Multimedia Design for Learning: Selected Articles

This work was done in anticipation of my work in the graduate course Developing Multimedia Materials at the George Washington University.

Design-based research: designing a multimedia environment to support language learning

Hung, H.-T. (2011). Design-based research: designing a multimedia environment to support language learning. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 48(2), 159-169.

Design based research is intended to be dynamically responsive to a learners’ needs in the given learning environment through iterative design, implementation, and assessment of theoretical research.

Using the term “multimedia” to refer to the range of available content, storage, programs and devices, Hung (2011), a researcher in English language learning, explored a multimedia language learning experience using video recordings to reflect on learners’ own oral presentations to assess their personal skills. In addition, the author sought to implement and analyse multimedia design principles proposed by Moreno (2006) and Chapelle (2005).

The author concludes with six guidelines that blend the two works and serve to guide multimedia development efforts:

  1. The input principle: comprehension is mediated through technology and instruction
  2. The output principle: learners produce representations of their understanding
  3. The noticing principle: learners employ technology tools to analyse their own learning
  4. The reflection principle: learners employ technology tools to reflect on their own learning
  5. The interactivity principle: learners employ technology to engage with people and content
  6. The multimedia principle: technology provides context for engagement with content


Creating a ripple effect: Incorporating multimedia-assisted project-based learning in teacher education

Seo, K. K., Templeton, R., & Pellegrino, D. (2008). Creating a ripple effect: Incorporating multimedia-assisted project-based learning in teacher education. Theory Into Practice, 47, 259-265. doi:10.1080/00405840802154062

The authors of this study are all involved in teacher education and explored attitude and skills development in multimedia use within the context of project-based learning (PBL) experiences. Requiring their students to design and develop multimedia projects, the teacher candidates were immersed technically, pedagogically, and socially. It is widely held that visual representation and interpretation of information is an essential skill; engaging in multimedia projects as consumer and producer fosters skill development with those communication tools.

The authors explore the benefits of multimedia in the context of PBL noting that the students are learning the course content in addition to developing skills with digital communication. For teacher education, this approach better prepares the learner for their own experiences in the classroom when they have their own students. Exposure to a variety of multimedia tools during teacher education contributed to increased comfort with the tools, and an increased likelihood that the tools would be employed for learning in schools. Additionally, the experience shifted thinking in teaching styles; teacher candidates could more easily accommodate the conceptual and practical shift from teachers as deliverers of information, to students as creators of knowledge.


Design and Implementation of a 3D Multi-User Virtual World for Language Learning

Ibáñez, M. B., Garcia, J. J., Galán, S., Maroto, D., Morillo, D., & Kloos, C. D. (2011). Design and Implementation of a 3D Multi-User Virtual World for Language Learning. Educational Technology & Society, 14(4), 2-10.

Recognizing that language learning is best accomplished through social engagement in a natural context, the authors explored the affordances of 3D virtual worlds (3D VWs) to meet this end. Using Open Wonderland, an open source virtual world authoring tool, Ibáñez et al (2011) generated virtual spaces with interactive objects, automated conversation agents, and social spaces for engagement with peers. In this context.

The authors first describe the kinds of activities best suited for 3D VWs including simulations, public events, collaboration, situated learning, role playing, and problem based learning. They go on to describe design considerations and processes in generating the interactive space and agents. Audio prompts and interactions can be anchored to a particular space or object, allowing learners to experience language situated in a context that aids comprehension.

Because of the social nature of the virtual learning space, learners generated unique avatars to serve as interaction agents within the virtual world and also contributed to the learners’ sense of social presence. The authors also tested immersive display and input tools but found they added a layer of complexity to the experience that hindered, rather than supported learning.


Can multimedia make kids care about Social Studies? The GlobalEd Problem-Based Learning Simulation

Ioannou, A., Brown, S. W., Hannafin, R. D., & Boyer, M. A. (2009). Can multimedia make kids care about Social Studies? The GlobalEd Problem-Based Learning Simulation. Computers in the Schools, 26, 63-81. doi:10.1080/0738056080268299

This paper explores a foundational question about multimedia in education: does it make a difference? While research supports the claim that multimedia makes information available and allows for communication in more diverse ways, it is less certain about positive impacts on learning achievement. The authors compared the learning experience of students engaged in an activity in which access to multimedia resources was controlled.

