Faculty Profiles

Jan Plass

Associate Professor, Educational Communication and Technology

"Our work in CREATE follows an apprenticeship model. Students help conceptualize the research, design materials, collect the data, and publicize the results that we hope will influence the future direction of instructional multimedia."

The Internet is the new frontier in education, with on-line courses -- and even entire universities -- popping up on the Web every day. But what do we know about how people really learn through these multimedia formats? Jan Plass is a leading researcher in a newly emerging field that combines cognitive science with the design and development of educational technology.

"There are lots of attractive sites on the Web that draw you in with flashy visuals and sound," says Plass, "but often what we know about how people process information is not reflected in the design, so that these visuals may highlight the least important information without helping users really understand the content of the site."

Plass, who holds a Ph.D. from Erfurt University in Germany, is working on design recommendations for instructional multimedia based on empirical studies and knowledge about how learners select, process, integrate, and store information. He has looked in particular at second language learning, and has written widely, together with Professor Dorothy Chun of the University of California at Santa Barbara, on the topic of text comprehension in multimedia environments.

Plass also works with many of his graduate students on a groundbreaking initiative at NYU that is advancing the effective use of Web-based material and other technology tools for educational purposes. Known as the Consortium for Research and Evaluation of Advanced Technologies in Education, or CREATE, this project draws together students and faculty to conduct research on the cognitive processes involved in web-based and multimedia learning.

"Our work in CREATE follows an apprenticeship model," says Plass. "Students help conceptualize the research, design materials, collect the data, and publicize the results that we hope will influence the future direction of instructional multimedia."

written by Cecilia Malm

Jan Plass's complete faculty bio.