asia pacific conference on education re-envisioning education innovation and diversity june 2 4 2003 national institute of education nanyang technological university singapore does multimedia really improve learning effectiveness paper presented by vivek kumar singh lecturer institute of technical education singapore the research on multimedia based educational methodology is often hyped to take over the traditional teaching methods however despite edison s grand prediction in 1922 that the motion picture is destined to revolutionize our educational system and that in a few years it will supplant the use of textbooks cited in cuban 1986 p 9 multimedia is yet to take over as the main means of education this paper will look into the definition of multimedia monomedia and redundant multimedia and reflect on the various aspects which affect the student-learning rate using multimedia both qualitative and quantitative analysis would be done regarding the effectiveness of multimedia as a means of education and entertainment often coined as edutainment while it has traditionally been found that multimedia improves student learning it may be a combined effect of the extra preparations done by the designer as well as the novelty of the approach such factors will be highlighted in this paper to give a better understanding of the reasons for multimedia s effectiveness and its long-term consequences this paper will also highlight the major areas in which multimedia can be used for accelerated learning and also the areas in which it would be redundant lastly this paper describes the various practical considerations which have been defining the rate of multimedia usage for education and how are they likely to change in the future.
introduction the modern research in the field of multimedia has often created an unwarranted hype about the superior nature of the multimedia-based learning compared to the traditional teaching methods however it is of paramount importance that modern day educationists realize the key factors behind the initial success of multimedia and decipher the key features that differentiate multimedia-based instruction from the traditional methods only after we go through this process would we be able to understand the long-term impacts of multimedia and also realize the ways in which we can create synergy between multimedia and education this paper would give definitions for the key terms in multimediabased education followed by a close examination the effectiveness of multimedia instructions based on qualitative and quantitative analysis multimedia is by no means a magic wand that would solve all educational problems we would closely examine the cases in which multimedia can be very useful and those in which multimedia would not be that useful however the actual reasons behind the success of multimedia-based learning might be the novelty or the better planning of content we would be looking closely at these factors conclude by highlighting the practical adoption issues in the usage of multimedia and what are the long-term impacts of multimedia usage in the field of education definitions multimedia multimedia is the combined use of text graphics animation pictures video and sound to present information in a coherent manner since these media can now be integrated using a computer there has been a virtual explosion of computerbased multimedia instructional applications monomedia monomedia stands for the use of one of the media viz text audio video graphics and animation for transferring information the use of multimedia is normally expected to increase the level of student learning compared monomedia however this may not always be the case and this paper would highlight the particular situation in which multimedia is better than monomedia redundant multimedia redundant multimedia refers to the extra channel for transferring information above and beyond the bare minimum required for example to explain the working of a diesel motor text can be used as a monomedia for explanation however if audio narration were used together with the text it would be considered as redundant multimedia the redundant multimedia once again may or may not improve the learning rate of students edutainment edutainment refers to the integrated use of several media such as text graphics audio video and animation for the combined purpose of education and entertainment edutainment represents the use of multimedia computing as the bridging gap between the educational and entertainment industries.
edutainment has the potential to create strong impacts on educational industry but only after its adoption issues are settled is multimedia education effective in this section we would closely examine if there is any empirical evidence to support the assertion that multimedia improves effectiveness we aim to derive scientific conclusions based on the various studies done by educationists at present the most commonly used education method is classroom lecture thus to ascertain the effectiveness of multimedia it would be reasonable to compare it with classroom lectures a number of studies cited in najjar 1996 have been conducted in the area to ascertain the effectiveness of multimedia instruction analysis has been done by bosco 1986 fletcher 1989 1990 khalili shashaani 1994 kulik bangert williams 1983 kulik kulik bangert-drowns 1985 kulik kulik cohen 1980 kulik kulik schwalb 1986 schmidt weinstein and niemic walberg 1985 by examining 200 over studies the information included sciences foreign languages and electronics the control group normally learnt the information via classroom or lecture combined with hands-on experiments the comparison group learnt information via interactive videodiscs or computer based instruction the achievement of learning was measured via tests taken at the end of the lessons over this wide range of students meta-analysis found that learning was higher when computer-based education was used learning also appeared to take less time when multimedia instruction was used kulik bangert and williams 1983 found one study that recorded an 88 savings in learning time with computerized instruction 90 minutes versus classroom instruction 745 minutes and another study that recorded a 39 savings in learning time 135 minutes for computerized instruction versus 220 minutes for classroom instruction kulik kulik and schwalb 1986 identified 13 studies in which students using computers mostly for tutoring learned in 71 less time than students in traditional classroom instruction in a comparison involving eight studies kulik kulik and cohen 1980 found that computer-based instruction took about 2.25 hours per week while traditional classroom instruction took about 3.5 hours a 36 savings in learning time the usage of multimedia has not always given good results for example in the severin 1967 study animal name recognition accuracy was highest when children were presented the names via simultaneous audio and pictures verbal and nonverbal channels however children who received the same information via audio and print two verbal channels did not outperform students who received the information via print alone verbal channel in a classroom test samuels 1967 found that a related picture accompanying a simple short story interfered with the ability of poor first grade readers to learn to read the 50 words in the short story in a laboratory study samuels 1967
