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Sophisticated three-dimensional animation and video compositing software enables the creation of complex multimedia instructional movies. However, if the design of such presentations does not take account of cognitive load and multimedia theories, then their effectiveness as learning aids will be compromised. We investigated the use of animated images versus still images by creating two versions of a 4-min multimedia presentation on vascular neuroeffector transmission. One version comprised narration and animations, whereas the other animation comprised narration and still images. Fifty-four undergraduate students from level 3 pharmacology and physiology undergraduate degrees participated. Half of the students watched the full animation, and the other half watched the stills only. Students watched the presentation once and then answered a short essay question. Answers were coded and marked blind. The "animation" group scored 3.7 (SE: 0.4; out of 11), whereas the "stills" group scored 3.2 (SE: 0.5). The difference was not statistically significant. Further analysis of bonus marks, awarded for appropriate terminology use, detected a significant difference in one class (pharmacology) who scored 0.6 (SE: 0.2) versus 0.1 (SE: 0.1) for the animation versus stills group, respectively (P = 0.04). However, when combined with the physiology group, the significance disappeared. Feedback from students was extremely positive and identified four main themes of interest. In conclusion, while increasing student satisfaction, we do not find strong evidence in favor of animated images over still images in this particular format. We also discuss the study design and offer suggestions for further investigations of this type.

Original publication




Journal article


Adv Physiol Educ

Publication Date





201 - 205


3-dimensional, animation, cognitive load, Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena, Computer-Assisted Instruction, Humans, Imaging, Three-Dimensional, Multimedia, Photic Stimulation, Software, Students, Health Occupations, Videodisc Recording