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Back in the’80s and ’90s there was a bizarre sort of B-movie craze. People would get together and purposefully watch bad movies so they could take turns making wisecracks about the ludicrous things happening on screen. Eventually, TV shows came into existence where professional comedians would record themselves watching those very movies and cracking jokes with more wit and comedic timing then you and your friends were probably capable of.
The thing that made these TV shows so enthralling was the way the comedians would almost instantly have something to say the moment something joke-worthy presented itself. The second an actor made an odd statement, the comedians in the audience would have a clever retort that would doubtless make the most stoic among us crack a smile.
One might say that these comedians, whether they knew it or not, were practicing the temporal contiguity principle. In multimedia and eLearning, this simply means that people learn more effectively when pictures and their descriptive text or narration are shown at the same time instead of sequentially. Though the purpose of those shows was comedy and the purpose of eLearning is…well, learning, it’s still a similar principle at play. Would the comedians be as funny if they came unprepared and sat stone-faced in front of the movie, thinking of jokes minutes after the fact or on the drive home? Absolutely not.
And so it goes with eLearning. If you want your learners to understand the context of what they’re seeing, don’t gloss over it or only mention it before or after the image has been shown. That’s not to say that you must show the relevant image every time the matter is brought up. Later on, feel free to make allusions to what has been discussed earlier without feeling the need to spoon-feed pictorial examples to your audience.
Think of it this way: Like a well-timed joke, eLearning requires synchronicity. The first time something ridiculous happens in one of those dumb movies, the comedians might say something that becomes a running joke throughout the rest of the movie that can be alluded to later. If done right, it starts to feel like an inside joke that the audience is in on and can become funnier when applied to new contexts.
With eLearning, a concept can be introduced the first time in all its entirety. Later on, the same concept may become relevant again, but you wouldn’t reintroduce it completely any more than the comedians would replay the scene that spawned the running joke to remind you why they’re bringing it up again.
One more way to look at it is being at a comedy club in a foreign country where you don’t know the language. You bring an interpreter, but this causes about a 20 second lag before you get to hear the punchline. Suddenly you have to remember the gestures and other visual cues the comedian was giving 20 seconds ago when the he initially made the joke. You aren’t going to have nearly as good of a time as you would at a show spoken in your native tongue, and likewise, you wouldn’t be as able to grasp what’s being taught if you were doing eLearning with a similar lag between audio or text and visual cues.
Armed with this knowledge, you are ready to create eLearning that exemplifies the temporal contiguity principle by applying comedian-esque timing to the words and images you use.
12 Principles of Multimedia Series, #5
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