Double Trouble: Dual Coding for Learner Retention


Double Trouble- Dual Coding for Learner Retention_Blog Header 800x350

At eLBX Live 2019, one of our featured morning speakers mentioned a learning method called dual coding. Michael Noble, Chief Operating Officer & Chief Learning Strategist of The Training Associates, presented on learner preferences and how using different learning modalities can increase retention and learner satisfaction.

He also talked about a learning method called dual coding.


“You take a visual approach and a verbal approach and figure out how to double code your message—reinforce it between two ideas.”

-Michael Noble at eLBX Live 2019


What is Dual Coding?


This cognitive theory was hypothesized by Allan Paivio of the University of Western Ontario in 1971. The dual coding theory states that audio and images are stored in separate areas of our short term memory. Learners are said to remember better if they store similar information in both channels and can make a link between the images they see and the sounds they are hearing.


According to the modality principle of dual coding, providing an image with narration explaining the image is the most effective way to teach.




It is interesting to note, that according to research into dual coding, on-screen text is perceived by the brain as an image. So you might think you are achieving dual coding by pairing some bullet points with a graphic, but in fact, your learners’ brains are storing both of those as an image, which can result in overloading the visual channel sooner. Once the short term memory channel are full, your learners cannot take in new information without first pausing to process the first content.


The Dual Coding theory has been supported by further research on retention of images and/or concrete words over the years with research done by cognitive scientist Zenon Pylyshyn in 1973 all the way up to more recent studies in 2017.


Implementing Dual Coding in Your eLearning Projects


Now you know why you should pair an image with audio in your eLearning development. So how do you go about it? Visit the eLearning Brothers Stock Asset Library for tons of stock photos and sounds effects. If you're using your own voiceover, check out these helpful blogs from our audio and video expert on working with audio:


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