Multimedia Resources Essay

Using Electronic Resources for Teaching
an excerpt from The Chicago Handbook for Teachers: A Practical Guide to the College Classroom by Alan Brinkley, Betty Dessants, Michael Flamm, Cynthia Fleming, Charles Forcey, and Eric Rothschild

Computers and related electronic resources have come to play a central role in education. Whatever your feelings about what some have called the digital revolution, you must accept that many, perhaps most, of your students are fully immersed in it. At the very simplest level, you will rarely receive a paper or other assignment from a student that has not been written with the help of a computer. Most of your students will have considerable experience with the Internet and will, whether you like it or not, make use of it for much of their academic work. Many of them will be accustomed to using e-mail as a normal form of communication. But it is not just students who find electronic resources valuable. Teachers can benefit from these resources as well, by employing a series of useful tools.

We stress the word "useful" because electronic resources complement, but seldom replace, more conventional teaching techniques. Electronic tools can make classes more efficient; lectures more compelling, informative, and varied; reading assignments more extensive, interesting, and accessible; discussions more free ranging and challenging; and students' papers more original and well researched. Only you, however, can judge if these techniques advance your own teaching goals.

Five Promising Uses of New Technology

Of the many electronic teaching techniques that instructors have found useful, we have chosen five that we believe seem particularly likely to help significant numbers of teachers. All of these techniques demand an investment of time if they are to succeed, and your willingness to use them should be balanced carefully against other, perhaps more important, teaching priorities. But for each technique, there are both simple and complex ways of proceeding, and we will try to make clear the respective advantages and disadvantages.

The five ways in which we suggest teachers consider using electronic resources involve tasks that you will usually have to perform in any case. New technologies can help you perform them better and more easily:

  • Administration: The routine administration of courses (advertising a class, providing copies of the syllabus, assigning discussion sections, and getting out course news) can be more efficiently handled with a course home page, electronic discussion groups, and e-mail lists. These tools can also dramatically improve the continuity and the community aspects of courses, helping students to engage with and learn from each other and even from people outside the course.
  • Readings/sources: The Web and CD-ROMs provide a wider variety of secondary and primary sources (including visual and audio sources) than has previously been available. With your guidance, your students can now gain access to materials that were once accessible only to experts because they were too cumbersome to reproduce for classroom use or too expensive for students to purchase. By taking their own paths through these sources, students can bring their own evidence and arguments into lectures and discussion sections, as well as write on a wider range of research topics.
  • Papers/presentations: Rather than performing assignments and taking exams from the teacher alone, students can perform more independent exercises in publishing, exhibit building, or assembling and presenting teaching units and other materials for their peers. A web archive of several terms' work can make the course itself an ongoing and collaborative intellectual construction.
  • Lectures: A computer with presentation software can provide a single tool for augmenting lectures with outlines, slides, statistical charts and tables, images, music, and even video clips. In addition to printing them as handouts, you can save in-class presentations in a web-compatible format for later review and discussion.
  • Discussion: Electronic discussion tools such as e-mail, conferencing software, and on-line chat services can seed discussion questions before the class meets, draw out your shy students, and follow up on discussions or questions on the reading between classes. For courses without face-to-face discussion sections, these tools can bring the course to life over great distances and help overcome scheduling difficulties.

In the sections below, we discuss each of these techniques and how you might consider using them.

The Necessary Tools

What you need will depend, of course, on what you want to do. Most teachers have computers, and most have at least some access to e-mail and the Internet. In many schools and universities, most students do, too. Many teaching opportunities are likely to be available to you, therefore, using equipment you and your students already have. Other techniques require more advanced technologies that you may or may not wish to purchase on your own, and that your institution may or may not make available to you. It should be obvious, therefore, that you should make no plans for using electronic tools before making sure that both you and your students will have access to the necessary technology.

But owning, or having access to, technology is usually only a first step. Even more important is learning how to use it. This is one of the biggest challenges facing anyone who wishes to use electronic tools, because the knowledge is not always easy to acquire. Many people, of course, are highly skilled in computer technology and know how to teach themselves to do almost anything. But many other people have limited computer skills, are easily intimidated by new and unfamiliar tasks, and tend to avoid doing anything that requires them to learn something very different from the things to which they are accustomed. If you fall in the latter group but wish to expand your ability to use electronic tools, you need to find help. Some institutions offer extensive assistance through their computer centers or their information technology services. Some departments have staff members or graduate student assistants who are hired to handle computer-related problems. There are also many excellent reference works to help you learn about various electronic tools. Just as you must be sure that you have the necessary technology at your disposal before you decide to use electronic tools in your teaching, so you must also make sure that you have access to the necessary help in learning to use it.

Keep in mind, finally, that the technology associated with computers and the Internet changes with breathtaking speed. Although certain skills will remain useful to you over long periods of time, there will be many things that will have to be relearned time and time again. The rapidity of change in this field can be bewildering and intimidating. But it is also the source of some valuable innovations that can be of great use to you.

Before introducing new teaching techniques, therefore, it is wise to make a quick inventory of your own and your school's electronic teaching resources. You will not want to discover halfway through a project that there are major obstacles such as insufficient equipment, inadequate support, or negative professional incentives. Answering a few simple questions can help you determine how practical and promising your planned innovations in electronic teaching are likely to be. While some answers may lie as close as your departmental colleagues, others might require conferring with departmental administrators, librarians, or computer support organizations.

  • Does your school have a web page? What courses have material on-line? Which departments and faculty have web pages? Where are they stored? (One source for help in understanding how your institution's web site works is the person who is in charge of constructing it, usually known as the webmaster. If your school has a web site, look at the bottom of the home page or on the credits page of the site to find the e-mail address of your webmaster.)
  • What kinds of computers and Internet access do students have? Do most students own their own computers? If not, are there long waits for access? Twenty-four-hour computer labs? Provisions for off-campus students? What software is on these computers? And what Internet browser (and version) do students typically use?
  • Has your school purchased or is it planning to purchase a standard software package to manage the creation of course web pages? These tools offer simple fill-in-the-blank on-line forms to allow you to place standard course material on the Internet, after which the program creates the course home page for you. If not, is there a school style sheet or recommended format for course pages? Does your school recommend or support any particular software for web pages? For presentations, word processing, spreadsheets, and databases?
  • What staff is available to assist instructors with educational technology? Are there any work-study students or teaching assistants trained for new media support? What handouts or on-line guides have been prepared for electronic teaching?
  • Are there particular classrooms designed for multimedia presentations? Do any classrooms have Internet access? Are classes that are making use of this technology given extra technical or financial support?
  • Are there special funds or professional recognition for innovative uses of technology in teaching? Are any of your colleagues working on grants that support electronic teaching? What is the attitude of your department and of school officials to this activity?
  • Does your institution have a plan for on-line course materials? Does the school have distance learning plans (methods by which students with on-line access can take courses remotely)? How is your department's teaching and funding going to be affected by these plans?
  • What can you use on the Internet? The new media is so new that no clear guidelines have been established for determining fair use and copyright policies for on-line teaching materials. In general, however, the same copyright rules that govern photocopied packets and other more familiar teaching tools are likely to apply to on-line material. You should, however, identify the office or officer at your institution responsible for monitoring such policies.
  • Will your on-line materials belong to you? Investigate your institution's policies (or ask for one to be made) on whether you or the school owns your on-line materials. This is especially important if you are investing considerable creative time and energy, making heavy use of university equipment and staff, or may wish to take the material with you to another institution.