presented words alone or words with identifying pictures to kindergarten children who were learning to read four words after the children saw each word or word and picture the experimenter read the word to the children when the experimenter tested learning using only words the children who saw only words performed better than the children who saw words with pictures for this latter test it appears that the pictures distracted the children a review of related literature samuels 1970 also concluded that pictures interfered with learning to read thus there is empirical evidence to suggest both the positive and negative effects of multimedia the key is to analyze these findings and find out the precise reasons and the situations in which multimedia is useful and in which it is not while multimedia seems to be improving the learning rate it is not a universal fact in the next section we would discuss the main conditions in which multimedia would be useful when is multimedia-based education useful multimedia-based education when used only in certain situations would maximize the returns using it in every circumstance would not give the desired results and also require huge amounts in infrastructure costs here we will be discussing three main scenarios when using multimedia instruction would be appropriate 1 when the students have low prior domain knowledge or spatial learning aptitude when multimedia is used with students who have low prior domain knowledge or spatial aptitude the multimedia helps the students in developing mental models and connect to the new knowledge domain they are better able to visualize the activities in the knowledge domain and learn from them on the other hand a student with high prior domain knowledge or high spatial aptitude would be able to create mental models of the knowledge domain without any external help and not gain anything from the use of multimedia thus the cost and the effort in multimedia instruction would go waste 2 when students have low motivation when dealing with students with low learning motivation it is very important to keep them interested in learning interesting lessons would keep the students interested and enable them to do their own self-directed learning and research tan and leong 2003 use of pictures animations and sounds can help in keeping the students interested in learning about a new domain the interactivity generated by the use of multimedia instruction would also help in motivating the students towards learning on the other hand highly motivated students might not need these audio-visual aids and be able to understand the instructions given in text format itself.
3 when effectively designed multimedia content is available this is indeed the most difficult aspect to deal with in the use of multimediabased instruction unless we have properly designed multimedia content there is no point in using it mayer and mareno suggest few key design principles in the creation multimedia instruction 1 multimedia representation principle it is better to present an explanation in words and text rather than text alone 2 contiguity principle-present the words and text contiguously rather than separately 3 split attention principle-when giving explanation present words as auditory narration rather than as visual on screen text 4 coherence principle-wherever possible it is better to use fewer words and pictures than using too many of them alternative explanations instruction s effectiveness for multimedia now that we are done with the preliminaries let us dig a bit deeper into the paradigm of multimedia-based education even though there seems to be a traditional belief that multimedia improves learning the actual reasons for improvement might be the age-old factors such as novelty and better organization of the content what multimedia does indeed is to provide a conducive environment for the utilization of the age-old factors to improve student learning instructional method multimedia-based instruction requires a lot more careful planning and execution than the normal classroom based teaching computer-based instruction may force the instructional designer to better organize and structure the learning material this improved information organization may be responsible for the learning advantages associated with computer-based multimedia instruction interactivity interactivity can be thought of as mutual action between the learner the learning system and the learning material computer-based multimedia instruction tends to be more interactive than traditional classroom lectures examinations of 75 learning studies by researchers bosco 1986 and fletcher 1990 found that people learn the material faster and have better attitudes toward learning the material when they learn in an interactive instructional environment so the learning advantage of computer-based multimedia instruction over traditional classroom lecture may be due to the increased interactivity of multimedia instruction rather than the multimedia information itself control of learning pace
computer-based multimedia instruction allows the learner to personally set the pace of learning traditional classroom instruction does not self-paced learning is probably a more effective way to learn because the learner can move on to new material when the learner is ready so control of the learning pace is another possible explanation for the learning advantages associated with computer-based multimedia instruction novelty information presented via multimedia may be more novel and stimulating than information presented via traditional classroom lecture this explanation has some support from empirical studies analysis of nearly 40 multimedia najjar 1996 studies found that compared to traditional classroom lecture learning improvements were higher for groups that used multimedia for four weeks or less but the learning advantage tailed off fairly strongly after eight weeks the initial higher learning advantages for multimedia may have been due to the novelty of the multimedia instruction as students became more familiar with the multimedia