Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts




Without question, the advent of digital media has made possible a wide range of new products and services and has dramatically influenced the role of the technical communicator. However, it has not yet been determined whether this influence has been for the better. As with any new phenomenon, it is necessary to take a step back and evaluate its effects. How are digital media used within technical communication, what theory informs that use, and how can we combine the theory and practice of digital media to ensure this technology is being used to create effective communication products? In order to answer these questions, this paper examines three distinct issues. First, it explores the history and evolution of technical communication that has created a space for digital media and, more specifically, video-based instruction. Second, it discusses theories of cognitive psychology that explain how learners process information presented through different media and how those theories can be applied to the development of multimedia learning products such as video-based instruction. Third, this paper discusses the results of an exploratory study conducted to analyze the effectiveness of video-based instruction compared to more traditional written instruction. Together, these three issues illustrate the significant role of video-based instruction within technical communication and how we can apply specific learning theory to ensure we create effective multimedia learning products. Based on the assumptions of multimedia learning theory, all things being equal, instruction presented through dual modalities should be more effective than instruction presented through a single mode. Taken together, rather than suggesting that one medium is better than another, cognitive learning theories suggest that there is an effective way to present information through multimedia and an ineffective way. However, the results of this study show only slightly greater results from video-based instruction than from written instruction. These results suggest that instructional videos are currently not being created in a way that fosters significant learning. Therefore, effective application of cognitive learning theory to instructional video development is necessary to make certain we create multimedia communication products that serve as effective teaching and training tools for all users.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Shauna Leigh Lemieux



OCLC Number


File Format


File Size

58 pages