The Course Home Page

A course home page can serve several functions. Even before the course begins, it can advertise your course to prospective students. Before and during the term it can reduce demand for paper copies of course materials. More importantly, it can present a broader range of material than paper handouts would by including multimedia material and on-line sources. As its name implies, a home page can act as a twenty-four-hour communications center for news, assignments, and discussions. Indeed, it can play host to the four other electronic techniques discussed below.

Before you create a home page for your course, you should first carefully define its scope and content. It is best to start simply and enhance your site in stages to benefit from experience and feedback. The simplest sites consist of a single page reproducing the traditional paper syllabus. The next, more useful level includes separate pages or sections for paper assignments, section lists, and hyperlinks to readings and sources. The most advanced sites, such as those for distance learning courses, can include all the materials needed for the course: lectures, readings, audio and video recordings, exams, and evaluations.

As with most projects, a good outline and definition of your web site can save many hours of revisions and false starts. Ask a few basic questions before you start:

  • What are the goals of your site? Is it going to perform administrative chores? Advertise the course? Introduce unique materials? Publish and archive student work? Answers to these questions should shape the design and scope of your site.
  • What are the features you like and dislike about existing course sites at your school and on the Internet? What institutional support, standards, and tools might guide your efforts?
  • What traditional materials will go on the site? Syllabus, assignments, handouts, bibliographies, slides, maps?
  • What multimedia or otherwise cumbersome material might be easily included on a web page? Sound recordings, images, video, statistical data?
  • Which of your readings are available or could be made available on-line? Are there reputable Internet sources on a particular topic? Can you scan material into your site without violating copyright laws?
  • Will the home page host student publications, lecture materials, or on-line discussions?
  • Which of these items is essential to meeting your goals? Which could be saved for a second, third, or fourth stage? Which have little educational value and should be dropped?
  • What are logical divisions for all this material? Home pages should usually limit their initial menus to seven or fewer choices.

When you set out actually to create a course home page, you will have a number of methods from which to choose. You may have access to someone expert at transferring material from word processing files to a web-compatible format; in this case, prepare your material using a word processor, making sure to use simple formatting that will translate easily to the Web. (Italics and bold are best; underlining can create problems.) Then give it to whoever is transferring the material to your web site. If you are constructing the web page yourself, look for assistance—in computer manuals or from a knowledgeable colleague or student—in using the various editing tools available. These may include schoolwide fill-in-the-blanks courseware; a word processor capable of opening and saving files in HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), the computer language in which web pages are written; a simple text editor for working directly in HTML; or specialized HTML editors such as Microsoft FrontPage or Netscape Composer, which provide a word processor-like interface for composing pages.

The most successful course web sites use the unique capabilities of the medium to provide material not available to students in other forms. This could include hyperlinks (words or phrases, usually in a different color type, which will take students to other web sites with a simple click of the mouse button) to on-line readings, lecture outlines, or even sample exam questions that are not otherwise distributed to the class.

Whether you have constructed your web site yourself or had someone else do it for you, you should proofread your pages very carefully, test to make sure all the links work, and keep a careful eye on the overall size of your pages and individual images. Because web sites often look different on various computers, you should also try to view your pages in as many different browsers as possible, especially in the Macintosh and Windows computer labs that the students might be using. If you have students who commute to campus, you should try to get access to your course materials from off campus using a modem (which connects computers to the Internet using a telephone line) to ensure that your pages and graphics can be displayed efficiently on computers not directly connected to your institution's network.

Once you have constructed a web site, make an effort to publicize it. Be sure that it is listed in all the proper places on your school's web site—that there are clear links to it from, for example, your department's home page. Put the site's Internet address (known as a URL) on your paper course materials. Describe the site to your students on the first few days of class, write the URL on the board, and indicate whether and where they can get help finding and using the Web.

Electronic Sources

For the moment, at least, textbooks and monographs have little to fear from on-line competition. Few students or faculty will submit to reading long passages of text on a computer screen. But many classrooms can benefit from electronic resources in at least two areas: supplementary readings and primary sources. Even the best published readers or photocopied packets tend to dampen the thrill of discovery because they have been preselected and packaged for a particular purpose (seldom your own). Electronic sources, whether on CD-ROM or the Web, can significantly open up the range of materials accessible to your students.

There are a wide variety of electronic resources that can be useful for the classroom. Among the most popular have been CD-ROM document collections such as Chaucer: Life & Times; Pennsylvania Gazette, 1728-1783; and Presidential Papers: Washington-Clinton. Textbook publishers are increasingly providing electronic study guides, map exercises, sample presentation slides, and computerized test banks on CD-ROM, floppy disks, or even on the Web. Some schools are producing, or arranging access to, large collections of digital materials.

The most extensive, if still not fully developed, source for electronic resources is the World Wide Web. Many web sites can deliver primary documents, secondary literature, sound, and images from a wide variety of sources. Students who explore web sites related to a course can bring compelling evidence and arguments back to the class. Publishers are building companion web sites around their textbooks, and large international projects have been launched to provide on-line sources for standard humanities and social science survey courses. Finally, libraries and scholars are making scanned materials accessible over the Web, although the copyright implications of this practice require close attention.

In both cases, these relatively new forms of material require some special handling. You should approach selecting electronic sources for your course with the following guidelines in mind:

