Monthly Archives: July 2014

How do you really integrate multiple media?

This has been an interesting journey through the use of media for instruction. When I started the course, I thought of multimedia as referring simply to video or animation with sound. Since I had very little experience with instruction via video or animation, it was not an area with which I felt a high level of comfort which was the reason I wanted to take this course. It had not occurred to me that the term “media” referred to the medium by which instruction was delivered, and could include any medium, from text to still images to audio to live action video. The term “multimedia”, therefore, just meant the integration of two or more of these media together. By that definition, I’ve been creating multimedia instruction all along. It was single media instruction that gave me the real problems in this course, and then learning to incorporate multiple media into one integrated track rather than two separate tracks.
That concept is still a bit confusing to me. To me, the image should reinforce the text, but when I use an image which reinforces the text, what keeps that from becoming a separate track of instruction? What good are images if they create a secondary track that the reader could choose to follow rather than the text-based instructions? Why use text or images at all if you have the option to use video? I’m just a bit confused on all this and not sure how you create one integrated instruction without overlap. I don’t feel like anything I’ve read nor any example I’ve seen has made this any clearer to me.


Benefits and Difficulties Working with Video as an Instructional Medium

I thought I’d done video instruction before. Turns out I didn’t have a clue. Until you’ve dealt with lighting, set, framing, camera operation, trying to figure out how to read a script that’s off camera while still looking at the camera, and video editing in a professional editing program, you definitely have not done anything like video instruction. Screen captures in Camtasia with your webcam turned on definitely do not count.
I definitely have a new appreciation for all those semi-professional instructional videos posted to YouTube. Even the ones with poor sound and lighting are better than my first attempt at video capture for the mashup project, just because I lacked the proper space or equipment. And this project took way more time than I ever could have anticipated. I am so sleep deprived, not having hit the sheets before 2:30 am a single night this week.
The end result of the video production was a somewhat professional instruction that I’m kind of tempted to make public on YouTube. I’m rather proud of my first attempt at video instruction. While it definitely isn’t perfect, it’s not bad. My lighting is actually pretty good. My framing is only off in a couple shots (the problem of having your husband pulling double duty as your camera operator and teleprompter operator). My edits are pretty good for the most part – I only heard one place where I chopped my audio badly between cuts. The most important thing is I think people would actually find the instruction useful. And since this is an instruction people might actually be looking for, I am very tempted to post it and see how many views I get and what kind of feedback I get.
It was very difficult to accomplish this project. I had software problems, hardware problems, and camera issues. To film the practice mashup I recruited the help of my three daughters and then spent two days regretting that decision. They couldn’t memorize the script, so one of them is obviously reading off paper. For the other I found and downloaded a teleprompter app, but she could not project, and the sound I got with my camera is just terrible! They needed multiple costume changes that took way too long. Then they were very silly and required multiple takes.
I had to do a set change that required a remake of my living room with blankets and sheets. Even with every white sheet I could come up with I did not have enough for the camera’s span and the laundry basket ended up in the shot. I broke a CFC light bulb trying to dim the overhead lighting. To capture 3 usable minutes of video took two nights of filming and used up 20 minutes of video.
When I finally had a decent laptop with the right version of the video editing software, a good HD camcorder with a real tripod, and better lighting set up, even then capturing the video for the real project was a challenge. It took all Friday night to capture a handful of scenes, and then we ended up redoing two shots Saturday, one because the table appeared to be on a slant and the other because Ron cut off my head. Of course, we’d filmed in front of two windows after dark on Friday, so we had to wait until it got dark Saturday to retake the shots to avoid the scenes looking strange. Also, the screen capture portions of the video sounded different as I was recording via my headset, so I set up the camera in the same location and recorded the walkthrough using the camera so that all the sound in the video would be uniform.
While I found the resulting video very professional and useful, for the kind of instruction I do, it was WAY too much work for me to do on my own without a media production crew. If I do decide to develop a video instruction project of this magnitude again, I will recruit the media specialist on staff at my university and request that he supervise, film, edit, and produce the video for me. I may come up with the concept and write the script, but I don’t think I want that much responsibility for coming up with a quality finished project in the future.
I do find video to be a useful medium for delivering instruction. As an example, when I had to figure out how to embed the final project into Dreamweaver, I searched the web for instructions and found a YouTube video an individual like me had posted. I would have done it differently (he filmed over his shoulder to capture his actions on the computer rather than using a screen capture utility for that purpose) but his simple instructions were enough to tell me that rather than looking for a complicated mechanism in Dreamweaver, all I needed to do was copy the embed code from YouTube and paste it into the code of my Dreamweaver file in the appropriate location. He even demonstrated making the video a custom size, which was helpful as the frame I was putting it was only 330 pixels wide. If I had not located his video, I don’t know if I would have thought of that on my own. For some reason I seek complex answers to often simple problems.
YouTube has grown to be a major source of information on the web, mostly because of videos posted by regular people in an effort to help others. I’ve gone there for information on fix-it projects on the house, gardening tips, to learn how to use new software, automotive repairs, makeover projects for my daughters, etc. This resource has elevated instructional video to a new level, giving it a world-wide audience. It obviously has widespread appeal. Videos are portable, viewable on virtually any device. I think because of sites like YouTube and the growth of portable devices that can play videos, more people will turn to instructional videos for information.