Results demonstrate that both groups learned and could demonstrate understanding of the content with the multimedia group scoring marginally higher than the text-based learners. Interest in the subject was not statistically different between the groups, nor was there any significant attitude difference toward the learning experience.

The authors acknowledge that the small sample size and inability to control some elements of program delivery across research sites may have generated flawed outcomes; they cautions about generalizations.


Cultural interpretations of the visual meaning of icons and images used in North American web design

Knight, E., Gunawardena, C. N., & Aydin, C. H. (2009). Cultural interpretations of the visual meaning of icons and images used in North American web design. Educational Media International, 46(1), 17-35.

The authors examined culturally influenced interpretations of menu icons from academic websites finding that intended meanings can be skewed or obscured when viewed through a cultural lens. Starting with an examination of how icons function symbolically, abstractly or representationally, they go on to explain how icon interpretations, as long as they fall within proximity of the intended meaning, will have served their purpose.

This study revealed that cultural impact was greater for icons intended to communicate affective meanings than it was for commands or processes. These influences reflect culturally different understandings of social stratification, individuality, gender, time-sense, and social morays. Balancing this is the emergence of a global internet culture in which shared understandings of icons is beginning to transcend these cultural interpretations. Nevertheless, this research supports the use of icons with simple conceptual representations; these are more likely to be culturally interpreted within the range of intended meaning.


Applying multimedia design principles enhances learning in medical education

Issa, N., Schuller, M., Santacaterina, S., Shapiro, M., Wang, E., Mayer, R. E., & DaRosa, D. A. (2011). Applying multimedia design principles enhances learning in medical education. Medical Education, 45, 818-826. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2923.2011.03988.x

It is reported in this empirical study that learners experiencing multimedia materials reflecting Mayer’s (2008) design principles demonstrated improved short-term memory over the control group. Measures of retention and transfer showed no statistically significant difference. The article includes examples of slides used in both test and control scenarios offering a useful visual comparison of test and control materials.


Analysis of elementary school web sites

Hartshorne, R., Friedman, A., Algozzine, B., & Kaur, D. (2008). Analysis of elementary school web sites. Educational Technology & Society, 11(1), 291-303.

The authors analysed elementary school web site content and describe broad categories of content found and some design features observed. They offer a checklist for both design and content to guide new site creation and improving existing sites.

Generally, elementary school websites share information about the school, share student work, provide resources for stakeholders, and offer data for internal and external use. Hartshorne et al rated elementary school web sites using a criteria checklist (included in the appendix) intended to target exemplary design and structural issues, and content elements as well as some general site considerations.

They determined that most elementary school websites fall short in some areas and would benefit from improvements as detailed in their checklist. Additionally, the authors offer procedural guides for web site development including a shared understanding of the website’s function and purpose, planning for current and future needs, use of accepted web design principles, usability, and communication affordances.


Emotional design in multimedia learning

Um, E., Plass, J. L., Hayward, E. O., & Homer, B. D. (2012). Emotional design in multimedia learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 104(2), 485-498. doi:10.1037/a0026609

Whereas learner emotion can add to cognitive load and interfere with learning, positive emotions may contribute to a heightened state of receptivity thus enhancing learning. The authors sought to determine if positive emotions could be evoked either prior to, or as a function of multimedia design, such that learner achievement was positively impacted.

In the experiment, either a positive or neutral emotional state was evoked externally as a function of a series of statements, or internally as a function of multimedia design. Examining learner achievement after evocation of the emotional state revealed positive effects in some cases.

In summary, inducing positive emotions during learning through positive emotional multimedia design had a positive effect on comprehension, transfer, mental effort, maintenance of positive emotional state, as well as perceived ease and perceived achievement.

These finding stand in opposition to other research suggesting emotional state introduces a cognitive load that can negatively influence learning. The authors offer their population of motivated students at a prestigious university as a possible factor limiting generalizability of the findings. They suggest that emotional design is worth pursuing and encourage further research into the topic.


A framework for Web 2.0 learning design

Bower, M., Hedberg, J. G., & Kuswara, A. (2010). A framework for Web 2.0 learning design. Educational Media International, 47(3), 177-198.

The introduction of Web 2.0 enabled easy interactivity amongst users making the internet a much more social and collaborative space. This article examines a variety of Web 2.0 tools and aligns them with elements of teaching and learning including content, pedagogy, modality, and synchronicity.

