Lesson 8: Multimedia


waterfall animation

This lesson will explore the advantages, disadvantages, and challenges associated with the use of multimedia in an online classroom. Topics related to Universal Design and access will also be discussed.

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this lesson's material, Faculty will be able to:

  • Identify and evaluate specific multimedia resources related to your course content.
  • Review questions related to Universal Design and ADA access to instructional materials.
  • Evaluate the pedagogical and technical utilization of high- and low-bandwidth and "hot" and "cold" media.
  • Select and implement at least one multimedia tool within a sample course.


Multimedia is, of course, a hot topic in the world of online learning and has been since the age of the personal computer. Like many "new" things in education, there is often a rush to grab hold of the "latest" thing and consider it the best thing.

As instructional designers, however, we need to go through a thoughtful process of deciding what sort of media to incorporate into our courses. We make these decisions not to "window dress" our courses but to provide authentic learning experiences and tools for our students. As we would select a textbook or article to include in our class, we need to be equally thoughtful about images, video, audio, and other media.

Two great works, one complex and the other much more accessible, on this topic are (these are worthy reading for anyone interested in the study of learning and multimedia...the McLuhan work is epic in scope and sets the bar for the study of media, the Carr book is a startling look at how multimedia is effecting they very way we think):

McLuhan, M. (1994). Understanding Media. The MIT Press, Cambridge
Click HERE for a nice summary and explanation of McLuhan's work

Carr, N. (2010). The Shallows: What the internet is doing to our brains. W.W. Norton, NY

Decision Making

I mentioned that the use of multimedia is a decision. The basic notion of teaching is to transfer knowledge and skill from the teacher to the student. Different teaching styles (and tools) express different degrees of:

  • Teacher vs. Student Control
  • Abstract vs. Enactive and Concrete
  • Adaptive vs. Interactive

I constructed a document that outlines where different media might be placed in these different qualities. Click HERE to download the PDF.

About this document:

  • The point of this file is so that you can place your selected media on the continuum between "HOT" and "COLD" media.
  • For instance...if you wanted to include a picture in your notes...you can note that "pictures" is the COLDEST of the ICONIC media category. It is primarily REFLECTIVE and is mostly under the control of the INSTRUCTOR.
  • This contrasts with DRAMATIZATION which is HOTTER, more under the control of the STUDENT and is ENACTIVE

Keep this in mind...Different learning goals are best addressed by different media

Using this document as a guide, HOTTER does not mean BETTER...YOU have to decide what is the best way to present the information you want your students to know.

Here is an Example:

Let's say I wanted to teach a lesson on Piaget's concept of Conservation (a cognitive development theory). I could post a link to a website describing it and/or I could post a YouTube video...or, as I often do, I will post BOTH!

Click HERE to visit a pretty good Wikipedia definition of Conservation (yes, it is OK to use Wikipedia!)

Now, here is a video that demonstrates Conservation:


Click HERE to view this video directly on YouTube

Finally, check out THIS website that incorporates both text and video.

According to the handout above...

  • The Wikipedia link would be...
    • Cold
    • Abstract
    • Verbal Symbols
  • The YouTube video would be...
    • Warmer
    • Iconic
    • Less instructor control

Now consider actually performing this experiment IN CLASS or having students go out and find a child and perform the experiment themselves...these experiences would be much HOTTER, ENACTIVE, and under the control of the LEARNER

SOME concepts are best experienced as HOT media (such as the demonstration of concepts)...while others might be best experienced as COLD media (poetry and other literary works).

Tips on Multimedia:

  • Do not overwhelm your students with HOT media and activities
  • The DETAILS of what you need your students to learn are often in the COLDER media
  • HOT media can be motivating and capture attention...but it is NOT necessarily always about LEARNING
  • Follow up HOT media with COLD assignments (such as reflection papers on experiences or videos)

Interactive Multimedia

With the right tools you can develop interactive multimedia tools yourself. Years ago I took a course in Multimedia Development and put together a few example interactive tutorials. Right-click the links below and download these files to your computer...you will need to have QuickTime installed on your computer to play them.

Note: if you simply click on the links they may load into your browser and "play" the movie instead of allowing you to interact with it...they likely need to be opened in the QuickTime Player application to work correctly.

So you want to be an IPT Professional?
Based on the game show, "So You want to be a Millionaire", this game covers some of the concepts and theories of Instructional and Performance Technology.

Billy Bob's Tavern and Measurement Scales Dartroom
A game that has students identify if a measure is a nominal, ordinal, interval, or ratio scale of measurement

(I will be including another one of these in the section in this class on Bloom's Taxonomy!)


Lesson 8 Discussion

Use this discussion to ask questions about this lesson and post your JUSTIFICATION for why you selected the media element that you did. Also, analyze the media element based on the handout.

Lesson 8 Assignment

Find a selection of multimedia elements for a lesson in your class and post it in the same folder along with your other instructional elements.

Email me when you have completed this.