  • Ensure that all electronic assignments contribute to the objectives of the course. The new materials should pass the same relevance test as traditional material.
  • Personally evaluate the scholarly quality of your electronic sources. Although linking to electronic sources might be free, one substandard source can lower the credibility of the course.
  • Use the appropriate medium. Can these materials be more easily or effectively used in a more traditional form? Try to use the Web for things that it can do particularly well: displaying multimedia material, hyperlinking to other sources, providing interactive experiences, or improving access to otherwise cumbersome or distant materials. As on-line archives begin providing access to recordings and radio and television programs, its possible value to teachers will increase even further.
  • When dealing with massive collections of primary documents, make the task of using them more manageable by discussing ahead of time the particular questions the collection might help answer. Then divide the class into groups, each of which will explore the archive with a particular question in mind. Short review papers, web-page postings, or in-class presentations can enable each group to share small numbers of documents, images, and other artifacts that address the question or theme they have chosen.
  • Reinforce traditional research skills. Using on-line information requires at least as much skill and discipline as using traditional sources. Just because students can "cut and paste" from on-line sources, the process of researching and writing is not fundamentally different from that for a project that uses more traditional sources. Encourage students to take the same detailed notes and to follow the same strict citation procedures they use for conventional printed sources.
  • Mix traditional and electronic sources. Require students to consult traditional printed and microform source material as well as electronic resources. Most valuable sources will not be digitized any time soon, if ever, so student research should include at least as many traditional sources as electronic ones. Students wedded to the Internet sometimes tend to assume that they need never use a traditional library; some act at times as if they think information that is not on the Web does not exist. Be sure that you structure assignments in a way that does not sever your students' ties to the most important sources of scholarly material.
  • Caution your students to be especially critical readers of on-line sources. Explain the Web's fluid (or nonexistent) editorial standards and the need to determine the standards, origin, and scholarly discipline that went into the creation of each on-line source. Virtually anyone can create a web site, and there is no review process to test sites for accuracy or reliability unless the creator of the site initiates one. To avoid the problems such lax standards can cause, you should heavily emphasize the on-line offerings of established libraries, archives, and universities.
  • To ensure that your students become critical consumers of on-line material, consider having them complete a quick questionnaire after reading the first electronic resource of the term. Ask them to identify the author of the material, give the address (URL) for the site, and comment on the scholarly methods and reputation of the sponsoring organization or individual. Have them try to discover how long a site has been in existence and how long the reference will remain on-line. Will more material be added or corrections made? How should they cite this material in their papers, and can they be sure the material will still be at that location? A short discussion of the answers in class will counteract many of the sources of confusion and disappointment.

Electronic Publishing of Student Work

Ordinarily, when students write essays or research papers for a course, they write for an audience of one: the instructor. But teachers who have persuaded students that they are writing for a broader audience have found that students take the work more seriously and devote a great deal more effort to it. Creating a system of on-line publications for your course, or for your department, can have a tremendous impact on student engagement with scholarly work. On-line publishing also creates opportunities for student collaboration, and for students to take a more direct and responsible role in the learning process than they otherwise might. Another thing that makes electronic publishing valuable is that it exposes students to the stylistic constraints and opportunities of the new digital media. Already, a considerable portion of this nation's business, scholarly, and personal communication occurs through e-mail, the World Wide Web, and private networks of computers. A number of important periodicals, such as Salon Magazine and Microsoft's Slate, exist primarily or solely on-line.

The range of electronic publishing techniques you use in your course depends largely on the technical skills, resources, and imagination of you or your class. Students have performed the following with considerable success:

  • Multimedia in-class presentations: A student uses a presentation program to supplement a standard spoken presentation with images, charts and graphs, or sound.
  • Essays in the form of World Wide Web pages: While even a traditional text essay might be posted for comment, the best web essays will make use of the Web's unique ability to incorporate multimedia elements.
  • Web teaching units for your class or other classes: Students can become teachers by sharing their research and analysis with the class or with an outside audience (including secondary and primary school classes).
  • Web exhibits: By emulating the form and rigor of museum and library exhibits, students can produce a classroom and community resource on their topic.
  • Collaborative projects: All of the above projects lend themselves to collaborative work by groups of students.
  • Classroom archive/library: Over the years, a digitally savvy course might accumulate an excellent library of digital student essays, teaching units, exhibits, and dialogues.

The promise of electronic publishing is almost evenly matched by its perils. The following steps will help you avoid the most common pitfalls:

  • Establish and communicate the pedagogical goals of the assignment. You should justify deviation from traditional forms of student work by establishing that the innovation will improve the students' knowledge, skills, or learning experience.
  • Make the assignment appropriate to the medium. Most rewarding are assignments that make use of multimedia sources, hyperlinks, and collaboration with resources or people over the Internet. For text-only essays, ensure that the students' classmates or an outside scholar or peer comments on the published papers.
  • Provide appropriate technical and stylistic support. Even if the assignment is voluntary, many students will need help with the new requirements of publishing on-line or preparing multimedia presentations. Arrange for help from your school's computer department, devote a particular class to a group tutorial, or devote a portion of your office hours to technical assistance. Teaching computing skills in non-computer science classes is a controversial practice; be sure not to allow the technology to overwhelm the substance.
  • Keep technological hurdles as low as possible. If possible, use web page templates, simple submission forms, and any other aid that can keep the focus of the class on the subject matter and not the tools. Keep abreast of the range of technical skill among your students through classroom and schoolwide surveys, or even a show of hands on the first day of class.
  • Arrange campus, local, scholarly, or international exposure for your students' work. The publishing aspect of the Web is too often assumed to happen spontaneously. A moderate effort at planning how to distribute and publicize your students' work can ensure that students feel their publications have been taken seriously.
  • Integrate and archive student work on the course home page. Many students appreciate contributing to the knowledge of the class and to the learning experience of their peers. A gallery of past student work is also effective advertising of your course to prospective students. Pay careful attention to privacy issues regarding student work; school policy and privacy laws may require pseudonyms and anonymous entries when student work is exposed to an outside audience. Certainly nothing should ever be published without the express permission of its author.

As promising as these new media forms might be, the lack of clear standards for evaluating this work has sometimes hampered their adoption. Teachers are comfortable guiding and evaluating students on traditional essays and presentations. Multimedia presentations or web pages require even more explicit guidelines to avoid highly uneven results. Electronic projects should fulfill the assignment, make appropriate use of multimedia material, conform to on-line style conventions, and respect the diversity and size of their potential audience.

Multimedia Lecturing

Despite several generations of harsh criticism, lecturing remains one of the most common, and often one of the most effective, means of teaching. At its best, a lecture enlivens academic subjects with the instructor's energy and curiosity and with the persuasive nuances of human speech. Nevertheless, lecturing has its limits, most notably the reputed twelve-minute average human attention span, the difficulty of representing complex material verbally, and the awkwardness of presenting diverse, multimedia sources.

These challenges have already led teachers to use chalkboards, overhead and slide projectors, and audiovisual equipment. Some schools are beginning to provide classrooms equipped with built-in or portable multimedia computer systems. You can take advantage of the electronic possibilities for lecturing by familiarizing yourself with the most popular and powerful computerized classroom tool: presentation software such as Microsoft PowerPoint. Business presenters were the early adopters of this software, driven by the less captive nature of their audiences. Teachers have recently begun to use such programs to consolidate into one device the presentation of multimedia material that supplements their lectures.

The basic concept behind presentation software is a familiar one; it is the same as that for the slide show or overhead transparencies. The most elementary use of presentation programs is as a glorified slide projector to display a sequence of pictures or documents to accompany your lecture. When using computerized presentation, however, you can easily add captions to the images, digitally highlight or annotate them, or combine multiple images on a single "slide." Teachers who distribute lecture outlines or write them on the board might want to include that text on a projected slide.

At their most advanced, these programs can allow teachers to add sound, video, and even interactive charts and graphs to slides. You might, for example, project a map that demonstrates various changes as you advance along a time line. If the classroom computer system has Internet access, you can hyperlink your slides to World Wide Web resources, effectively incorporating that material into your lecture.

