Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Heat up learning with planned targeted multimedia

So, you've got that first online course and all the content is there, but it's mostly text-based and rather ho-hum. You're worried that your students will be bored and would be embarrassed to let anyone else see it? Its not that you haven't worked hard to make sure the content is rigorous, and have made discussions on critical topics an important component... it just lacks content that would help learners with difficult concepts or encourage further engagement. You may have lots of great ideas, but little what do you do?

Targeted multimedia with planned implementation to the rescue! Most faculty I talk with are limited for time and although they may want to include more media and interactive content, they just can't seem to do it all. This is why a yearly plan for each course you teach is a good idea. It not only allows you to think about updating the curriculum, but also to enhance learning by including one new media piece. Make a five year plan and each year review the course's effectiveness and see where the problem areas are. if students are having a problem grasping certain concepts, think about choosing one or two and creating a learning component on just those areas.

Now if you have the luxury of having an instructional design department on your campus, you can provide the ideas and content and work with them to craft something that will be reusable. if you are on your own in this regard, find out exactly where the sticking point is and find the simplest way to create the media. It most likely doesn't have to be complex and you might not need expensive tools to accomplish it. Don't make it harder than it needs to be... just choose the media you can use or learn quickly and run with. Here are a few ideas: Perhaps a simple powerpoint including voiceover, A screen capture, Short video/webcam, or even a simple pdf with in depth explanations and visual examples.

Research by Paivio (1986) and Baddeley (1998) suggest that humans process information better when both auditory/verbal and visual/pictoral information is paired together. This is called dual channel or dual coding. if this theory holds true, using only one media mode may not be taking optimum advantage of this input. Low & Sweller (2006) and Mayer (2006) suggest that the use of narration works better than text when used in conjunction with graphics. However, if you provide too many media modes it may cause confusion and cognitive overload for learners. To reduce essential overload in the modality, visual channel narration can be substituted for animation (Mayer, 2005, Mayer & Moreno, 2003)


Baddeley, A. D. (1998). Human memory: Theory and practice. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Mayer, R.E. (2005). The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Mayer, R. E. & Moreno, R. (2003) Nine Ways to Reduce Cognitive Load in Multimedia Learning. Educational Psychologist, 38(1), 43-52.

Paivio, A. (1986). Mental representations: A dual coding approach. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.