Lesa Perzylo

Faculty of Education
Edith Cowan University
Perth, West Australia

Keywords: CD-ROM, Multimedia, Interactive Multimedia, Navigation, Learning, Learners, Learning Process, Teaching, Access, Information Access, Information Delivery, Use, Schools.

Abstract: Interactive multimedia represents an essential change in how we search for, analyze, process, communicate, receive and think about information. It represents a dynamic technological development that provides the potential to enhance and expand the role of computers in our lives. Interactive multimedia technology enables learners to actively engage more of their senses in the learning process.


In our rapidly changing information age with its subsequent philosophical changes in teaching and learning, teacher librarians, librarians and information professionals are having to redefine the processes of information access and delivery. Educators face the challenge of preparing learners to make decisions and sense of the vast amounts of information that they will face in their lifetime. Problem solving skills in sifting through information, seeking relevant relationships with the infor-mation and finding coherent ways to present conclusions are forming the basis of many schools curricula and programmes.

Hedberg and Harper (1991, p. 219) outline the major growth in the application of hyper and multimedia resources for teaching and learning. Chen (1990' p. 267) states that multimedia techno-logies have changed how we demand information, and for the first time, a learner is learning how to learn and an information seeker is learning how to ask for information.

For teachers and teacher librarians then, is the challenge of determining not can interactive multimedia improve our understanding of information but instead, how can we use this technology to contribute to a new way of communication that enhances our understanding of life (Floyd, 1991, p. 3). Interactive multimedia has the capacity to directly influence the direction of education and the types of skills emphasized in schools and the workplace far more than any other technological innovation.

As humans, we are limited by simply being human. We are caught with issues over which we have very little control. For example, we are caught in one location and cannot see things in faraway places; we are caught with our human size and cannot shrink ourselves to see microorganisms nor grow to stretch into space and obtain a more global view of the world; we are caught with a given moment in time and cannot re-experience past historical events and finally, we are caught with a given rate at which time passes which means that we cannot speed up a sunset nor slow down lightning (Ambron and Hooper, 1990, p. 89).

Humans have created all manners of tools to overcome this human deficiency, with the latest bringing together the benefits of such tools into one multimedia environment.


Interactive multimedia has been defined as:

... the integration of audio, graphics, animation and text, utilizing the computer as a control and presentation platform in such a manner to have the potential to significantly enhance the learning and information environment.

Multimedia integration allows us to interface with computer based applications using our more natural information acquisition senses of touch, sight and sound, in a way which can provide a flexible insight into subject material with the user being interactively involved in the learning process (Edgar, 1992, Forward).

The multimedia presentation platform is an integrated collection of computer sound and image based systems that provide access to multiple formats including text, graphics, audio, still images/ animation, and motion video. Interactive multimedia represents the merging of powerful, diverse technologies that were never designed to be compatible in the first place. As Floyd (1991, p. 2) stated, by shifting the focus of traditional computing away from a passive conveyer of 'objective' data, to a sensory-rich audio-visual environment, the personal computer gives us a tool for making intuitive leaps and cross-referencing relationships that we are used to receiving from our brain.

The concept of interactive multimedia is best summed up by John Scully, Chief Executive Officer of Apple Computer, Inc. who made the following statement:

Imagine a classroom with a window on all the world's knowledge. Imagine a teacher with the capability to bring to life any image, any sound, any event. Imagine a student with the power to visit any place on earth at any time in history. Imagine a screen that can display in vivid color the inner workings of a cell, the births and deaths of stars, the clashed of aries, and the triumphs of art. And then imagine that you have access to all of this and more by exerting little more effort than simply asking that it appear. It seems like magic even today. Yet the ability to provide this kind of learning environment is within our grasp. (Scully, 1988, vii) CD-ROM technology has become popular with multimedia applications because of its high storage capacity, agreed standards, and the ability to bind to standard personal computer hardware and the benefits of mass production using an already established commercial market for the CD. Other benefits of CD-ROM technology are:

Fast access to large amounts of data

Mass production and distribution at a reasonable cost

Durability of CD-ROM disc.

Low cost of CD-ROM drives

Learner control

Interactive learning

Security of software with networked access


Multimedia technology is commonly found in four application areas:

Education and training

Business desk-top



Education and training are probably the most common applications of multimedia at present. Changes in reactions and attitudes to the learning process are resulting in an increasing demand for multimedia packages. In Point-of Sale applications in the tourism, banking and department store industries, the technology is used to providing the user with up-to-date information in a way that promotes the services being offered. Edgar and Docherty (1992; 570) point out that the most enlightened users of Point-of-Information multimedia are the libraries in the University sector where information databases and information systems are provided.

Researchers (Szuprowicz, 1990) believe that multimedia offers an effective an eficient means of improving the quality, delivery and presentation of educational informational material. Multimedia integrates the best characteristics of a wide range of approaches to learning. There are some significant advantages of using multimedia for learning, these include:

It has a presentation to suit a variety of styles.

Learning is self paced and learners can obtain mastery at each stage.

There is increased access to education in subject areas with a shortage of specialist instructors.

The presentation of information is visually attractive with an auditory presentation which can result in increased interest, higher retention of material and improved success creates.

There is a non-threatening entry into subject areas for those who lack background or confidence.

Dynamic selection of education level.

Individual monitoring, assessment and feedback is readily available.

Provides increased access and equity. (Edgar & Docherty ibid)

Increased control and independence is exercised over the learning process.

The medium makes no personal discrimination of the learner.

Multimedia learning is able to cater for our multi-cultural and diverse society. (Sleeter, 1992, p. 33).

