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Multimedia Effectiveness

Multimedia Effectiveness

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Published by Puspala Manojkumar

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Published by: Puspala Manojkumar on Mar 04, 2010
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09/06/2010

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How Effective is Multimedia in Online Training?
By David KahnTo remain competitive in today’s tight labor market, online training has become a prevalent means through which organizations can train employees more rapidly, moreeffectively, and at less expense than the past (Mcrea, Gay, & Bacon, 2000; Urdan & Weggen,2000). Nevertheless, as the implementation of online training has become widespread, manyunfounded beliefs persist with regards to the effectiveness of particular delivery methods. Oneexample is the perception that integrating multimedia into course delivery is undeniably beneficial.
What is Multimedia?
Multimedia is often considered to be the most misused term in online learning.Multimedia refers to computer-mediated information that is presented concurrently in more thanone medium. It consists of some, but not necessarily all, of the following elements: text; stillgraphic images; motion graphics; animations; hypermedia; photographs; video; and audio, i.e.,sounds, music, and narration (Kleen & Shell, 1994; Najjar, 1996; Tannenbaum, 1998).
The Significance of Evaluating Multimedia
A primary reason why the assessment of multimedia is important relates to the fact thatmost people believe that to have effective online training, multimedia must be integrated intocourse delivery (Najjar, 1996). For instance, in a study of organizations that offered itsemployees online training (Kleen & Shell, 1994), 88% reported to have multimedia capability,and 47% of those without capability had solid plans to obtain it. However, when asked why theyincluded (or intended to include) multimedia, the most frequent response involved a “buteveryone else is doing it” stance. Is this the way courses should be designed?Over the last twenty years, most of the related literature has not attempted to quantify theactual advantages of incorporating multimedia in online training (Lookatch, 1997). Very fewquestioned the “overly optimistic multimedia paradigm change and asked for a more realisticassessment of multimedia-assisted instruction” (Hoogeveen, 1995). Only now are criticschastising those who jumped on an unproven bandwagon without careful consideration of the benefits (Bollentin, 1998; Oppenheimer, 1997; Pepi & Scheurman, 1996; Schrage, 1998).
The Effectiveness of MultimediaComprehension
. To assess the effectiveness of multimedia in online training courses, itcan be compared to text-only based courses, a non-multimedia mode of delivery, to determine
 
what effect, if any, it has on the level of participants’ comprehension. In a study comparingcourses involving text-only, complete audio with full text, and complete audio with partial text,all of the groups achieved acceptable levels of learning and there were no statistical differencesin test scores, thereby demonstrating no learning advantage with the addition of audio (Barron &Kysilka, 1993).Similar studies have found no differences in test scores between participants who took courses that incorporated a) text-only, text with video clips, and text with audio of the video clips(Schmeeckle, 2000); b) text-only, video-only, and text with video (Jones, 2002); c) text-only,text with video, and text with still graphic images (Cofield, 2001); or text-only and hypermedia(Dillon & Gabbard, 1998). These research results reveal that the use of audio, video, stillgraphic images, and/or hypermedia do not strengthen or enhance learning at a deeper level of understanding. More specifically, this research indicates that immediate retention of the materialwas the same regardless of whether multimedia was integrated.
Recall and Retention.
In determining how well information is learned, recall andretention are important factors. Luna and McKenzie (1997) and Wegner and Payne (1994)revealed no differences in recall or retention in learners using a multimedia-enhanced onlinetraining program versus those using an exclusively text-based system. In addition, when four groups were tested (text with pictures, words only, text only, and control), a test of recall also didnot demonstrate significant differences (Najjar, 1996).
The Efficiency of MultimediaTime on Task 
. Another variable with which to assess online training is efficiency, i.e.,the ratio of useful work to energy expended. In a training sense, time on task is most oftenmeasured by the amount of time spent in a particular course. In a study comparing text, audio,and video in online instruction, Schmeeckle (2000) found the text-only group to be the mostefficient, taking 12% to 13% less time than the other two groups with no decrease in learningvalue. Additionally, the inclusion of audio or video did not affect motivation or positiveattitudes towards the course.In a study by Barron and Kysilka (1993), the text-only group completed the trainingcourse in significantly less time than the audio-only group and audio with full text group.Understandably, the text-only group was not slowed by listening to the audio version of the text.Reminiscent of Schmeeckle’s (2000) study, there was no learning advantage with the addition of audio. Similar findings have been ascertained by Leh, Sleezer, and Anderson (1998); Spann,Cronan, and Kreie (1998); and Baek and Layne (1988) who included the addition of graphics andanimation.
 
These findings provide several incentives for designing text-only courses. First, job productivity can be maintained by decreasing time away from the job. Not all businesses or institutions can afford to have lengthy training courses (Schmeeckle, 2000). Second, moretraining can be conducted to increase the skills of the labor force. Third, the decrease in trainingtime can free up training staff to focus on content that requires hands-on demonstrations and practice.
Cost
. In measuring the efficiency of multimedia in online training, cost is a key factor.The standard rule is that the greater the complexity of course delivery, the greater the cost of development. An online multimedia-dependent course is likely to be 200% to 500% moreexpensive than a text-only course (Curtain, 2002). One reason for this significant differenceinvolves the cost of the software. With every delivery mode incorporated into a course, newcomputer programs must be purchased; and, the more intricate the multimedia, the higher the price of the software. Plus, in addition to the one-time price to buy the software, designers anddevelopers must also purchase an individual licensing fee pay for each additional user and payfor upgrades, which are available for most software on a semi-frequent basis and can be quiteexpensive.The additional costs of multimedia are attributed to the increase in time it takes todevelop, produce, deliver, and maintain them (Moonen, 1997). Like the software costs, the moreintricate the multimedia, the more time it takes to create and maintain the course. The timeinvolved in creating heavily enriched multimedia courses has been found to be five to ten timesgreater than for developing text-only courses (Curtain, 2002). The attempt to keep complex,multimedia courses current also leads to more costly expenditures.
Bandwidth
. The efficiency of multimedia in online training can also be measured byevaluating the bandwidth, i.e., the speed through which data is transferred. Basically, the larger the multimedia file, the more time it will take to download. The amount of information that can be sent over an analog telephone line is limited by the bandwidth of the transmission. Mostconsumer telephone lines have very limited bandwidth so, consequently, they are too slow todeliver large files acceptably. At a price, faster telephone alternatives (ISDN, T-1, etc.) areavailable, but an online training course must be designed and developed for all individuals, not just the ones with quicker connections.
Conclusion
At some point in recent history, word got around that education without entertainmentwas worthless. But isn’t it actually compelling content that engages users? And if this is thecase, can’t a text-only delivery mode provide the best solution? With all of the delivery modesavailable, the most important component in producing an effective learning experience continues

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