During my vacation in California, I could not resist to visit one of the prominent players in the multimedia learning field, Prof. Richard Mayer.
His Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning will have a substantial influence on my Ph.D., so no pressure there.
The Santa Barbera campus of the University of California is a beautiful place to visit.
The campus is located along a great coastline with beach access and nice surfing spots, great for working on your tan as well as your science.
From a student’s perspective, the student housing even looks out on the sea!
Hands down the best campus I have ever been on, as far as location.
The most important thing I learned from this visit is that an outside professor can provide fresh insight, good advice and if you know what you’re talking about, even result in a fruitful discussion.
Apart from an in-depth conversation about my Ph.D. project and the related multimedia design decisions, we also talked about being a Ph.D. in general.
Prof. Mayer advised me to establish some success moments in my Ph.D. to keep my motivation up. This can be done by planning a big experiment in the middle of your Ph.D., discovering that your general idea works. After this success, you can safely invest time in fine-tuning your experiments. Balancing your professional interests with the other project members was also a topic where you have to focus on your own success. Working with other parties is essential for the project, but finishing your Ph.D. must be your primary goal.
Having talked about several aspects of multimedia learning with Prof. Mayer, I noticed that multimedia learning is a very open field. There are many articles on individual aspects of multimedia learning, all of which are in flux. However, weighing the pro’s and con’s of every design decision is what makes you a good researcher. Making a balanced and evidence-based decision you can defend in a discussion is a great feeling, a great achievement and a sign you are on the good track.
Visiting a prominent scholar abroad was a great way to spend an afternoon and I would highly recommend it. Luckily, Prof Mayer is not just a big name on my bookshelf, but also a friendly colleague willing to share his knowledge and enjoy a good conversation. Bringing him “stroopwafels’ and ‘dropjes’ probably didn’t hurt either.