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Washington State University
College of Education

Instructional animations

Making instructional video matter

If instructional videos don’t instruct, then what’s the point?
Researchers have found opportunities to better benefit student learning.

From child to adult, people like animated video. Well, video in general. You’ve probably seen data similar to the following:

  • Including video on a website landing page can increase conversions by 80 percent.
  • A third of all online activity is spent watching video.
  • YouTube users watch more than three billion hours of video per month.
  • After watching a video, 64 percent of users are more likely to buy a product online
  • Memory is improved by 92 percent from animated video over talking head type video.

Regardless of the exact current data, you get the point: Video is expected and video is used.


What if the animated videos aren’t very good or contain bad, false, or incomplete information?

A research team at Washington State University has examined if animation videos have done their job in veterinary education.

The research began as part of a master’s thesis by Julie Noyes, titled: “Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? Evaluating the Design of Instructional Animations in Veterinary Education.”

“From educational theory and research, we know that there are certain ways to design animations,” said researcher Kira Carbonneau, an assistant professor of educational psychology who was one of the dissertation co-chairs.

Carbonneau said that success is measured against something called MULTIMEDIA DESIGN PRINCIPLES.

The WSU team used the following 11 principles*:

  1. Redundancy Principle – Students learn better from narration accompanied by graphics rather than narration that repeats verbatim printed text on the screen.
  2. Coherence Principle – Students learn better when extraneous material is excluded rather than included.
  3. Modality Principle – Students learn better from graphics accompanied by narration than from graphics accompanied by printed text.
  4. Spatial Contiguity Principle – Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are placed near each other rather than far from each other on the page or screen.
  5. Temporal Principle – Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented at the same time on the screen rather than in succession.
  6. Signaling Principle – Students learn better when cues that highlight the organization of the essential material are added.
  7. Segmenting Principle – Students learn better when a multimedia lesson is presented in user-paced segments rather than as a continuous unit.
  8. Interactivity Principle – Students learn better when there is reciprocal activity between a learner and a multimedia learning system, in which the [re]action of the learner is dependent upon the [re]-action of the system and vice versa.
  9. Pre-training Principle – Students learn better from a multimedia message when they receive pre-training in the names and characteristics of key components.
  10. Worked-out example Principle – Students learn better when worked-out examples are given in initial skill learning.
  11. Feedback Principle – Students learn better with principle-based, explanatory feedback.


Carbonneau said the research team studied whether veterinary education animations followed these principles.

She said the results were mixed. Many followed some of the principles, but the majority of them only followed four of the 11.

“The result is that viewers don’t get what is known to be truly quality educational animations,” she said. “Because of this, viewers don’t get the most effective learning opportunity.

“There’s a lot of room for growth.”



  • C. Brandon Chapman —, 509-335-6850
  • Kira Carbonneau —, 509-###-####

*Mayer, R.E. (Ed.). (2014). The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning. New York: Cambridge university press.



In these videos, Kira Carbonneau explains the research team’s work, why it was done, and what the findings were. Total Run Time for each: 1:18.

Video overview

Video overview WITHOUT music

They said it…

“This collaborative research showcases how our experts in learning theory in the college assist to answer a specific research question with an eye toward generalization of models across learning domains and environments. This example highlights why our faculty work with faculty in nearly every college at WSU to pursue answers to challenging questions.”

—Brian French, COE associate dean for research and external funding


Journal article

Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? Evaluating the Design of Instructional Animations in Veterinary Education