One Approach to Motivating Faculty to Use Multimedia


Build it, and they will come." A famous line from Field of Dreams may apply to baseball, but building "smart" classrooms d'es not always guarantee that they (faculty) will "come" to use multimedia presentations. The purpose of this article is to give some words of encouragement and guidance to those given the task of trying to get reluctant faculty members to integrate multimedia technology into their classroom presentations.

Many, such as Hirschbuhl[1] and Pinheiro and Oblinger,[2] feel that the use of multimedia-assisted instruction is the "wave of the future." Despite this observation, today's faculty are not highly motivated to start the transition process from traditional to multimedia classroom presentations. To encourage their faculty, many institutions of higher learning have built or upgraded existing facilities to create Educational Technology Equipped Classrooms (ETEC), or "smart" classrooms. After a sometimes significant financial outlay by the institution, it is reported that approximately only 2-3% of the faculty utilize these facilities.[3]

The traditional lecture continues to be the dominant vehicle to convey information to students. Why, as we approach the close of the 20th century, do faculty continue to use a teaching technology that predates the invention of movable type nearly one half a millennium ago?[4]

Some psychological researchers have found that given opportunities to change, even though the change is positive, it could trigger a behavioral observation referred to as "fear of failure." This phenomenon creates a state of reluctance for the individual to undertake a change in his/her repertoire since there is a possibility that the situation would create embarrassment or ridicule from students and colleagues. In this case, the comfort area remains with what is tried and true; no risk is involved or welcomed. Thus, the first step in assisting faculty in the transition process of using technology rather than continuing with their previous mode of classroom presentation, is to show them that technological change is worthwhile.

If faculty could be motivated to use multimedia computer-based technology, they would come to realize that there are numerous advantages. Three such advantages have been identified by Oblinger:[5]

  • Unlike the information on a chalk board, once information is put into the computer it is not easily erased.
  • Adding or updating lecture material stored in this medium is quick and easy. Whether the new material is text, video clips or still images, once put into the computer and assigned a file name, it is ready for use in the presentation.
  • It allows for consistent delivery of information "from section-to-section" or "instructor-to-instructor" in courses with multiple sections. This provides the assurance that, at the minimum, students receive basic required subject content even though the material is presented by a variety of faculty across many course sections.

Beyond Oblinger's thinking, other advantages include:

  • A by-product of faculty using this technology in the classroom is that students will be more inclined to use computer-based multimedia presentations during their school years (visual presentations; class projects) and post graduation (occupational endeavors).[6]
  • Unlike videotaped clips and photographed slides and prints, captured video clips do not lose their quality after numerous showings.
  • Unlike multimedia programs purchased off the shelf, multimedia presentations designed by the instructor are tailored to match the exact needs of the students and do not include information irrelevant to the course's instructional objectives. Customizing presentation material is a cost-effective way of addressing special adaptations that focus on target information while tapping into in-house resources.
  • With the proper multimedia equipment setup, the ways in which presentations can be delivered are limited only by the instructor's imagination.

Since there are numerous terms associated with multimedia technology, it would be appropriate to define the terms appearing in this article.

For this article, "multimedia" is defined as the computer-based use of text, graphics, pictures, animation, sound, and video in a presentation.

"Authoring" is computer software that assists the user in the individualized development of presentations by creating and/or linking files (text, bitmap graphics, and audio or video sequences) without the use of a complicated computer language. Four examples of authoring software appropriate for academia include: Authorware, Toolbook, PODIUM and Director.

Our Successful Approach

Multimedia has the ability of capturing the attention of a generation of students who have grown up with technology playing an increasing role in their lives and education.[1,4,5] To capitalize on this observation as well as the above advantages, we need to devise strategies for motivating faculty to at least try this new presentation mode.

A successful multimedia endeavor d'es not start with merely having the proper equipment. People are the main key to success.[5] First, there is the interested faculty member who provides the "academic vision." Next, an administrator provides funding and a reward system so that faculty do not get the feeling they are wasting their time. Then, an instructional designer assists in visualizing the stagnant verbal presentation. Finally, computer personnel are needed to maintain the technological infrastructure. Sammons suggests that this technical support must not only be available during the development period but also during classes and most definitely during evening hours.[1,3]

With this team in place, one would think the next logical step would be mass-training sessions with faculty on how to use authoring software packages. However, at Salisbury State University, a more successful approach has been to first expose faculty to authoring software and then identify the few interested faculty who would be willing to adapt advanced techniques into their lecture presentations. Having identified these individuals, the media team focuses their effort on this group by using a three-level training approach (see author's note).

Three-Level Training Approach

By focusing on faculty who are predisposed to learning and utilizing new instructional techniques, one creates at least a small core of teachers with these pertinent skills. From that base, it can grow.

Level I -- Basic

This level implies a "push-the-button, this-will-happen" outcome. At this first level it is mechanical, quick, predictable and effective in getting the message out. It serves a purpose for the majority of our classroom presentations and creates a foundation for those faculty who will be developing advanced presentations that will include video and sound clips, bit-mapped graphics, animation, etc.

