Multiple Media for the Classroom & Media Center

Multimedia has been used to describe a wide variety of computer-based systems, primarily the integration of video with text, still images, animations, other graphics, audio, etc. Interactive multimedia is a newer concept, but the benefits of its proper use are well documented. For example:

  • Harvard Business School uses a CD-ROM based multimedia course entitled "Managing International Business" as an aid in devising global strategies.
  • George Washington University teaches knowledge acquisition skills through a multimedia program called KARTT (Knowledge, Acquisitions, Research and Teaching Tool).
  • Anderson Consulting Co. has developed several multimedia training packages to teach basic business functions.

The Educational Technology Laboratory, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, S.C., has developed two multimedia programs for middle school students. Their purpose are:

  1. to encourage middle school students to explore various environmental careers, and
  2. to help students understand that high school is the place to start preparing for those careers by taking as many math and science courses as possible.

Based on statistics from 650 middle school students, both multimedia programs were very successful. Students enjoyed using them and they met their objectives. Their success is attributed to the following reasons, among others:

  • Detailed design plan with a realistic timeline;
  • A design team that held organized and frequent meetings;
  • Enthusiastic and cooperative educators and students; and a
  • Well-designed evaluation plan.

United States Military Academy, West Point, N.Y. (Department of Electrical Engineering - Computer Science) has developed an adaptive hypermedia interface based on individual studentsí learning styles. Initially, students had online access to a wide variety of multimedia tools including slides, a student response system, extensive graphics and sound files, animations and digital movies. However, this plethora of tools confused many students and the value of making all this multimedia available was questioned.

As a result, an adaptive hypermedia interface was developed that is based on the Felder Learning Style model. The Felder model defines five dimensions of learning, of which four are measurable: sensing/intuitive, visual/verbal, active/reflector and sequential/global. An assessment tool developed at North Carolina State University is used to determine each studentís learning style.

Consumer Vs. Other Users

Reaction of home users to multimedia as compared to business or education users was investigated by a study done at the Department of Communication and Information Studies, Queen Margaret College, Edinburgh, Scotland. Questions on issues such as content, multimedia elements, interactivity, ease of use, etc. were raised. In the results, interactivity and aesthetics were not rated particularly high by consumers. More important were searching capabilities and textual content.

Focus of multimedia activity has shifted to the World Wide Web. Improved tools, interactive functionality and broader bandwidth are available. Use of multimedia has grown in popularity due to the success of the Web. Web-oriented multimedia programming languages are emerging. For instance, Java allows programs to create applications that can include multimedia and interactive elements. Self-directed, self-paced multimedia modules, placed on the Web, are being accessed at various times and at locations suitable to the learner.

Interactive multimedia courseware is still difficult and time-consuming to develop. An interesting authoring system, HM-CARD, was demonstrated at the World Conference on Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia (Boston, Mass., June 1996) by H. Maurer, with the Institute for Information Processing and Computer-Supported New Media (IICM), Graz University of Technology, Austria.

HM-CARD is a hypermedia authoring system that enables authors to build interactive multimedia presentations and courseware combining text, graphics, animation, raster images, audio and video clips. Distributed by Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., HM-CARD has a built-in editor and provides a modular approach to the design of presentations and courseware. HM-CARD material can be used for "stand-alone" presentations or posted on the Web.

Need and desire for multimedia is growing. AT&T, Digital and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) are collaborating on a system to deliver interactive multimedia to in every household, either through radio frequencies, or from satellite systems, or wireless systems or fiber optic cables. Integrating audio and video on the same network as conventional text with graphical data promises exciting educational applications.

However, how and why we use this exciting new media are still most important. We must not forget what we want to convey.

This article originally appeared in the 02/01/1997 issue of THE Journal.