No matter which architecture or blend of architectures you are using, you will need to decide which mix of delivery media you will use, how you will communicate most effectively with the three modes of visuals, text, and audio; and which instructional methods will best help learners achieve the learning goals.
The delivery media is not the main determinant of training quality. Hundreds of media comparison experiments have shown that when the instructional modes and methods are the same, learning can be as good from a computer-delivered lesson as from a classroom lesson.
The features and uses of media, modes and methods in training are summarised in the table below.
Devices including instructors that deliver training
Options to communicate content and instructional methods
Techniques that support one or more of the psychological events of learning
What are modes?
By modes, we refer to the basic communication devices you will use to explain your content and present the instructional methods. Depending on your delivery medium, you have a choice of graphics, words presented in text, words presented in audio narration, and other audio as music. For example, if you are planning a podcast, you are limited to audio. If you are writing a book, you are limited to text and a few graphics. In contrast, classroom instruction as well as many forms of computer delivered training can include various forms of graphics (still and animated), text, as well as audio narration.
While media may not determine instructional quality, your media choices will constrain the modes you can use and can limit your use of proven instructional methods. For example, if you are comparing learning from an instructor-led event with a computer lesson and both use similar graphics, text, and audio; learning is likely to be equivalent. However if you compare learning from a computer lesson that uses graphics and audio to learning from podcast that uses audio alone, the computer lesson will benefit from the learning advantages of visuals. That’s why it’s not quite true to say that delivery media have no effects on learning. The good trainer uses a mix of media to deliver the modes and methods that will support the learning outcomes.
What are instructional methods?
An instructional method is any technique that supports the core learning processes of attention, active processing, cognitive load management, and retrieval. In other words, instructional methods aid learning.
Just as all media cannot deliver all modes, similarly not all media can carry all methods. Take the critical instructional methods of practice and feedback. These methods can usually be delivered in a classroom setting (with access to appropriate equipment) and in many cases in computer-delivered instruction. However, media such as books and podcasts are much more limited in their capacity to promote practice and feedback. As you weigh your media options, consider the following recommendation: use a mix of media that can deliver the appropriate modes and instructional methods needed to help learners achieve the learning outcomes.