Motivating Faculty to Use Multimedia as a Lecture Tool

by MARTHA C. SAMMONS, Professor Wright State University Dayton, Ohio Many educators are impressed by the potential of multimedia in the classroom. They have survived the decision-making process of determining what hardware, software, peripherals, projection and sound equipment, videodiscs and CD-ROMs to buy. They have convinced administrators to provide funding despite budget squeezes. Or they have written grants to obtain external funding. They have upgraded classrooms and created faculty labs for development. Yet perhaps only 2% to 3% of faculty utilize the equipment. Sound familiar? This article describes factors that both motivate as well as deter faculty in employing multimedia for classroom presentations; the specific focus is on multimedia workstations connected to peripherals and projection systems. I will first provide a brief background about faculty use of multimedia at Wright State University, describe problems we have had motivating faculty in our current project, and then recommend strategies for turning faculty around. Current use of multimedia at Wright State involves two areas: a major university-wide multimedia initiative and a pilot program in the College of Liberal Arts. I have served as faculty liaison for the first project and am directing the second project. University-Wide Project The university-wide multimedia project was initiated by the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs in an effort to improve both teaching and learning. The multimedia software chosen was PODIUM, developed by Dr. Fred Hofstetter of the University of Delaware, with some faculty preferring Toolbook and Authorware Professional as alternatives. Faculty work at IBM PS/2 multimedia "creation" stations located in a special room. A substantial budget has been allocated for purchase of the sound and projection systems for five classrooms, the creation and presentation computer stations, plus software and peripherals. This project began three years ago, yet only about 4% of faculty currently utilize multimedia in their classroom. Notebook Computer Project In recognition of this need to get the rest of the faculty to teach with computers, we began a pilot program in the College of Liberal Arts that takes a different approach. We will use notebook computers with portable presentation equipment and encourage faculty to begin with simpler types of presentations. The college has already solicited proposals from faculty to show how they would integrate computer-aided presentations in their classroom. Fifteen faculty will receive a notebook computer to keep during their career at Wright State as long as they continue to use computer technology to enhance their lectures. In addition, all new faculty will be required to participate in the program. Among other things, we will evaluate the effectiveness of using a faculty task force to direct this project. This committee will assess the effectiveness of various portable computing technologies before more money is invested in equipment. Another purpose for the committee is to determine if faculty are more willing to use technology if decisions come from their own peers rather than from a "outside" computing group. Assessment Before beginning the College of Liberal Arts' Notebook project, I circulated a questionnaire to assess faculty interest and needs regarding multimedia and to assess motivators and deterrents. The instrument asked the following: Demographic information; Preferred platform; Things that would deter them from or motivate them to use multimedia; Preferred display technology; Types of media they would like to use in the classroom; and Types of classes that would benefit from technology. The factors described below are based on the results of this questionnaire, my own observations, discussions with faculty and the current literature. Items are ranked in the order of importance faculty gave to them. Deterrents in Using Multimedia Higher education has lagged behind primary and secondary education in incorporating multimedia into both teaching and learning. The literature suggests that college faculty in general are slow to integrate new technology into the instructional process. Studies also indicate that the traditional faculty lecture mainly relies on the blackboard and overheads with occasional slides. Faculty state in the questionnaire that they are reluctant to use multimedia in the classroom for the following reasons: lack of equipment, lack of time and lack of knowledge about a number of topics. Lack of Equipment First, faculty do not perceive that they have computer equipment to use. What is available is not conveniently located in their offices or even in the same building in which they work. More important, many faculty still do not have computers in their offices or access to the university network. Furthermore, those who do regularly use computers typically do not have good presentation software or access to the necessary peripherals. Until these needs are met, faculty will be reluctant to utilize computers in the classroom. Lack of Time A second major deterrent is faculty's perception that they do not have the time to develop materials, redo a course, or learn how to use the hardware and software. Professors report spending, on average, 20 hours per week to develop multimedia lectures, or 150-200 hours converting one course to multimedia. Instructors also cannot afford to waste valuable class time with equipment that malfunctions or in waiting for technical support to arrive. Anyone who has attended computing conferences will testify that presenters still use traditional overhead and slides because they are more reliable. No wonder, then, that faculty members resist using new technology for every lecture. Lack of Knowledge Faculty also report that they do not know what is possible with the new technology options. More important, they do not know how multimedia will help them in the specific courses they teach or how it will help them fulfill their objectives. They also seem to believe multimedia is primarily useful for lecture classes but not discussion groups. Ironically, our main emphasis has been equipping large multimedia classrooms. In addition, some faculty are uncertain what materials they would incorporate into a multimedia lecture. Surprisingly, few faculty report being afraid of malfunctions in the classroom or afraid of technology. This contradicts a significant number of journal articles. However, perhaps many of those who responded to our survey have not actually tried using technology in the classroom and are thus unaware of the potential and typical bugs that can occur. Motivation Strategies As a result of these deterrents, I recommend the following strategies for motivating faculty: make equipment available, provide time for faculty to develop material, provide support, and provide easy-to-use hardware and software. Make Equipment Readily Available First, faculty state that they would use multimedia in the classroom if they had access to equipment. A computer should be convenient: in the office, at home, in the classroom and for off-site classes. This is why we chose notebook computers that can be carried everywhere; it will be interesting to see results of the assessed effectiveness. Faculty desire the ability to project their computer screen on either large monitors or TV sets (using scan converters). A few still want to create overhead transparencies with the computer , and a very few want to create traditional 35mm slides. The main interest is projecting scanned photographs and graphics. Faculty also express interest in incorporating video, graphs and charts into presentations. However, animation and sound are of little interest, perhaps because they do not know how to use these effectively. Thus scanners, LCD projectors, a few scan converters, a color printer and simple presentation software are good initial investments. Provide Time to Develop Material Another main motivator for faculty is having enough time to develop material and to learn to use the hardware and software. Instructors are very interested in receiving grants and leaves of absence that would allow them to prepare multimedia courses. But of equal importance is minimizing the time commitment required by providing easy-to-use hardware and software, effective training and strong support. Provide Support Offering a variety of types of support is a key motivating factor. The most important is readily available technical support, which should be available not only from the office but during class, even in the evening. While phone lines should be installed in large multimedia classrooms, faculty should also be trained to troubleshoot and repair minor problems, thus making them both more self-sufficient and self-assured. Faculty welcome hands-on workshops on hardware and software, particularly on setting up and troubleshooting equipment. Educating faculty about how to utilize multimedia in the classroom can take various forms -- technology fairs, demonstrations, speakers and more. A wide variety of technology options and multimedia applications in a number of disciplines should be included so faculty can keep up-to-date both on what is being done in higher education in general and in their specific fields. A formalized workshop program should allow faculty to begin with simple computer presentations, then grow into multimedia. An individual should begin at the appropriate level and then build upon it as he/she is ready. Most are not ready to tackle all the equipment at once or authoring software that requires some programming.


