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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 35  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 199--203

Departing from PowerPoint default mode: Applying Mayer's multimedia principles for enhanced learning of parasitology

Jyoti Mahantesh Nagmoti 
 Professor of Microbiology, J N Medical College and Former Director, University Department of Education for Health Professions, KLE University, Belgaum, Karnataka, India

Correspondence Address:
Jyoti Mahantesh Nagmoti
Professor of Microbiology, J N Medical College and Former Director, University Department of Education for Health Professions, KLE University, Belgaum, Karnataka


Purpose: PowerPoint (PPT) presentation has become an integral part of day-to-day teaching in medicine. Most often, PPT is used in its default mode which in fact, is known to cause boredom and ineffective learning. Research has shown improved short-term memory by applying multimedia principles for designing and delivering lectures. However, such evidence in medical education is scarce. Therefore, we attempted to evaluate the effect of multimedia principles on enhanced learning of parasitology. Methodology: Second-year medical students received a series of lectures, half of the lectures used traditionally designed PPT and the rest used slides designed by Mayer's multimedia principles. Students answered pre and post-tests at the end of each lecture (test-I) and an essay test after six months (test-II) which assessed their short and long term knowledge retention respectively. Students' feedback on quality and content of lectures were collected. Results: Statistically significant difference was found between post test scores of traditional and modified lectures (P = 0.019) indicating, improved short-term memory after modified lectures. Similarly, students scored better in test II on the contents learnt through modified lectures indicating, enhanced comprehension and improved long-term memory (P < 0.001). Many students appreciated learning through multimedia designed PPT and suggested for their continued use. Conclusions: It is time to depart from default PPT and adopt multimedia principles to enhance comprehension and improve short and long term knowledge retention. Further, medical educators may be trained and encouraged to apply multimedia principles for designing and delivering effective lectures.

How to cite this article:
Nagmoti JM. Departing from PowerPoint default mode: Applying Mayer's multimedia principles for enhanced learning of parasitology.Indian J Med Microbiol 2017;35:199-203

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Nagmoti JM. Departing from PowerPoint default mode: Applying Mayer's multimedia principles for enhanced learning of parasitology. Indian J Med Microbiol [serial online] 2017 [cited 2020 Dec 2 ];35:199-203
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Lectures still remain as the mainstay of teaching and learning in medicine despite some limitations. However, supplementing lectures with multimedia presentations are known to increase clarity, engage learners and sustain their levels of interest in the class. Therefore, supplemented lectures can enhance overall retention and transfer of knowledge by the students.[1],[2] With the advent of newer technologies, computer assisted learning has become a significant part of medical school curriculum. PowerPoint (PPT ™) has emerged as an ubiquitous slide-ware which is preferred not only by the medical teachers but also by the students.[3],[4] Although PPT ™ provides scope for the usage of illustrations, animations etc., instead of exploring its full potential, it is mostly used in the 'default mode' (bulleted text template) which is known to cause boredom, fatigue, information overload and confusion, a phenomenon described as 'Death by Power Point'.[5],[6],[7] Therefore, it is important for the instructors to understand the scientific basis of how do people learn and how human brain processes various types of stimuli so that they one can design technically and scientifically sound presentations using Mayer's multimedia principles.

The Mayer's multimedia design principles are based on multimedia and cognitive overload theories which explain about how the human brain processes information received from multimedia sources (visual, auditory and kinaesthetic) and stores in short and long term memory. According to these set of principles, it is suggested to use both text and pictures than text alone (multimedia principle), and to avoid extraneous words and pictures on the PPT slide (coherence principle). Further, it is suggested that, learning enhancement occurs when text and pictures are placed close by (spatial contiguity principle) and presented simultaneously than successively (temporal contiguity principle), key elements are highlighted (signalling principle) and when the text is presented in a narrative and conversational mode (modality and personalisation principles, respectively) [Table 1]. Studies on applying multimedia principles have shown improved short-term memory in basic, engineering and medical sciences.[6],[7],[8],[9] Few other studies have indicated that effective learning occurs by reducing the density of text matter and replacing it with clinical case pictures, flow charts, tables, etc.[2],[8],[9],[10]{Table 1}

Parasitology is a morphological science which requires visual learning. This subject is generally considered as dry, complex and rather confusing by medical students.[10] At present, parasitology is most often taught using traditionally made PPT ™ slides (default mode). However, evidence in this area states that parasitology can be taught effectively and in less time using interactive computer-assisted learning.[11] Although much has been reported on advantages and disadvantages of PPT ™, there is paucity of evidence on applying multimedia design principles in medical education settings in India. Hence, this study attempts to determine whether application of multimedia principles to teach parasitology, enhances comprehension and improves short and long term knowledge retention among medical students, as compared to the traditional teaching.


A class of 145 second phase MBBS students was oriented to the study protocol of which, 128 students consented to participate in the study while the rest of them chose to attend only the classes and did not wish to answer the tests as a part of this study. Ethical clearance was obtained from the Institutional Review Board. Total of ten weekly lectures of fifty minutes duration were engaged by a single faculty member on medically important parasites. In the first five lectures, traditionally designed PPT slides were used whereas; in the next five, the slides designed by applying Mayer's multimedia principles were used (modified lectures). Traditional slides contained mainly the text matter with few pictures and the contents were mostly delivered by reading the text with some explanation. On the other hand, modified slides contained less text matter and more pictures, text and pictures were placed close to each other and presented simultaneously than successively (coherence, multimedia, spatial and temporal contiguity principles respectively). Key points were highlighted (signaling principle) and the contents were delivered in narrative and conversational manner (modality and personalisation principles respectively) [Table 1] and [Figure 1].[7],[8],[12] Two faculty observers with medical education qualification assessed the overall effectiveness of each lecture and the ability of teacher to use multimedia principles in a controlled and consistent manner. Instructional materials for all the lectures were based on specific learning objectives for the given topic and were standardised by subject and educational experts.{Figure 1}

During each lecture, students answered pre and post tests (test-I) which consisted 15 objective questions assessing students' prior knowledge on the topic and short term memory respectively. A written test consisting of long and short essay questions was administered after six months (test-II) in which half of the questions were drawn from the topics taught by traditional lectures and the other half were from modified lectures. Test-II was aimed to assess students' long-term knowledge retention and their ability to comprehend and apply knowledge. All the test questions and scoring keys were pre-validated by subject and educational experts.

