must-have which leverages Rich Mayer’s work on multimedia learning. Thus, she’s knowledgeable about what the research says. What emerged in the conversation was a problem about tradeoffs in aesthetics, that’s worth exploring.

So, for one thing, we know that gratuitous media interferes with learning. From John Sweller’s work on cognitive load theory, we know that processing the unnecessary data reduces cognitive resources available to support learning. There’s usually enough load just with the learning materials. Unless the material materially supports learning, it should be avoided.

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