The use of presentation software in the classroom requires careful planning and a not inconsiderable investment of time. You should be prepared to take some or all of the following steps:

  • Determine whether you have access to the equipment and special classrooms necessary to display electronic presentations. At a minimum, you will need a laptop computer, a projection device compatible with your software and hardware, and a classroom with a convenient electrical outlet, dimmable lights, and an appropriate screen. Check that the computer is capable of producing all the effects you plan for the class such as sound, video, or Internet access.
  • Ensure that your own computer equipment will allow you to create and maintain these presentations. Manipulating multimedia resources requires a relatively powerful computer and, with some exceptions, a modern graphical operating system such as the Macintosh Operating System or Windows.
  • Acquire a presentation program. Many of the more popular office suites (for instance, from Microsoft, Corel, or Lotus) include them. Your campus may already have purchased licenses to one or more of these products. Finally, check to make sure your choice is compatible with the systems installed in classrooms.
  • Write or revise your lectures with the multimedia slide show in mind. Begin to collect compelling pictures and artwork, explanatory maps and charts, music clips, even short videos that might enhance your analysis. Evaluate which of these materials can be rendered in digital form, and consider the copyright implications—if possible by discussing them with the relevant experts in your school. When preparing text for your presentation—headings or explanatory captions—use simple clauses and standard fonts (for example, Arial or Times New Roman) to ensure that your presentation will look the same regardless of what computer you are using. The best font size for headings is twenty-four point, although you can use thirty point or higher if you wish.
  • Be sure to calculate how long a visual or audio presentation will take and how much of a reduction in the other parts of your lecture may be necessary.
  • Digitize the material that best advances your teaching goals. Your campus may have a central lab for digitizing materials, and you might find some of the equipment affordable enough for a department or individual to own. Make the file size of the slides as small as possible, even if it means sacrificing a little of the display quality. These images and sounds will typically be experienced on a large screen or in a noisy room, so fine details might be lost in any case.
  • Keep the design of your electronic slides simple and efficient. Include only material that directly supports the point you are making in the lecture. Eliminate all unnecessary special effects, backgrounds, and animation.
  • Proofread and test your presentations thoroughly on your machine and in the classroom. Pay special attention to the legibility and overall quantity of text on your slides. And be sure your work is stored in at least two different places. Concentrating your multimedia material on one machine or one disk may be convenient, but this also creates a single point of failure in the notoriously fickle personal computer.
  • Have a backup plan. Make sure that you will be able to deliver the main substance of your lecture whether or not everything works perfectly. In the case of equipment failure, do not waste class time trying to solve the problem.
  • Plan to publish your slide shows on the course home page, if you have one. While traditional slide shows are difficult to reproduce for absent students or to review at exam time, many presentation programs offer a relatively simple procedure for publishing your show on the Web.
  • Use electronic resources to help encourage student participation during your lectures—for example, by presenting a variety of images, primary documents, or other materials that could form the basis for an in-class debate or conversation.

Electronic Discussions

Perhaps the most controversial (and probably the most common) application of technology is as a supplement to or replacement for face-to-face conversation. Small group discussions are an irreplaceable forum for teaching, learning, and thoughtful collaboration. They are not, however, without problems. Small discussion groups are an expensive way to organize teaching, and as a result they are becoming less common in some of the budget-conscious schools and universities of our time. Some students—shy people, or those who are not native English speakers—are uncomfortable in small group discussions and do not actively participate in them. Students speaking in a classroom setting can make superficial contributions that would have benefited from more advance preparation. On-line discussions can help compensate for these problems.

On-line discussion tools fall into two basic categories: synchronous (chat) and asynchronous (e-mail, mailing lists, and threaded discussions). In a synchronous discussion, students in effect talk to one another over the Internet in much the same way they speak on the telephone; in asynchronous discussions, the communication is more like an exchange of letters, even if potentially much more rapid. In general, classes with no face-to-face meetings are the best candidates for synchronous on-line discussions that approximate the dynamic and serendipitous qualities of small discussion groups. Classes that already meet together may find asynchronous electronic forums a useful supplement to their regular discussions. A class can also, of course, get the advantages of both by using an asynchronous discussion forum over the course of the term with periodic chat sessions for special guests or events.

The most basic, but still very useful, technique is to use the campus e-mail system to broadcast messages to your students. For large lecture courses or classes that require frequent out-of-class communication this method alone can save considerable amounts of time. E-mail lists—a group of e-mail addresses grouped under a single alias such as "english101" or "us-survey" and often known as a listserve—can be particularly useful for large classes. Lists can also allow members of the class to communicate with each other. Slightly more complicated and resource intensive are threaded discussion forums such as Usenet and various web-based forums; such forums keep a permanent record of each person's contribution so that each succeeding participant can review the entire course of a conversation and add his or her own contribution to it. Chat sessions take perhaps the most planning, the most specialized software, and considerable guidance on chat room etiquette and procedures.

To use electronic discussion tools in your class, consider the following steps:

  • Determine whether electronic discussions contribute to your pedagogical goals. These tools require a significant time commitment from teacher and students and should only be used if they serve an important educational function. Most teachers turn to electronic discussions to get students thinking critically about the reading before they come to class, to answer questions of comprehension and fact as they occur, and to provide some continuity of thought between one week's topic and the next.
  • Investigate the tools and practices of your campus. E-mail is the only technique that has near-universal support on campuses in the United States. Your ability to implement other forms of electronic discussions will be significantly shaped by your school's choice of additional communication tools.
  • Make the on-line discussion substantive and unique. Provide information in these sessions that cannot be found elsewhere or at least not as conveniently. On-line discussions can be a supplement to, or possibly a replacement for, some of the communications that occur during office hours. They can allow a student who has had a conversation with you in your office to continue that conversation with other questions and ideas as they arise; and they can allow a student who cannot attend your office hours or who was discouraged by a long line to communicate with you in other ways.
  • Think of particular purposes that would be well served by electronic discussions. You might, for example, create a web-based review session before an exam. Students can submit questions to you electronically, and you can respond to them by posting an answer on the Web that will be available to all the students in your class. You can organize similar targeted discussions at any point in a course.
  • Consider the demands of on-line discussions in light of students' work load and time commitments. Balance any required participation with reduced demands in other areas of the course. Otherwise, you can expect students to be reluctant or resentful of the new tasks.
  • Require or reward participation to prevent your on-line discussions from suffering the "empty restaurant syndrome" (the aura of failure that surrounds any place or project that attracts few visitors) or becoming the preserve of a small group of computer enthusiasts. Without clear guidance from the instructor about the importance of this activity, even many of your hardest-working students will decline to participate. One particularly successful strategy is to assign one or two students in the class to post a discussion question at the beginning of each week, and another student or pair of students to write a response or follow-up message at the end of the week. Integrate on-line events (student presentations, debates, interaction with outside experts or other classes) into your course schedule.
  • Evaluate the skills and habits of your students. Determine whether a simple list of e-mail addresses can meet your needs. Since many students already use e-mail for personal correspondence, e-mail messages about your course have a high chance of being read. Whatever system you use, you can dramatically reduce student confusion (and time-consuming requests for assistance) by distributing a detailed handout describing how students can perform such basic tasks as sending mail to your class list, reaching your course web site, or using a conferencing system.
  • Republish (with permission from the authors and in edited form) interesting or provocative dialogues on the course web page or through handouts. Having their words taken seriously in this manner will encourage student participation.
  • Evaluate accessibility problems. Off-campus, technologically challenged, and physically handicapped students may require special arrangements. Find out what campus resources are available to assist these groups.