Students' feedback on the content, quality and overall effectiveness of slides was obtained using a standardised questionnaire on Likert's scale [Table 2]. Students' comments and suggestions for improved slide designing were solicited. In order to ethically match traditional and modified lectures for their overall effectiveness, an additional interactive session was held at the end of each lecture. In this session, the faculty member clarified students' doubts if any, on the topics particularly taught by traditional lectures.{Table 2}

Statistical analysis

Analysis of pre and post test was carried out using descriptive statistics like finding the mean and standard deviations on Microsoft ® Excel 2000 version 9.0. Comparison of scores was accomplished by paired t-test and feedback analysis was done using Chi- square test (χ2).


There was no statistically significant difference between pre test scores of traditional and modified lectures indicating, similar prior knowledge levels before the commencement of lectures. However, there was statistically significant difference between the post-test scores of traditional and modified lectures suggesting improved short term knowledge gain (P = 0.019) especially after attending modified lectures. Similarly, students scored higher in test II on the contents learnt through the modified than traditional lectures indicating improved long-term knowledge retention (P < 0.001) [Table 3].{Table 3}

Analysis of students' feedback showed that they were more satisfied with modified lectures in terms of overall learning outcome than the traditional ones. They felt that, modified classes were more interesting (47%), engaging (43%) and very useful for understanding and memorising the parasitic life cycles (58%). Overall quality of slides used in modified lectures was rated high as compared to the traditional lectures and this difference was found to be statistically significant (P < 0.001). Similarly, students appreciated the use of interesting and relevant pictures (coherence, P < 0.001), text and pictures being placed close by and presented simultaneously (spatial and temporal contiguity, P < 0.001), usage of images and narration than images and text (modality, P < 0.001) and highlighting of key points (signalling, P < 0.001). However, students and faculty observers did not much appreciate the difference in selective application of personalization principle to the traditional and modified lectures (P = 0.053) [Table 2]. Moreover, 32% students suggested that traditionally designed PPT slides can be improved by reducing the text matter and using interesting illustrations.


The learning process in humans is a complex phenomenon which has been deliberated extensively since time immemorial. It is popularly explained based on multimedia and cognitive overload theories. According to multimedia theory, brain processes information using dual channels, i.e., visual and auditory; thus, any new information can be accommodated effectively in short and long term memory when it is presented through both channels. Therefore it is evident that, people learn better when information is presented using both pictures and words than words alone. Improved learning in the present study can be attributed to the use of interesting and relevant pictures and engaging learners in conversation. Cognitive overload theory, on the other hand, proposes to avoid any extraneous words and pictures amounting to overcrowding on a slide. This principle was applied in our study by generously eliminating unnecessary text and pictures on the slides. In addition, the principles of coherence, spatial and temporal contiguity, modality, signalling and personalisation were individually applied in this study for effective teaching of parasitology.[2],[8],[9],[10] Probably designing of technically and scientifically sound slides and their effective delivery based on Mayer's principles has helped to simplify teaching and learning of complex subject like parasitology. Research in this field also supports the fact that, when multimodal processing capability of the brain and the technology are combined, it is possible to dramatically enhance learning through multimedia instruction.[6],[10],[13],[14],[15]

Results of this study have shown improved short and long term knowledge retention and enhanced comprehension skills after application of Mayer's multimedia principles. To the best of our knowledge, there are no reports on the application of multimedia principles for effective learning of parasitology. Our results are in accordance with similar studies conducted in medical and nonmedical sciences.[6],[9],[10],[11],[14],[15] On the contrary, a study in accounting course comparing the effect of computer assisted versus traditional learning reported that media alone does not influence learning however, the topic under consideration and students' preferred learning styles matter the most.[16],[17],[18] Our study results on application of various components of Mayer's principles are encouraging except the personalization principle i.e, engaging audience in conversation. This might be probably due to the influence of 'inherent delivery skills' of the teacher, hindering their ability to selectively apply the said principle. Some of the limitations of this study being, lack of randomization, smaller number of lectures, uncontrolled seating, diverse learning styles and the type of study methods adopted by the students.


It is suggested to rather, depart from the default mode of PPT and explore its power to enhance learning. Application of multimedia principles to teach dry and complex subjects like parasitology can enhance cognitive skills and improve short and long term knowledge retention in medical students. Therefore, medical educators need to be encouraged and trained to apply multimedia principles for designing and delivering effective lectures. Future research may be directed towards effective utilisation of multimedia principles for teaching other complex subjects and to create virtual classrooms.


This study was carried out as a part of Post Graduate Diploma in Health Professions Education (PGDHPE), submitted to the KLE University, Belgaum, Karnataka, India. We express sincere thanks to Mr. M. D. Mallapur, Lecturer, Department of Community Medicine, J N Medical College, KLE University, Belgaum for statistical analysis of data, Dr. M. B. Nagamoti, Prof and Head Department of Microbiology, J. N. Medical College, Belgaum, the faculty observers and students for extending their kind support in conduct of this study.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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