Teach and/or support learning
How students learn, both generally and within their subject/disciplinary area(s)
Respect individual learners and diverse learning communities
Contiguity refers to how close together things are in time and space. The closer together they are, the more integrated they're said to be. In higher education, contiguity can refer to the way information is presented in multimedia presentations, video-based learning, or online learning sites. It can refer to how integrated things are in space like labels on diagrams (known as spatial contiguity) or how integrated they are in time like how points on a slide appear as you speak (known as temporal contiguity).
The effect of integrating information in time and space has a large effect on learning ➕➕➕➕➕ 1,2. Contiguity has a medium effect on learning when delivering information via technology (e.g., online, via multimedia presentations) ➕➕➕➕ 2 and a large effect when completing pen-and-paper activities ➕➕➕➕➕ 2. There is also a medium effect on learning when the integrated parts aren't redundant ➕➕➕➕ 2. For example, if you present a diagram of the brain like above, you could accompany it with a spoken explanation of each part (e.g., "Here's the frontal lobe, which is responsible for for voluntary movement, expressive language and for managing higher level executive functions ..."). Contiguity has at least a medium effect ➕➕➕➕ on learning regardless of content area (e.g., medicine, engineering, math) and has a large effect in the social sciences ➕➕➕➕➕ 2. The effect of contiguity on retaining information is small ➕➕➕, but its effects on transfer of knowledge is larger ➕➕➕➕ 2. It also had an effect on how quickly learners reached solutions. Contiguity led to learners solving problems quicker 1.
We can be quite confident about the effects of contiguity on learning. This summary is based on two meta-analyses. One meta-analysis 1 included 50 effect sizes. The authors didn't report the types of primary studies included in the paper nor information about publication bias. That said, the heterogeneity analysis was insignificant, suggesting that the effects on learning were due to contiguity and not other variables, and the primary studies represented a number of different samples. Additionally, the effect size for this meta-analysis was so large that, even if the primary studies were described or a publication bias was included, it's likely it wouldn't have altered the results dramatically.
The second meta-analysis 2 included 58 effect sizes. A large number of the primary studies included in the meta-analysis were randomised controlled trials, meaning that it's less like that any effect is due to individual characteristics like personality or existing knowledge. The heterogeneity of the studies was not significant, meaning that other variables would not have explain the findings any better, and the primary studies represented a number of disciplines, educational levels, and countries, suggesting that the effects aren't isolated to one group. Finally, 2,989 additional studies that report no effect between contiguity and learning would be needed to overturn these findings.
1 Ginns, P. (2006). Integrating information: A meta-analysis of the spatial contiguity and temporal contiguity effects. Learning and Instruction, 16(6), 511–525. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.learninstruc.2006.10.001
2 Schroeder, N. L., & Cenkci, A. T. (2018). Spatial Contiguity and Spatial Split-Attention Effects in Multimedia Learning Environments: a Meta-Analysis. Educational Psychology Review, 30(3), 679–701. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-018-9435-9
We made this one-page summary of good multimedia design. It pulls together most of the key strategies of Cognitive Load Theory. We also made a 30-minute series of videos on the topic here (key video for this summary at the bottom of this page.