Finally, to make these technologies work in your classroom, you must make regular contributions to the electronic discussions just as you would to a face-to-face discussion. On-line discussions have to be closely monitored to ensure their intellectual usefulness and to reinforce the importance of etiquette in this relatively unfamiliar terrain. You yourself must be a participant to ensure that students take them seriously. But guard your time. Be careful not to create an on-line discussion in which every query is directed at you. Your participation is essential, but you should not allow yourself to be overwhelmed with electronic communications.

Computer technology is becoming both more useful and more cost effective for many fields of teaching. And yet only you, the teacher, can determine whether these methods will prove effective in your classroom. Whatever you decide, remember that technology complements, but does not fundamentally alter, the elements of teaching.

In an increasingly digital and media-centric society, academic, professional, and personal interactions require students to gain multiple literacies. Assigning multimedia projects encourages students to engage with their learning more holistically, to develop richer rhetorical skills, and to demonstrate their learning and creativity through application. A well-developed project assignment will focus on pedagogy and include clear learning objectives and effective assessment strategies. The annotated bibliography below points faculty to resources (sample syllabi and project descriptions, rubrics, technology tools, and published scholarship) that may be of use when designing, implementing, and assessing multimedia assignments. Topics include: video capture and production, web design, gaming, digital story techniques, multimodal compositions, copyright-friendly resources, and accessibility standards. In addition, the latter half of this list shares example SOTL (Scholarship of Teaching and Learning) articles that faculty can reference when completing their own research projects.

Multimedia Video Content

Derek Bok Center. (2013). Harvard GMF: So you want to assign a multimedia project? Retrieved from

  • This video from the Spring 2013 Harvard Graduate Multimedia Fellows offers “tips and tricks for crafting useful multimedia assignments.”

Thompson, K., & Sugar, A. (2013). Starting backward design from the middle. Retrieved from

  • In this 47 minute slidecast, Kelvin Thompson and Amy Sugar describe how faculty can derive student learning outcomes from existing assignments. The focus of their presentation is “alignment between outcomes and activities” with special emphases on striking a balance between higher-order and lower-order thinking skills, articulating connections between assignments and course outcomes, and maintaining accreditation standards.

Books and Articles Discussing Multimedia

Kobayashi, M. (2012). A digital storytelling project in a multicultural education class for pre-service teachers. Journal of Education for Teaching: Informational Research and Pedagogy, 38(2), 215-219.

  • Partial abstract from author: “In the present study, 38 pre-service teachers taking a multicultural education course were asked to create a digital story for their final projects….It was expected that the project would give student teachers an opportunity to learn not only the technology but also how to incorporate digital storytelling into the curriculum [of their future classes].”

Simkins, M., Cole, K., Tavalin, F., & Means, B. (2002). Increasing student learning through multimedia projects. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

  • This book is based on results of the Silicon Valley Challenge 2000 Multimedia Project, which focused on k-12 teachers’ use of multimedia tools to design project-based learning assignments. The nine chapters of this guide include a description of project-based multimedia learning, a multimedia primer, and other topics of interest to k-12 teachers hoping to incorporate this pedagogy.

Smith, R. (2013, September 4). Improved learning outcomes through a multimodal text. EDUCAUSE Review. Retrieved from

  • This case study from Ball State University describes how students improved their performance and attainment of course learning outcomes through the use of a multimodal text. The digital text tool used for the course was Vizi Courseware.

Multimedia Reports

UCF Center for Distributed Learning. (2014). Mobile and etextbook survey: December 2014. Retrieved from

  • This report shares the findings of a survey measuring the adoption and use of mobile learning devices (specifically smart phones, tablets, eReaders, and eTextbooks) among UCF students and faculty.

Accessibility Articles and Resources

Guiliano, J., & Williams, G. H. (2013, September 18). Call for participants: Building an #accessiblefuture. Profhacker. Retrieved from

  • This ProfHacker/ Chronicle of Higher Education post announces a series of four workshops titled “Building an Accessible Future.” In addition, the authors share a link to their previous blog post titled “Accessibility in the Digital Humanities.”

IMS Global. (n.d.). Guidelines for accessible delivery of text, audio, images, and multimedia. Retrieved from

  • This website provides reference lists and links to other resources discussing how to make software and media content accessible to students with disabilities.

UCF Center for Distributed Learning. (2012). Teaching online: Professional development: Accessibility and content in the online course environment. University of Central Florida. Retrieved from

  • This webpage contains archived material from the “Accessibility and content in the online course environment” faculty seminar. In addition to a session abstract and presenter biographies, the page contains links to session recordings and presentation slides that may be downloaded for later viewing.

UCF Center for Distributed Learning. (2011). Teaching online: Accessibility tips. University of Central Florida. Retrieved from

  • This webpage provides specific tips for making various web content and file formats more accessible to students. For example, there is a list of tips for making PowerPoint slide text more visible, as well as links to additional resources.

Sample Syllabi and Course Materials (Assignment Sheets, Rubrics, Readings, etc.)

Digital Storytelling

Grigar, D. (n.d.). DTC 338: Special topics in digital technology & culture: “Curating multimedia exhibits & archives.” Retrieved from

  • Dr. Dene Grigar provides a syllabus for a special topics course on curating and archiving multimedia content. This syllabus includes assignments and a course calendar. The full course website can be accessed at:

Ramirez, B. (n.d.). CN-1356 Health: Your healthcare experience. Retrieved from

  • For this digital storytelling assignment, Dr. Ramirez asks students to “tell a story of your experience with the healthcare system where you live.” The final deliverable for the assignment is a 1-2 minute video.

Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center. (n.d.). The curator’s challenge: Life in a post-September 11 world. Project guide for teachers. Retrieved from

  • This project guide contains assignment sheets, an evaluation grid, guidelines, and research handouts for a curation project designed for high school history students.

Thompson, K. (2012). Kelvin’s storytelling bookmarks. Retrieved from

  • This diigo list contains links to online content about digital storytelling.

University of Colorado. (n.d.). Digital storytelling assignment: Rubric example. Retrieved from

  • This digital storytelling rubric template contains categories such as “point of view—awareness of audience,” “voice—pacing,” “images,” and “grammar,” among others.

