Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Elements of Multimedia in Education

It is very tempting to use the latest computer wizardry to represent information and develop computer enhanced learning materials. However, the instructional design of these systems should be based on a careful examination and analysis of the many factors, both human and technical, relating to visual learning. When is sound more meaningful than a picture? How much text is too much? Does the graphic overwhelm the screen? For a student, this allows them to test all of their skills gained in every subject area. Students must be able to select appropriate multimedia tools and apply them to the learning task within the learning environment in order for effective learning to take place.

A Multimedia Learning environment involves a number of components or elements in order to enable learning to take place. Hardware and software are only part of the requirement. As mentioned earlier, multimedia learning integrates five types of media to provide flexibility in expressing the creativity of a student and in exchanging ideas (See Figure 1).


Out of all of the elements, text has the most impact on the quality of the multimedia interaction. Generally, text provides the important information. Text acts as the keystone tying all of the other media elements together. It is well written text that makes a multimedia communication wonderful.


Sound is used to provide emphasis or highlight a transition from one page to another. Sound synchronized to screen display, enables teachers to present lots of information at once. This approach is used in a variety of ways, all based on visual display of a complex image paired with a spoken explanation (for example, art – pictures are ‘glossed’ by the voiceover; or math – a proof fills the screen while the spoken explanation plays in the background). Sound used creatively, becomes a stimulus to the imagination; used inappropriately it becomes a hindrance or an annoyance. For instance, a script, some still images and a sound track, allow students to utilize their own power of imagination without being biased and influenced by the inappropriate use of video footage. A great advantage is that the sound file can be stopped and started very easily.


The representation of information by using the visualization capabilities of video can be immediate and powerful. While this is not in doubt, it is the ability to choose how we view, and interact, with the content of digital video that provides new and exciting possibilities for the use of digital video in education. There are many instances where students, studying particular processes, may find themselves faced with a scenario that seems highly complex when conveyed in purely text form, or by the use of diagrams and images. In such situations the representational qualities of video help in placing a theoretical concept into context.

Video can stimulate interest if it is relevant to the rest of the information on the page, and is not ‘overdone’. Video can be used to give examples of phenomena or issues referred to in the text. For example, while students are reading notes about a particular issue, a video showing a short clip of the author/teacher emphasizing the key points can be inserted at a key moment; alternatively, the video clips can be used to tell readers what to do next. On the other hand, it is unlikely that video can completely replace the face-to-face lecture: rather, video needs to be used to supplement textual information.

One of the most compelling justifications for video may be its dramatic ability to elicit an emotional response from an individual. Such a reaction can provide a strong motivational incentive to choose and persist in a task.

The use of video is appropriate to convey information about environments that can be either dangerous or too costly to consider, or recreate, in real life. For example: video images used to demonstrate particular chemical reactions without exposing students to highly volatile chemicals, or medical education, where real-life situations can be better understood via video.


Animation is used to show changes in state over time, or to present information slowly to students so they have time to assimilate it in smaller chunks. Animations, when combined with user input, enable students to view different versions of change over time depending on different variables.

Animations are primarily used to demonstrate an idea or illustrate a concept. Video is usually taken from life, whereas animations are based on drawings. There are two types of animation: Cel based and Object based. Cel based animation consists of multiple drawings, each one a little different from the others. When shown in rapid sequence, for example, the operation of an engine’s crankshaft, the drawings appear to move. Object based animation (also called slide or path animation) simply moves an object across a screen. The object itself does not change. Students can use object animation to illustrate a point – imagine a battle map of Gettysburg where troop movement is represented by sliding arrows.


Graphics provide the most creative possibilities for a learning session. They can be photographs, drawings, graphs from a spreadsheet, pictures from CD-ROM, or something pulled from the Internet. With a scanner, hand-drawn work can be included. Standing commented that, “the capacity of recognition memory for pictures is almost limitless”. The reason for this is that images make use of a massive range of cortical skills: color, form, line, dimension, texture, visual rhythm, and especially imagination.

Read more: Multimedia in Education - Introduction, The Elements of, Educational Requirements, Classroom Architecture and Resources, Concerns