How do you create a truly effective multimedia learning experience? Explore the latest research and discover best practices for creating enriching educational experiences. As broadband becomes ubiquitous, interactive designers are increasingly called upon to incorporate multiple media and dynamic graphics into their work. Presenting instruction in multiple media can be more effective than doing it through a single medium (such as text), but what is important is combining media effectively, not merely adding media. Effective multimedia for learning requires carefully combining media in well- reasoned ways that take advantage of each medium’s unique characteristics. The most effective multimedia provides learning experiences that mirror real-world experiences and let learners apply the content in various contexts.
From Computer-Based Training to Multimedia
In a previous career, as head of training for a clinical medicine organization, I bought a computer-based learning package that taught medical terminology to medical assistants, technicians, and transcriptionists. Completely text based, the program was rather revolutionary for the time. I remember that Bonnie Newton, my training buddy, and I were happy to be able to provide an alternative for those who couldn’t attend her immensely popular medical terminology classes. This training was critically important for those who had to know the meaning of terms like “macrovascular” and “macroglossia,” and the existence of multiple training options gave them the flexibility to get their training as they needed it.
Jump ahead 15 years to current medical terminology e-learning. Now graphics illustrate each term, audio demonstrates the correct pronunciation, animations allow visualization of different parts of each whole, and video shows everyday use. Learners can make use of electronic flashcards and download print resources for help with studying. The classroom-based course allowed for live interaction. The old computer-based training provided flexibility for training. Multimedia offers the potential to augment learning with a vibrancy that the old computer-based training couldn’t easily achieve. For example, multimedia can add clarity through multiple views, as in process guidelines alongside an animation. It can provide depth through additional information channels and resources. It can also add richness and meaning, through video, to show as well as tell. And, if it is not done thoughtfully and well, it can add needless complexity and provoke frustration.

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