Multimodal/Intertextual Projects

Ding, H., & Ding, X. (2013). 360-Degree rhetorical analysis of job hunting: A four-part, multimodal project. Business Communication Quarterly, 76(2), 239-243.

  • This article describes a four-part multimodal project that asks students to rhetorically analyze a potential employer and their qualifications as a job applicant. The four parts—producing a cover letter and resume, engaging in a mock oral interview, analyzing example online video resumes, and critiquing their peers’ social media profile pages—are described on pages 241-247 of this document. To extend the multimodal nature of this project, instructors can encourage students to create their own video resumes after analyzing examples found online.

Shipka, J. (2011). Toward a composition made whole. Pittsburg, PA: University of Pittsburg Press.

  • In chapter 4 [“Making Things Fit in (Any Number of) New Ways”], Shipka describes the framework she uses to help students engage in “metacommunicative awareness” (p. 86) of their multimodal choices. She also shares a “mediated activity-based multimodal framework” (p. 93) and an example of a student’s multimodal project (pp. 94-97).
  • The appendices that accompany Shipka’s text include assignment sheets for four projects: “A history of ‘this’ space,” a collection of social texts, a communicative object analysis, and an “In the beginning…” writing assignment.

Websites and Web Design (including Images and Tutorials)

Brenneman, T. (2013). Use images with the considerations of accessibility and copyright to illustrate online course content. In K. Thompson and B. Chen (Eds.), Teaching online pedagogical repository. Orlando, FL: University of Central Florida Center for Distributed Learning. Retrieved from

  • This brief article contains two instructor testimonials that explain how instructors can include images in their course materials while also being mindful of accessibility and copyright issues. In addition, two example artifacts are included.

Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. (2014). Sites using Omeka. Retrieved from

  • This user-generate list contains links to websites created using the Omeka web-publishing platform.

Video Capture, Production, and Resources

Lehman, C. M., DuFrene, D. D., & Lehman, M. W. (2010). YouTube video project: A ‘cool’ way to learn communication ethics. Business Communication Quarterly, 73(4), 444-449. doi: 10.1177/1080569910385382

  • This article contains both a project description and a grading rubric for a YouTube video production assignment.

Office of Instructional Resources. (2013). Faculty multimedia workshop presentation archive. University of Central Florida. Retrieved from

  • This archive lists past FMC workshops (including their titles, dates, and a session summary) and contains links to video recordings of the sessions.

Zeega. (n.d.). About. Zeega blog. Retrieved from

  • This brief “about” page introduces Zeega, an interactive media tool that allows users to create mash-ups of existing video content. You can also access answers to users’ frequently-asked questions by clicking the “FAQ” button from the left-hand menu.

Multimedia Conferences and Events

Guiliano, J., & Williams, G. H. (2013, September 18). Call for participants: Building an #accessiblefuture. Profhacker. Retrieved from

  • This ProfHacker/ Chronicle of Higher Education post announces a series of four workshops titled “Building an Accessible Future.”

Multimedia Theory and SOTL (Scholarship of Teaching and Learning) Publications

Brock, S., & Brodahl, C. (2013). A tale of two cultures: Cross cultural comparison in learning the Prezi presentation software tool in the US and Norway. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 12, 95-119. Retrieved from

  • In this article, two professors (one in the United States and the other in Norway) describe the findings of their mixed method study, which investigated (and compared) students’ perceptions and use of the Prezi presentation tool. The results of the study show that “usage of the Prezi did change the way students approached presenting their topics” and that students experienced a learning curve while creating their presentations, since they were accustomed to PowerPoint software (pp. 109-110). In addition to evaluating their classmates’ presentations, students were asked to complete a self-evaluation of their own presentation and an evaluation of the instructor/class. While there were some differences in the content and length of responses between the student groups, the overall results indicated positive feelings towards the software and presentations in general.

Chen, Z., Stelzer, T., & Gladding, G. (2010). Using multimedia modules to better prepare students for introductory physics lecture. Physical Review Special Topics—Physics Education Research, 6, 010108-1-010108-5. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevSTPER.6.010108

  • Author-supplied abstract: “It is known that introductory physics students rarely, if ever, read the textbook prior to coming to lecture. In this study, we report results from a curriculum intervention in a large enrollment introductory physics class that addresses this problem. In particular, we introduced web-based multimedia learning modules (MLMs) as a “prelecture assignment” designed to better prepare students before coming to lecture. We used student performance on “preflight questions” that they answer prior to lecture as a measure of their before-lecture understanding of the physics concepts. We found significant improvement in student performance and on the vast majority of these preflight questions as compared to that from previous semesters in which MLMs were not available. We found significant improvement for all students, independent of their background or ability level.”
  • A PDF version of the article is available at:

Connors, S. P., & Sullivan, R. (2012). “It’s that easy”: Designing assignments that blend old and new literacies. The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 85, 221-225. doi: 10.1080/00098655.2012.691569

  • In this brief article, the two authors (Connors, a teacher educator, and Sullivan, a pre-service teacher) describe the experience of assigning a multimodal video project that used Photo Story software. From these experiences, the authors learned that students get much more out of a writing task when the assignment demands a blend of both multimodal/digital and traditional/print-based literacies.

Crisp, K. M., Jensen, M., & Moore, R. (2007). Pros and cons of a group webpage design project in a freshman anatomy and physiology course. Advances in Physiology Education, 31(4), 343-346. doi: 10.1152/advan.00120.2006

  • Author-supplied abstract: “To generate motivation and promote the development of written communication skills, students in a freshman-level anatomy and physiology course for nonmajors created group webpages describing historically important diseases. After the groups had been formed, each individual was assigned specific components of the disease (e.g., causes or treatments), which were subsequently combined into a final product. Interviews and questionnaires were used to document students' previous educational experiences regarding, and attitudes toward, the project. Students learned more about website design than about anatomy and physiology, but students preferred the assignment over traditional term papers. Although most students could find relevant information for this project on the internet, they were uncritical in judging the accuracy of the information they found.”
  • A PDF version of the article is available at:

Huffman, S. (2010). The missing link: The lack of citations and copyright notices in multimedia presentations. Tech Trends, 54(3), 38-44. Retrieved from

  • In this article, Huffman argues that teachers are not doing a good enough job of educating students on how to credit sources in their multimedia presentations. As a response, Huffman articulates two purposes for the article: “to provide some basic background information on intellectual property” (and copyright and Fair Use) and “to share a guide/model for citing sources in a multimedia presentation” (39). The majority of this piece shares images and guidelines for including citations and copyright notices in multimedia presentations.

Jensen, D. (2009). From Tootsie Rolls to composites: Assessing a spectrum of active learning activities in engineering mechanics. Institute for Information Technology Applications. Retrieved from

  • This paper describes and evaluates seven active learning activities based on Methodology and Tools for Developing Hands-on Active Learning Activities. These activities were evaluated at three different types of institutions and the measures used included “student opinion surveys, focus groups, pre/post activity quizzes, exam questions and a concept inventory.” To investigate how students’ demographics, preferred learning styles, and/or personality might impact their evaluation of these activities, the researchers also collected this information and determined that “learning styles, personality type, and perception of performance in the class all have influence on the students’ opinions of the activities.” The results of the study suggest that “it is important to take into account a diverse set of measures when evaluating new learning approaches.”

