Using text and images for “Multi-Media” instruction

I guess it never occurred to me that the use of both text and images for instruction constituted “multi-media”, but I guess now that I think of it, text is one medium and images are another, so when I use both for instruction, I am using multiple media. I had always associated the term with audio-visual projects such as videos or computer animations. These past two weeks have expanded my definition of “media” and broadened my thinking about what constitutes a “multi-media” project.

I have often combined images and text together when creating instructions. The use of images reinforces the words in text instruction. Images provide an example to which you can reference. They help clarify for the learner exactly what you are trying to convey. Text on the other hand can help make instructions more specific than what you are able to do with an image alone. Sometimes an image cannot convey an idea or a concept as clearly as words can. The two media complement and support one another.

When using both text and images, you run the risk of leaving out important information or of cluttering the instruction with unnecessary information. The instruction needs to be clean, precise, and complete without being overwhelming and cluttered. Another problem is that images can represent products that change with time or which may vary depending on model. This can cause your instructions to be inaccurate for some users or over time.

As I am used to using a combination of text and images to create instructions and it is a preferred method of mine, I don’t imagine that will change as I develop skill with other medium. I use this method of instruction fairly regularly for short, simple instruction. When text instructions become too complicated or long, I typically switch to video instruction.

Obviously there is a place in instruction for multiple media, whether that is two simple media like text and images or several media like audio/video instruction. When creating video instruction, I am often incorporating video, still images, text, audio, and sometimes interactions. This is “multi-media” at its finest. Although it is not always necessary or cost-effective to deliver instruction using so many media, it can be very beneficial to the learner to have multiple media available to him or her. Learners do not learn the same way, and multiple media helps ensure every learner has an opportunity to engage with and master the material.

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