Workshops should be one to two hours long, very hands-on, produce something real that can be used in class and be taught by other faculty. Participants should also be encouraged to immediately apply what they have learned to their own classroom and then continue to expand on it. Two types of materials must also be developed for faculty: training materials and assessment materials. There are currently few, if any, training materials on multimedia specifically designed for faculty. Assessment materials should collect data on the effectiveness of using multimedia in the classroom, specifically on student improvement and reaction. Some faculty welcome help in preparing course materials. I recommend utilizing staff and student workers to digitize graphics. Also, implement a formal submission policy so that faculty know how they are expected to submit and what the turn-around time is. An easily accessible, friendly place to develop materials is equally important. Optimally, a graphic designer should be available to help with screen designs. Finally, faculty believe it is important to have a sense of strong administrative support for their work. They seem uninterested in user groups. Perhaps this is because faculty, who are typically independent and unused to collaborating with members of other departments, are unaware of the benefits of peer support. Offer Easy-to-Use Hardware & Software Faculty also make it very clear that both the hardware and software must be easy to use. They should also have a choice of technology options: portable equipment, simple slide presentation software, CD-ROM, videodisc, etc. Don't make multimedia seem harder than it is. Encourage faculty to use just one medium if it meets their needs and is appropriate to the course material. In addition to large, formal multimedia classrooms that many faculty may find intimidating, instructors should have the option of employing multimedia in small classrooms and more informal presentation methods. Examples include a simple slide show of scanned images or excerpts from a commercially available CD-ROM. Hardware and software should also be flexible. Most faculty object to "canned" lectures, which they often feel is what current multimedia software delivers. Hypermedia, on the other hand, requires an instructor to plan well in advance all media that will be linked to each "hyperbullet." Some faculty want software that allows for more interactive, spontaneous or simple presentations. Others adamantly dislike being "equipment operators" in the front of the room. For example, a problem with hyperbullets is that one must continually click on small areas of the screen and, therefore, be "chained" to the computer. (There are wireless mice and other devices that minimize this.) The bottom line is that instructors need a range of equipment options that allow them to use lecture styles with which they are comfortable. Surprisingly, a majority of faculty indicated they do not feel motivated to integrate technology by merit pay or promotion and tenure decisions. Perhaps they assume such recognition d'es not exist in traditional merit/promotion policies. At some schools, even good teaching g'es unrewarded. However, I believe that receiving rewards for developing courseware or integrating technology in the classroom is an important issue that needs to be resolved if faculty are going to adopt multimedia on a wide-scale basis. Conclusion Most faculty believe their mission is to help students understand information. Faculty also want to do a more efficient and productive job. If they believe technology is useful for their purposes, they will utilize it under the following conditions: They need time to develop materials; they want support; and they demand easy-to-use hardware and software. Martha Sammons, a professor in the department of English at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, is integrally involved in the university's multimedia integration projects. E-mail: Products mentioned: PODIUM; University of Delaware, Instructional Technology Center, Newark, Del. Toolbook; Asymetrix, Bellevue, Wash. Authorware Professional; Macromedia, San Francisco, Calif.

This article originally appeared in the 02/01/1994 issue of THE Journal.

THE News Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.