Differences when developing for Audio-Visual Instruction

When developing the instruction with audio-only, I had broken the instruction into five larger chunks of information. Each section was very detailed, as I assumed the instruction was the only information the learner had. When developing for visuals plus audio, more information was available to the learner, so I did not need to make the audio as detailed. Also, the visuals were broken into even smaller segments, requiring the audio to be broken down further to match.
In some ways, the use of all three media is more efficient in that learners have a choice of media, and no one instructional medium needs to provide the complete details. In other ways, combining all three required more thought, more planning, and more effort, and in that way it was actually much less efficient.
After completing these exercises I am much more aware about the methods I select for instructing someone. In the past I had just created instructions which either consisted of text and visuals or video, but had not considered why I selected the media I chose or what impact that media had on my learners. After this course, I will consider which media will be most effective in delivering the instruction based on the needs of my learners and how they will likely use the instruction, and may offer multiple single medium alternatives such as audio-only as well as combined media for the most effective instruction to meet each learner’s needs.
Limitations of media include development time, costs to produce, delivery mechanisms, needs and abilities of the learners, and anticipated use. For example, while the one-page design of the interactive PDFs is a clean, easy to use idea, interactive PDFs do not display in-browser on the web. They would have to be downloaded for the user to benefit from their design. A learner stumbling on the interactive PDF instructions online would not necessarily know they were missing interactive design elements when the document opened in their browser.
However, if you have the time and resources to develop multimedia instruction, and develop well-planned media that works on the learners’ platform, meets their needs, and will work the way they ordinarily use it, the result can have long-lasting effects. Media can increase learner attention and engagement. It can help reduce cognitive load, allowing more of the instruction to be retained in memory. It can utilize both attention channels effectively, allowing the material to be processed in the brain in multiple ways.

Teaching with Audio-Visual Instruction

This whole course on the use of multiple media for instruction was quite different from what I expected. I anticipated learning to use animations, video, still images, text and audio in combination to create instruction, but I had not expected to be asked to instruct with each of the mediums in isolation. Doing so has created some unexpected challenges, and provided an insightful journey into the discovery of when and why a person might choose to use a particular medium and when it might be ineffective.

I’ve always preferred methods of instruction which combined multiple media over those which used only text. Limited use of media limits your effectiveness, in my opinion. For one thing, your audience has various learning preferences, and one medium might be more effective than another for any one individual. When designing instruction for individuals under ADA, you also have to be cognizant of what disabilities might be present in your audience members. A text-only instruction could be read by a screen reader and video-based instructions could be captioned with scene descriptors, but an instruction composed entirely of images may not be very effective for an individual with low vision or blindness.

Audio-visual instructions have the potential to take longer to create. You must be careful to ensure that your text, images, and audio complement each other while not being identical sources of information therefore violating the redundancy theory of multimedia, which states that learners cannot focus on printed and spoken text at the same time. On-screen text should only be used in the absence of pictorial information, when there is enough time to process both pictures and textual information, or when the related audio might be difficult for the learner to understand without a textual accompaniment, such as a foreign word. Another exception would be if your learners are beginners and a graphical depiction of the audio material, such as a chart, diagram, or table, would help to summarize the material being spoken. In my opinion, warnings and other critical text are probably also important exceptions.

After this course, I will be a lot more conscious about the choices I make related to particular media and their inclusion or exclusion from an instruction. I will also pay a lot closer attention to presentation than I have before. I never realized what an impact visual design choices and color had on my instructions and the learner. Furthermore, I will take into consideration the ways I am using particular media in combination with one-another to ensure that the media work in combination and complement one another rather than creating two or more separate tracks of instruction or worse, creating redundancies which compete for the learner’s attention and potentially cause a cognitive overload.