Teaching advice focused on multimedia learning

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … information
  • Knowing is … using information
  • Learner is … an information processor (individual)
  • Learning is … inputting (and associated computer-based notions, such as processing, storing, and retrieving)
  • Teaching is … transmission (of information)




E-Learning is focused on multimedia learning using digital technologies. E-Learning can be applied to a range of efforts to derive instructional design principles from Cognitive Science research. It is most often associated with Cognitive Load Theory, which is anchored to research into the limitations of working memory, and consequently advice is focused on minimizing distractions and focusing on learner-specific preferences and capacities.


While there are a few critical voices associated with E-Learning, most discussions of the topic are uncritically rooted in Cognitivism and linked to the aims and structures of traditional schooling. Consequently, these discussions tend to carry forward a range of uninterrogated and problematic assumptions about what learning is and how it happens. Arguably, the most common advice (e.g., on pacing instruction and attending to learner preference) is little more than familiar practice that has been dressed up as academic insight.

Authors and/or Prominent Influences

Richard E. Mayer; John Sweller; Roxana Moreno

Status as a Theory of Learning

E-Learning is not a theory of learning.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

E-Learning is a perspective on teaching.

Status as a Scientific Theory

Some evidence has been gathered to demonstrated that adhering to E-Learning principles (e.g., pacing the teaching to suit the learner and managing the amount of information presented all at once) will positively influence learning. But that should be a surprise to no-one. E-Learning thus fails to meet any of our criteria for a scientific theory.

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2020). “E-Learning” in Discourses on Learning in Education. https://learningdiscourses.com.

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