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An Investigation of Behaviorist and Cognitive Approaches to Instructional Multimedia Design

, Educational Consultant,Ohio, United States

Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia Volume 12, Number 1, ISSN 1055-8896 Publisher: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE), Waynesville, NC USA


Typically, guidelines for design of interactive multimedia systems have been based on intuitive beliefs of designers rather than being founded on relevant research and theory. As advances in technology create new opportunities for education, it is important to use a range of theoretical perspectives to optimize use of new technology in teaching and learning. This article explores behaviorist and cognitive approaches to interactive multimedia instructional design (ID). Basic concepts, characteristics of ID, and comparisons between each are discussed. Interface design guidelines for learning with multimedia are presented, which link theory with practice in effective multimedia ID. Universal Design for Learning is described, which sheds light on future research in ID to accommodate the diversity of learners. Major conclusions include that no one theoretical foundation exists for ID practice that is suitable for all applications. Dick and Carey's behaviorist model, Willis' constructivist model, Reigeluth's Elaboration Theory, Keller's ARCS model, Merrill's Instructional Transaction Theory, and Gagné's learning hierarchy illustrate the abundance of theoretical frameworks to assist designers in decision making. Theories continually evolve or are revised as a result of research or critique by designers or theorists in the field. In the long term a blending of behaviorist and cognitive approaches seems inevitable.


Deubel, P. (2003). An Investigation of Behaviorist and Cognitive Approaches to Instructional Multimedia Design. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 12(1), 63-90. Norfolk, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved March 22, 2019 from .


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