Johnson-Eilola, J., & Kimme Hea, A. C. (2003). After hypertext: Other ideas. Computers and Composition, 20, 415-425. doi: 10.1016/j.compcom.2003.08.014

  • Author-supplied abstract: “Early work in and about hypertext suggested dramatic potentials for the medium, primarily in the way it challenged notions of authorial control, linearity, and the status quo in general. This history of hypertext tended to portray contradicting archetypes or pure forms that concrete developments never fulfilled. We argue that hypertext has long been a cultural analogy rather than a simple enactment or fulfillment of desires. To assist in creating a more open, constructive vision of hypertext, we gather three differing but connected tropes for hypertext from this history: hypertext as kinship, hypertext as battlefield, and hypertext as rhizome. Although these tropes are only three among many possibilities, we provisionally play them off one another to deconstruct and reconstruct hypertext theory and practice, and to demonstrate potentials for moving beyond archetypes in theorizing and practicing hypertext.”
  • A PDF version of this article is available at:

Kurtz, G., & Sponder, B. (2010). SoTL in online education: Strategies and practices for using new media for teaching and learning online. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 4(1), 1-6. doi: 10.20429/ijsotl.2010.040101

  • Author-supplied abstract: “Over the past two decades the research and dissemination of the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) in higher education has sought to improve the quality of the academic experience in face-to-face courses, online classes, and even on virtual reality campuses. Many scholars, including the authors of this essay, have utilized this public discourse to help inspire their practices and then subsequently contribute to the SoTL literature and research. What ideas from the SoTL literature did we find useful for using new media when teaching online? What new strategies and practices have we added to our teaching repertoire? How have we incorporated SoTL literature in our classes? We try to answer these questions with examples and suggestions based on our work of over fifty years of combined experience in Distance Education and teaching with technology in the classroom.”

Lauer, C. (2009). Contending with terms: “Multimodal” and “multimedia” in the academic and public spheres. Computers and Composition, 26, 225-239. doi: 10.1016/j.compcom.2009.09.001

  • Author-supplied abstract: “This paper analyzes the terms ‘multimedia’ and ‘multimodal,’ examining how each term has been defined and presenting examples of documents, surveys, web sites and others to show when and how each term is used in both academic and non-academic/industry contexts. This paper shows that rather than the use of these terms being driven by any difference in their definitions, their use is more contingent upon the context and the audience to whom a particular discussion is being directed. While ‘multimedia’ is used more frequently in public/industry contexts, ‘multimodal’ is preferred in the field of composition and rhetoric. This preference for terms can be best explained by understanding the differences in how texts are valued and evaluated in these contexts. ‘Multimodal’ is a term valued by instructors because of its emphasis on design and process, whereas ‘multimedia’ is valued in the public sphere because of its emphasis on the production of a deliverable text. Ultimately, instructors need to continue using both terms in their teaching and scholarship because although ‘multimodal’ is a term that is more theoretically accurate to describe the cognitive and socially situated choices students are making in their compositions, ‘multimedia’ works as a gateway term for instructors and scholars to interface with those outside of academia in familiar and important ways.”

Lazarus, E., & Olivero, F. (2009). Videopapers as a tool for reflection on practice in initial teacher education. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 18(3), 255-267. doi: 10.1080/14759390903255528

  • Author-supplied abstract: “This article will discuss issues concerning the potential of videopapers, drawing on a research project investigating the use of videopapers as a tool for reflecting on practice and as an assignment in initial teacher education. Student teachers engaged in initial teacher education programmes often find it difficult to ‘see’ what is going on in their classrooms. They can further experience difficulties in linking theory and research with observations of experienced teachers and their own practice. Although the authors already provide opportunities to reflect on practice underpinned by theory in current classroom-based tasks and assignments, and encourage optional videoing of lessons and seminar presentations, they believe that introducing student teachers to videopapers as a learning tool can provide novice teachers and their tutors with unique, new learning opportunities and insights. However, writing a videopaper does throw up new challenges.”

Lempereur, A. P. (2004). Innovation in teaching negotiation toward a relevant use of multimedia tools. International Negotiation, 9, 141-160.

  • Author-supplied abstract: “This article examine four cases of innovation in teaching negotiation, developed mostly in France, that involve the intensive use of multimedia techniques. These tools address some of the shortcomings of current teaching methods discussed in earlier literature. The use of multimedia innovations seems to improve teaching the subject of negotiation by enabling instructors to better bridge the gaps between theory and practice, and simulation and reality. These innovations also facilitate multiple perspectives, which are needed in cross-cultural negotiations.”

Metros, S. E. (2008). The educator’s role in preparing visually literate learners. Theory into Practice, 47, 102-109. doi: 10.1080/00405840801992264

  • In this article, Metros defines visual literacy, describes some of the challenges of teaching visual literacy (e.g., students are experienced in creating, but not deciphering and analyzing, visual images), lists some benefits of including visual data in the classroom, and shares a “new media design” rubric.

Neo, M. (2007). Learning with multimedia: Engaging students in constructivist learning. International Journal of Instructional Media, 34(2), 149-158.

  • Partial author-supplied abstract: “In this paper, a multimedia-based project was given to a class of 2nd year students in the faculty of Creative Multimedia (FCM) attending an Interactive Multimedia Course. The task was to design and build a multimedia project using the appropriate tools as a course project. Students worked in groups in this learning environment using the multimedia development process (MDP) to complete the project. The learning process is structured towards The Constructivist Learning Approach.”

Sibbet, D. (2008). Visual intelligence: Using the deep patterns of visual language to build cognitive skills. Theory into Practice, 47, 118-127. doi: 10.1080/00405840801992306

  • Author-supplied abstract: “Thirty years of work as a graphic facilitator listening visually to people of every king of organization has convinced the author that visual intelligence is a key to navigating an information economy rich with multimedia. He also believes that theory and disciplines developed by practitioners in this new field hold special promise for educators and students learning the deeper grammar of visual language. This article shares conclusions drawn from the author’s own extensive field experience, with links to work in process theory and cognitive science that have convinced him of the deeper potential of visualization as a path to building 21st-century cognitive skills.”