Technology is seen as the medium for information transmission relies on human engagement to bring meaning and purpose. Pedagogically, information can be transmitted and discussed, and used as a foundation for solitary or collective knowledge building. The Web 2.0 tools employed to engage with people and content are categorized and described in terms of their relation to different pedagogical approaches and learning strategies.

The authors also propose a design process by which Web 2.0 tools can be effectively matched to content, pedagogy, and representational modalities.


Using multimedia and Gagne's Instructional Design to enhance teaching and learning in a student-centered environment: A Malaysian experience

Neo, T.-K., Neo, M., Teoh, B., & Yap, W.-L. (2010). Using multimedia and Gagne's Instructional Design to enhance teaching and learning in a student-centered environment: A Malaysian experience. International Journal of Instructional Media, 37(4), 365-377.

The authors, in an effort to increase student participation, explored a constuctivist learning model designing an integrated web-based multimedia learning experience mirroring Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction (Gagne &Briggs 1974). Identical test were administered before and after the learning event revealing significant learning gains. A survey of student attitude and experience indicated positive learner satisfaction.

Some notable issues with this study includes a small sample size (n=42) and the absence of a control group against which performance can be compared. Repeating the same fifteen question test before and after learning introduces uncertainty as to the factors contributing to score increases. The student survey included in Table 2 does provide some good points to consider when designing multimedia learning experiences.


Effects on learners' performance of using selected and open network resources in a problem-based learning activity

Hsu, C.-K., Hwang, G.-J., Chuang, C.-W., & Chang, C.-K. (2012). Effects on learners' performance of using selected and open network resources in a problem-based learning activity. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(4), 606-623. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2011.01235.x

In problem-based learning (PBL) students explore, research, and determine solutions to the identified problem. PBL encourages student-performed research rather than direct instruction to locate, consume, and process appropriate content. As such, information sources play a critical role; determining whether open searching or searching teacher-curated sources leads to greater learning is the focus of this study.

Students accessing curated information sources spent less time searching and were able to identify and process relevant information more quickly than students accessing open resources. The authors suggest that search proficiency and source validation introduced challenges to those accessing open-resources. Curated systems may use proprietary search interfaces introducing a need for orientation and training beyond the target content.

In conclusion the authors suggest that digital libraries reduce cognitive load for learners allowing them to focus on processing content more than finding and vetting sources. Curating sources for beginners is important and, as learners develop search proficiency and the ability to validate sources, they can move to more open resources.


A toolkit for web-based course creation and conversion

Floyd, K., Hughes, K., & Maydosz, A. (2012). A toolkit for web-based course creation and conversion. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 30(4), 32-39.

With the growth of web-delivered distance learning and recognition that online distance learners are increasingly likely to have the technology and skills required for successful participation, the authors explore considerations for moving traditionally delivered content to online learning spaces.

Surveying existing literature for best practice in asynchronous online course development and project-based learning in higher education. They first determined that online distance learning could be effective citing studies indicating successful learning experiences, retention, transfer, and application as well as high levels of satisfaction. Next, the article outlines five areas to consider when converting traditional learning programs for online delivery. It should be noted the authors focused on highly standardised programs used for state certification and licensure so there was an obligation to maintain a high degree of fidelity to the original program.

The five “tools” recommended by the authors are:

  1. Be aware of web-based students’ performance and perceptions – several studies are summarised wherein it is shown that web-based learning can be just as effective as face-to-face learning.
  2. Create social presence through discussion groups and collaborative outcomes – a student’s connection to the larger learning community is linked to individual achievement and online learning increases participation.
  3. Moderate your presence – the degree and nature of instructor participation in discussion boards can either enhance or hinder discussion.
  4. Include project-based learning – this approach leverages the social affordances of online learning experiences and reflects constructivist learning pedagogies.
  5. Provide optimal feedback – feedback provided too quickly steers dialogue to learner-instructor, too late stagnates dialogue, too intense stifles discussion, just right can nurture and encourage deep discussion amongst learners.


For the next couple of years much of my time will be spent on coursework as I have enrolled in George Washington University's Graduate Certificate in eLearning, the first step toward completing the Masters Degree in Education Technology Leadership. In the spirit of learning in public, I plan to use my blog as a thinking and processing space. I'll use the #GWETL tag here on the blog and the same hashtag when tweets are course related. At the moment, I'm registered in Critical Issues in Distance Education and Computer Interface Design for Learning.

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