however the novelty wore off and the learning advantages decreased it appears that the novelty of multimedia information has a slight temporary positive effect on learning current situation a significant impetus is being given to the use of multimedia in the asia pacific education sector there are initiatives to provide quality content in all areas of education to improve student learning bbc is using interactive cd-roms to teach english in china india has a national television channel facilitated by the university grant commission to provide video based education for the masses including the rural population in australia a number of universities are using multimedia-based instruction to enhance their teaching university of melbourne has an agenda to give utmost priority to integrating advanced multimedia and related educational technologies into curriculum design and delivery back home in singapore an increasing impetus is being given to improve the quality of education by providing multimedia-based education ministry of education has a strong it master plan for education under which 2:1 pupil computer ratio and 30 it-based curriculum has already been implemented the ministry of education has a website for students to watch educational videos and be entertained while they are learning thus realizing the vision of edutainment on the higher education front institute of technical education has launched an e-tutor initiative to provide interactive multimedia-based content via its student portal national university of singapore has an integrated virtual learning environment ivle for its students to interact discuss and learn through its learning portal it has also launched singapore-mit alliance a pioneering initiative in which students in singapore participate in classes at the
massachusetts institute of technology through a two-way web based interactive video setup thus we realize that there is a major amount of focus being put in by the educational sector to harness the power of it-based multimedia education however an interesting point to note is that in all these cases the multimediabased instruction is being used to enhance and compliment the classroom education but not to replace it so why is multimedia-based education not replacing classroom education edison had made a grand prediction in 1922 that motion picture is destined to revolutionize our educational system and that in a few years it will supplant the use of textbooks cited in cuban 1986 however multimedia has still not taken over as the main means of education in this section let us look into a few practical adoption issues which are preventing multimedia from taking over classroom education technology multimedia-based education often requires the best in the technology in the form of computers graphic accelerators speakers and broadband internet connections while these features might no longer be a major obstacle in first world countries third world countries need at least 20 more years to be equipped with all the modern technological infrastructures the instructional design another important requirement is the correct use of instructional design to create innovative interactive multimedia content there are not enough instructional designers at the right places to create multimedia content which can be used for the entire student population badly developed multimedia content is definitely worse than our traditional classroom educational methods as it would decrease the student learning rate rather than increasing it high costs even though the technology might be available to the educational institutions the high initial and overhead costs might act as a major deterrent to the implementation of multimedia-based education providing computers and broadband connection to all students would cost exorbitant amounts of money which is out of the reach of many educational institutions competition and intellectual property rights in the nascent multimedia educational industry already there are a large number of entrants low barriers to entrance and widespread hype about the future of multimedia learning are causing a number of companies to enter the multimedia
content development industry and provide content this competition is definitely helping in bringing down the prices but is also reducing the quality of the content too many players in a small fragmented market would definitely not be able to survive another issue arising out of this competition is the intellectual property rights issue the companies need to create all the material right from the scratch on their own or face the severe anti piracy laws inertia as newton rightly pointed out it is an inherent property of all objects to resist change it would be difficult to change the way academic staffs teach their courses deden and herrignton 2002 it would be difficult to change the way students learn and also difficult to get employers to recognize new forms of education emerging due to multimedia-based education thrust such as online degrees thus it would be a long time before we can see a full-fledged multimedia-based educational scenario conclusion in this discussion we have understood clearly the meaning of the key terms used in the multimedia education realm we found empirical evidence to prove that in many cases multimedia instruction enhances learning however there are also many other situation in which multimedia does not contribute towards learning we also learnt about the scenarios like low domain knowledge or motivation in which usage of multimedia would really be useful we also found that there are different explanations like novelty or interactivity possible as the actual reasons behind the observed improvements in learning using multimedia however not withstanding these factors multimedia instruction creates the opportunity to use these factors cohesively to improve learning and must be given the due credit there is a significant amount of work being done in the asia-pacific education sector to improve the quality of education using multimedia however the practical adoption issues such as high costs or inherent inertia are preventing multimedia instruction from becoming the method for mass education considering all the above-mentioned factors there is definite evidence to suggest that multimedia does improve learning effectiveness in certain situations however the key point is to understand those key situations and tailor multimedia content for those situations the author does not see multimedia instruction replacing the current classroom education method in the near future the multimedia instruction would in fact continue to act as a major booster to enhance learning in few key situations.
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