This issue's theme may appear to some a little daunting. While we are quite at home these days with the notion of "multimedia", that is the use of multiple types of media such as text and graphics, 3-D modelling, animation, sound and video (and for the more daring, virtual reality), it is the interactive aspect that is less well understood. The world of computer games has used the term "interactive" a lot but this is generally only a question of the users interacting with the software in a physical sense, i.e. the speed and agility of clicking keys, moving the mouse, or pushing a jocky stick. In educational settings (which sometimes includes what is commonly referred to as "edu-tainment" if well-designed), the term "interactive" must look more towards interactivity at a cognitive level. The novelty of multimedia does not last long if students are not reaping benefit from the time spent "studying" with a piece of multimedia courseware. The interactivity component has been shown both to engage and to aid learning.
One of the most important choices to be made during the process of courseware development is which "authoring" software to use. At Warwick, the staff network provides Borland Delphi, Asymetrix Multimedia ToolBook, and Question Designer as designated authoring packages. However, you should bear in mind that packages such as Microsoft Powerpoint can easily be used for simple multimedia presentations. The Multimedia Centre (in the Audio Visual area in the Humanities building) is available to all staff and project students for acquisition of digital media such as scanned photographs, drawings and pictures, sound and video clips.
If you are interested in developing some basic multimedia courseware, bear in mind that you could apply to the Teaching Innovations Fund (more details from the Academic Staff Development Office) and include in your bid some resource to employ a graduate student. Don't forget that there are lots of Computer Science, Physics and Engineering undergraduate students who would be very interested to produce a small CAL package for their third year project. The Educational Technology Service can provide these departments with a (wish) list of projects that you have in mind.
The use of multimedia technology in higher education provides an opportunity for us to look again at our teaching strategies for promoting the efficiency and effectiveness of learning. There is, however, a need to sift out the myths surrounding this new technology from the realities of the benefits for active learning. In an article published in Active Learning Issue 3, Matthew Davies and David Crowther (Aston Business School) discuss the myths and realities of as a basis for considering the appropriateness and applicability of using and developing multimedia courseware - valuable and interesting reading ! In a separate article in Issue 3 of Active Learning, Joanne Heath (Language Centre, University College London) aptly deals with the issue of interactivity.
The first article in this issue of Interactions is contributed by Dr Liam Murray from the Language Centre here at the University of Warwick. Liam examines a wide range of issues involved in the successful integration of multimedia courseware into a curriculum. The planning, the curriculum design, and the evaluation at various stages of implementation are discussed in the context of the benefit to learners.
The second article is an extract from an updated version of the publication called New Frontiers for Learning, written by a long-standing team of expert courseware developers at the University of Nottingham. This short introduction to developing multimedia courseware aims to wet your appetite for the full document which is available on-line.
The third article is republished from the newsletter of the Bristol ETS (now the Learning Technology Support Service, LTSS) which focuses explicitly on the issue of interactivity in terms of creating a "need to know" learning environment implicit in any well-designed course (or piece of courseware).
I hope that this issue gives you plenty of information and help on using interactive multimedia effectively in your teaching.
Dr Jay Dempster
Head of Educational Technology
Centre for Academic Practice
University of Warwick
Tel: +44 (0) 24 7652 4670