Sorden, S. D. (2005). A cognitive approach to instructional design for multimedia learning. Informing Science Journal, 8, 263-279. Retrieved from

  • Author-supplied abstract: “Aimed at both newcomers to online learning as well as experienced multimedia developers, this paper addresses the issue of how to avoid unproductive multimedia instructional practices and employ more effective cognitive strategies. Baddeley’s model of working memory and Paivio’s dual coding theory suggest that humans process information through dual channels, one auditory and the other visual. This, combined with Sweller’s Theory of Cognitive Load and Anderson’s ACT-R cognitive architecture, provides a convincing argument for how humans learn, which leads to the question of how multimedia instruction can be designed to maximize learning. Cognitive theory and frameworks like Mayer’s Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning provide empirical guidelines that may help us to design multimedia instruction more effectively. Mayer argues that the best way to present multimedia instruction is through visual graphics and informal voice narration, which takes advantage of both verbal and visual working memories without overloading one or the other.”

Sorden, S. D. (2012). The cognitive theory of multimedia learning. Retrieved from

  • Author-supplied abstract: “Multimedia learning is a cognitive theory of learning which has been popularized by the work of Richard E. Mayer and others. Multimedia learning happens when we build mental representations from words and pictures. The theory has largely been defined by Mayer’s cognitive theory of multimedia learning. Generally, the theory tries to address the issue of how to structure multimedia instructional practices and employ more effective cognitive strategies to help people learn efficiently. Baddeley’s model of working memory, Paivio’s dual coding theory, and Sweller’s theory of cognitive load are integral theories that support the overall theory of multimedia learning. The theory can be summarized as having the following components: (a) a dual-channel structure of visual and auditory channels, (b) limited processing capacity in memory, (c) three memory stores (sensory, working, long-term), (d) five cognitive processes of selecting, organizing, and integrating (selecting words, selecting images, organizing work, organizing images, and integrating new knowledge with prior knowledge), and theory-grounded and evidence-based multimedia instructional methods. Important considerations for implementing the theory are discussed, as well as current trends and future directions in research.”

Spalter, A. M., & van Dam, A. (2008). Digital visual literacy. Theory into Practice, 47, 93-101. doi: 10.1080/00405840801992256

  • Author-supplied abstract: “Like other literacies (textual literacy, numeracy), digital visual literacy (DVL) is the ability both to create and to understand certain types of information, in this case visual materials created with a computer. DVL is now essential in many daily life and workplace tasks, from looking critically at newspaper images or TV evening news to using a digital camera, making a website, creating presentations, and modeling and visualizing data in virtually all of the sciences. DVL is, of course, also now essential in all visually oriented disciplines. Defining the underlying principles of DVL and integrating it into established curricula presents many challenges. This article describes some of these and the authors’ responses, using experiences from an innovative course at Brown University and a larger-scale community-college-based project, Digital Visual Literacy.”

Strano, M. M. (2008). Using multimedia essay assignments to teach qualitative methods. National Communication Association. Retrieved from

  • Author-supplied abstract: “Multimedia essay assignments in qualitative research methods courses reinforce the relationship between prior research, current data and researcher conclusions. The multimedia format also makes it more difficult for students to ignore when their claims are not supported by evidence, since each claim written in text invites the inclusion of an audiovisual piece of supporting evidence. Sharing projects at an open event encourages a better sense of audience in the construction of their multimedia essay arguments.”

Timmerer, C., Waltl, M., Rainer, B., & Hellwagner, H. (2012). Assessing the quality of sensory experience for multimedia presentations. Signal Processing: Image Communication, 27, 909-916. doi: 10.1016/j.image.2012.01.016

  • Author-supplied abstract: “This paper introduces the concept of sensory experience by utilizing sensory effects such as wind or lighting as another dimension which contributes to the quality of the user experience. In particular, we utilize a representation format for sensory effects that are attached to traditional multimedia resources such as audio, video, and image contents. Sensory effects (e.g., wind, lighting, explosion, heat, cold) are rendered on special devices (e.g., fans, ambient lights, motion chair, air condition) in synchronization with the traditional multimedia resources and shall stimulate other sense than audition and vision (e.g., mechanoreception, equilibrioception, thermoreception), with the intention to increase the users Quality of Experience (QoE). In particular, the paper provides a comprehensive introduction into the concept of sensory experience, its assessment in terms of the QoE, and related standardization and implementation efforts. Finally, we will highlight open issues and research challenges including future work.”

Watson, J. A., & Pecchioni, L. L. (2011). Digital natives and digital media in the college classroom: Assignment design and impacts on student learning. Educational Media International, 48(4), 307-320. doi: 10.1080/09523987.2011.632278

  • Author-supplied abstract: “The use of multimodal learning techniques is becoming more widespread, however, the pedagogical discourse surrounding its implementation into classroom and course design is complicated as these technologies are either demonized or viewed as the panacea for curriculum ills. Educators are faced with unique challenges when investigating how to experiment with the best ways to produce classroom experiences that use digital media. This case study examines the implementation challenges and learning outcomes related to such an experiment by reviewing and assessing the use of digital media in a health communication course, specifically through the development of documentaries. Creating an effective assignments requires addressing the development of technical skills along with course content and providing guidance and feedback throughout a semester-long project. Creating an effective assignment is pointless without sufficient learning outcomes. Because this assignment engaged students with both the course content and digital media, their learning experiences were enhanced and improved their group collaboration, critical thinking and media literacy skills.”

Wild, M., & Quinn, C. (1998). Implications of educational theory for the design of instructional multimedia. British Journal of Educational Technology, 29(1), 73-82. Retrieved from

  • Author-supplied abstract: “Interactive multimedia provides a useful vehicle to reconsider the place of educational theories in the design of interactive learning environments. This paper serves to address a number of such theories, especially those centered on student learning, and in particular, attempts to draw out the implications they present for designing effective instructional multimedia. It is argued that we need to develop coherency rather than divergency, in our theoretical perspectives so that we might optimize the development of new technologies in teaching and learning. This rationale is then used to advance one such perspective, based on the role of dynamic modelling tools.”

Zainal, Z. I., & Mohd Deni, A. R. (2012). Advancing aesthetic literacy experience through a multimedia project. Literary and Linguistic Computing, 27(2), 215-226. doi: 10.1093/llc/fqs009

  • Author-supplied abstract: “The remarkable advances in the field of ICT have led to the appearance of interesting innovations in literature classrooms, one of which is multimedia. Multimedia has been proven to be a powerful learning tool as it is able to provide extensive learning opportunities, thus breaking away from the traditional and restrictive ‘chalk and talk’ type of teaching. This study examined the incorporation of an after-reading assignment called ‘The Multimedia Project’ in a literature classroom. It involved ninety-six students taking English literature courses at the Faculty of Modern Languages and Communication, Universiti Putra Malaysia. Multimedia can be defined in a variety of ways, but for this project multimedia refers to a literary text presentation, primarily made using sound and images. Through this project, the students had opportunities to explore and develop their knowledge and critically analyze the literary texts covered in class. This study relied on two types of analysis: as evaluation of the students’ multimedia presentations and a survey of the students’ opinions regarding the project. The findings indicate that the multimedia project proved to be effective in advancing students’ literary experience and critical appreciation. The students’ opinions also confirmed the viability of multimedia as a practical application tool in teaching literature as well as in promoting visual literacy.”


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