Interactive multimedia systems are sure to proliferate. Multimedia resources are finding increas-ing application in our schools (Marchionini, 1991, 12). What remains is to determine whether they are effectively used and what their effects are on information professionals and end users. The challenge to information professionals is to design and implement efficient and effective search systems and databases for end users, that will facilitate the navigation process through such soft-ware. The challenge to end users is to understand the many facets of the information-seeking process in order to navigate successfully through such resources (Marchionini, 1989, p. 54).

Amthor (1991-92; 27) states that learning is more than a passage through new territories. Engagement and interaction is crucial, as is the empowerment of the navigator to make decisions and follow his/her imagination. Interactive multimedia is said to organize information by mirroring the structure of human thinking and recreating a web of relationships with the concept of hypermedia. Critical to interactive multimedia is the experiential nature of presenting information.

There is general agreement among researchers that people have short-term retention of about 20% of what they hear; 40% of what they see and hear; and 75% of what they hear, see and do. By employing video, sound and interaction, interactive learning resources provide the best chance for superior retention (Marchionini, 1989, p. 29).


The development of such applications for personal computer users provides broad curriculum implementations than existing technologies. The development of the technology in this field has preceded classroom research efforts. Multimedia does not automatically guarantee higher order learning seen though students con construct and appreciate the structure of a field of knowledge by actively navigating it. Given the potential for users to interact in new ways with larger quantities of information, there is evidence for concern regarding the efficacy of methods by which learners might navigate hyper-driven, multimedia information (Hall in Webster ad McNamara, 1992, p. 287).

Until 1989, there was no conclusive evidence about the performance of full-text database sys-tems; there were few results about novice users applying such systems; and, there was no research on whet search strategies were best applied in full-text environments. Marchionini (1989) conducted an exploratory study of elementary school children searching a full-text electronic encyclopedia on CD-ROM. He concluded that subjects in the lower grades were less successful in navigating the encyclopedia and took more time than subjects in the higher grades. User strategies were heuristic in that they were highly interactive rather than planned.

Atkins and Blisset (1987) undertook a small scale exploratory study of pupil use of interactive videodiscs in a middle school for 9 to 13 year old students. There were two particularly interesting findings in this earlier study. The first was the high proportion of the read/watch/listen category. Students were spending over half their time in traditional learning roles. The second was the major variations within groups. There seemed to be something to do with changes in inter-relationships between individuals within each group each time. This is affected by the interplay of a variety of variables such as preferred learning styles, interplay of personalities and so on.

The researchers decided that a clue to the variability observed might lie in the extent to which the pupils were accustomed to problem-solving in groups. The study suggested that designers of such resources need to take into account the dynamics of group processes if their products are to be used by small groups of people on a virtually stand-alone basis.

Webster and McNamara (1992; 285) reported on their case study that had focused on a 33-year old female school teacher undertaking a degree in applied science by distance education using hypermedia and CD-ROM. The insights gained from their pilot study gave an indication of issues such as the effects of prior experience, the importance of appropriate problem solving approaches, the role of intuitive knowledge and, information about the use of program tools for navigation, investigation and learning.

Interestingly, from the above study was the act that as the subject became more confident in using the CD-ROM, her navigation became more diverse in altering and developing the navigation structure of the resource. She was gradually able to adapt the attitudes and skills that she had brought to the sessions.

The pilot study highlighted several factors for consideration in the development of multimedia resources.

The design and development of Multimedia materials may be enhanced by:

the inclusion of known material/functions/tools to assist the user in moving into unfamiliar concepts or material;

the design of features such as location maps which allow users/learners to locate their position at any point in time and retrace their steps;

the provision of means of connectivity between information and catering for individual learning styles and paths -- users should be able to make links within information and delete links and nodes that are not functions for them (to change the database structure);

responsiveness to varying user levels i.e. the provision of appropriate tools and views for novice and expert users, and which users can modify to suit their requirements; and

the avoidance of 'cluttering' the application with complex features which eventually have a negative impact on the teaching/learning interaction.


The complex integration now possible with multimedia technology raises problems for users in that multiple paths are now possible to arrive at the same or different end points. Learners are faced with the problem of understanding what learning possibilities might be available from where they are in a multimedia learning environment. When a student can branch down multiple paths and rapidly change the direction and focus of the learning sequence, there is possible interference with effective learning through the inappropriate application of information by the learner to their internal schemas (Hedberg & Harper, 1992, p. 220).

It is agreed that for effective research to be conducted in this field, the learners should be involved in purposeful learning and most importantly, be given ample time to navigate through such resources. It has been said that the difficulty of researching how people navigate through interactive multimedia can be compared to the difficulty involved in measuring the development of black holes in space (Reeves, 1992, p. 186).

Researchers at Edith Cowan University are currently engaged in investigating the interactions and activities of students using multimedia applications of CD-ROMs. The author and Dr. Ron Oliver of the Faculty of Education have determined that the developments of hardware and technology in this field have preceded classroom research efforts. Navigation systems can facilitate the understandings of a student's learning sequence and reduce the problems of poor learning schema development.

The change in focus of control from instructor to learner raises a series of issues about cognition, motivation and navigation which need to be explored (Grabowski & Curtis, 1991). The implications for creating dynamic knowledge structures and appropriate multimedia learning experiences are indeed profound.

Whereas students have traditionally learned to gather information working independently of others, this use of the technology lends itself to group activities. In such settings, students assume particular roles and establish mechanisms whereby each performs certain tasks in carrying out the required activities. In application where the technology is new and the processes are not well practiced, inefficiencies in usage and application can develop.


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