Are multimedia resources effective in life science education? A meta-analysis.




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UK Centre for Bioscience



Peer reviewed



Multimedia learning is widely used in life science education where the use of pictures and text can bring complex structures and processes to life. However the impact on academic performance and deeper understanding is not well documented. We therefore carried out a systematic review to evaluate the effectiveness of multimedia resources in tertiary level life science education. Comprehensive literature searches were conducted; studies were selected based on stringent pre-set criteria, and data were extracted for meta-analysis. In total, 17 studies were used in the meta-analyses with a total population of 2,290 students. The results show that, when used as a substitute for laboratory practicals, multimedia improved student learning gains assessed with an end-of-year examination, (mean difference 7.06, ±4.61). Although it did not improve short-term learning gains in this scenario, multimedia improved learning gains in 10 of the 16 sub-group comparisons made across all the studies.

Overall, multimedia learning was more effective than many traditional educational methods although the numbers of studies included in the analysis were ultimately considered to be small due to many exclusions from the studies included in the analysis. Therefore, more good quality trials are required to evaluate a broader range of scenarios relevant to modern practices. Studies would benefit from being rigorous in design with good quality reporting of all aspects of methodology and study results.



multimedia instruction, bioscience teaching, meta-analysis, higher education


Rolfe, V.E.and Gray, D. (2011) Are Multimedia Resources Effective in Life Science Education? A Meta-Analysis. Bioscience Education, 18-3


Research Institute

Centre for Reproduction Research (CRR)