At Level I, faculty are using low-end presentation type software or developing simple presentations such as text with colorful backgrounds. (Care must be taken to ensure that low-end presentation packages can save files in formats that will later be recognized by advanced authoring packages. Otherwise, faculty will have to redo their presentations to go beyond the basic level.)

Faculty will spend time transferring their notes and overhead transparencies to this medium and, after investing this effort, will expect that they will have the equipment or ETEC classrooms for use with their new presentations. Without this guarantee, faculty will quickly turn-off, some never to return. To reinforce faculty effort, authors such as Sammons who support multimedia in the classroom, suggest that faculty be encouraged to apply their new media skills in a classroom as soon as possible.[3]

Level II -- Intermediate

This level will give faculty the opportunity to incorporate creativity into their Level I presentations. In this step, more time is consumed at the 1:1 level in which faculty, working with an instructional designer, will learn multimedia mapping (planning the project, storyboarding) and will begin functioning cognitively on a multi-dimensional level. Sharing with colleagues will be a part of this process and will be at a "learning/ discovery" level, not an "expert" level.

Level III -- Advanced

This is the refinement stage, which tends to be an ongoing process. At this level, a faculty member will be considered an "expert" in applying his or her specific subject to a multimedia format. The product can then become a model for other faculty to use in adapting media to their particular presentations.

Our approach has been to first expose members to authoring software and then identify the few interested faculty who would be willing to adapt advanced techniques into their lecture presentations.

By Faculty -- For Faculty

The above concept, which focuses on getting reluctant faculty equipped to use multimedia, is referred to by Gillespie as BY FACULTY -- FOR FACULTY. This informal, sharing approach stresses that "since technology changes so quickly, there are no experts, therefore, there are no mistakes -- only creating and developing ideas." With this thought, faculty begin their experience in a relaxed state with no pressure and no unrealistic goals to meet. This allows them to enter the process at their own level and advance to more complex presentations when they are ready. In this program, all projects are valued and shared, no matter how basic or sophisticated they may be.

The title, BY FACULTY -- FOR FACULTY, expresses the heart of this process and gives the control to faculty, with support from designers and computer technicians who guide the way by anticipating and designing methods to support peripheral needs.

Initially, it may be difficult to get faculty to participate in a sharing process due to their limited time and resources. Sammons and Walker explain that increasingly, faculty are "faced with the challenges of larger classes, department responsibilities and research obligations."[3,7]

Therefore, it is the position of this writer that a reward system wherein faculty are recognized for their efforts may be the solution to this problem. Incentives, based on levels of performance, could include released time, to allow faculty to prepare multimedia courseware; monetary grants to supplement income; or funding to off-set the cost of purchasing supplies and equipment for multimedia project development.

Making the transition from a traditional to a technological teaching style is a big step for many faculty. With the proper support team, a colleague-sharing approach to provide basic exposure plus a non-threatening, creative environment, the reluctant faculty member will begin his or her passage into the "world of technology" with confidence.

The author would like to thank Drs. Mary Gillespie, James Replogle, Thomas Erskine and Anthony Curtis.

Grady Armstrong is an assistant professor in the School of Education and Professional Studies at Salisbury State University. Presently, he is one of the participants in the By Faculty -- For Faculty Program at the university.
E-mail: [email protected]

1. Hirschbuhl, J.J. (1992), "Multimedia: Why Invest?," Interactive Learning International, 8, pp. 321-323.
2. Pinheiro, E.J., Edwin, J., & Oblinger, D. (1993), Digital Multimedia, An IAT Technology Primer. (Report No. IAT-TPR-09). New York, NY: IBM Corp. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 358 855).
3. Sammons, M. (1994), "Motivating Faculty to Use Multimedia as a Lecture Tool," T.H.E. Journal, 21(7), pp. 88-90.
4. Waggoner, M. (1984), "The New Technologies Versus the Lecture Tradition in Higher Education: Is Change Possible?" Educational Technology, 24(3), pp. 7-12.
5. Oblinger, D. (1992), Introduction to Multimedia in Instruction, An IAT Technology Primer, (Report No. IAT-TPR-03). New York, NY: IBM Corp. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 358 855).
6. Fox, J.A. (1995), "Maya Mythology & Multimedia: Using Each to Teach the Other," T.H.E. Journal, 23(5), pp. 64-66.
7. Walker, A.D. (1993), Digitizing Images for Curriculum 21, Selected Readings from the 25th Annual Conference of the International Visual Literacy Association, (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 370-575).

Author's note: Interview December 1, 1995 with Dr. Mary T. Gillespie, Director of Instructional Media Center at Salisbury State University, about her BY FACULTY-FOR FACULTY program. Also, see Salisbury State University's Media Center brochure "The Power of Vision," 1995.

Products mentioned in this article: Authorware, Director; Macromedia, San Francisco, CA, (800) 288-4797, PODIUM; Instructional Technology Center, University of Delaware, Newark, DE, (302) 831-8164 Toolbook; Asymetrix Corp., Bellevue, WA, (206) 637-1500,

This article originally appeared in the 05/01/1996 issue of THE Journal.