The field of medical education has consistently embraced new technologies in an attempt to improve the training process of our nation's doctors. There are thousands of available multimedia learning tools (MMLTs), but no quantitative scale exists to assess their efficiency and overall educational value. The authors review existing literature and suggest guidelines for creating cognitively efficient medical MMLTs.In 2004, the authors searched PubMed to identify articles regarding multimedia learning, including educational strategies and existing MMLTs. The primary search terms included "multimedia learning," "cognitive load," and "surgical education." The resulting articles were evaluated and reviewed for educational and interface design techniques, and a list of common features was generated. The authors cross-referenced these features with extensive theories of cognitive load to create a list of methods that demonstrated improved learning.Techniques common to existing MMLTs often neglect to account for theories of cognitive load and may be detrimental to the learning process. The authors outlined important educational considerations and guidelines for the design of effective MMLTs. With large resources being spent to produce MMLTs, more research is necessary to establish successful design techniques. The authors summarized existing research, outlined educational issues in multimedia design, and proposed future directions for study.
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