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Research, Reflections and Innovations in Integrating ICT in Education

Designing Multimedia Applications for Teaching IT Courses in


Public Relations and Communication Studies
Georgios Lappas* and Prodromos Yannas
Technological Educational Institution of Western Macdonia, Department of Public Relations and Communication,
Kastoria Campus, PO Box 30, GR-52100 Kastoria, Greece

This paper presents three multimedia applications implemented for the needs of three information technology (IT)
courses in the Department of Public Relations and Communication at the Technological Educational Institution of
Western Macedonia. These multimedia applications aim to help students better understand laboratory workshops
of the three courses on a self-trained basis. The multimedia applications have been designed to meet the
requirements of the following courses: Use of Specialized Software, Video Editing Principles, and Creative
Animation. The study discusses the experience of supporting courses in Public Relations and Communication
Studies by designing multimedia educational applications.

Keywords Multimedia in Higher Education, Multimedia Design, ICT in Education.

1. Introduction
Designing multimedia learning modules in higher education is usually motivated by the demand to help students
learn a wide range of concepts in a short time. Various multimedia approaches may be used to produce a
multimedia learning module. More often used among them are: a) Multimedia Presentations, where a student is
following over a rich-media presentation a specified time line b) Interactive Multimedia applications, where
students interact with dynamic content allowing various interactive features for learning and testing their
knowledge, c) Multimedia Intelligent Tutoring Systems, where artificial intelligence tools (like machine
learning) are used for designing complex multimedia applications providing intelligent tutoring guidance
decisions on identified student background and student responses to specific training tasks.
A large number of multimedia applications have been designed to meet course requirements in higher
education over the last decade. Some recent developments discuss multimedia learning modules in learning
object oriented programming [1,2], biology courses [3], medicine courses [4], foreign language courses [5],
geometry courses [6] and physics[7]. Our experience in designing interactive multimedia applications for Public
Relations (PR) and Communication Studies will be presented in this paper.

2. Information Technology in Public Relations and Communication Practices


Information Communication Technologies (ICT) have transformed the way Public Relations and
Communication is conducted. Various studies of the past have reviewed practices using information technology
for modern public relations and efficient message communication [8, 9, 10, 11].
The use of interactive multimedia has been identified as early as the mid-90’s as a challenge PR professionals
had to meet in distributing interactive multimedia newsletters, brochures or annual reports to specific target
groups like employees, customers, investors and the press [12]. Interactive multimedia applications can be used
by PR specialists to present and communicate messages of corporate and public organisations or of individuals
like artists and politicians. Although such multimedia applications are designed for offline distribution, a large
number of multimedia productions are currently created to be distributed on the web. Such example is the use of
interactive media in election campaigns (e-campaigns) as an effective means to communicate campaign
messages as studied in [13, 14].
Online and mobile multimedia offer more challenges in designing appropriate multimedia applications for
modern public relations practices. Considering that a) the web is conceived as a large multimedia application
and a large multimedia repository and b) a wide variety of communication tools currently exist on the web
(online meetings, emails, mailing lists, news aggregators, blogs, social media, etc) with more tools invented
every year, the result is that the modern way to conduct online Public Relations (e-PR) is becoming
technologically more complex as well as more creative. Therefore, designing efficient interactive multimedia
applications is a vital part in Public Relations and Communication studies in higher education. Providing
students with specific multimedia applications designed to meet their needs for enhancing the learning process

*
Corresponding author: email: lappas@kastoria.teikoz.gr, Phone: +30 2467087196

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Research, Reflections and Innovations in Integrating ICT in Education

in IT courses is an excellent example on how to use the benefits of multimedia to communicate knowledge
efficiently.

3. Multimedia Applications in Public Relations and Communication Studies

3.1 Meeting Course and Student Requirements


Modern public relations are heavily mediated, becoming more complex as the media landscape channels in our
days have dramatically increased in complexity. IT relevant courses to PR have been discussed in [14].
Emphasis in this study is given on the web. The way that PR specialists acquire social media skills is discussed
in [15]. The Commission on Public Relations Education underlines the importance of integrating adopt the
newest communication technology for public relations courses and practices as discussed in [16]. These three
studies underscore the salience the issue of technology-enhancing teaching methods has for the PR
professionals. Designing such multimedia learning approaches is still considered a novelty for the field of public
relations.
The program of studies in our department includes a number of IT related courses to develop skills for better
public relations and communication practices. Information technology courses may consist of three components:
theoretical classes, mini-project workshop meetings and computer laboratory workshops for practicing IT skills.
Although multimedia applications may also be designed for theoretical classes and project workshop meetings,
our effort in enhancing the learning process is focused in the computer laboratories exercises for practicing IT
skills.
Table 1 shows details of the IT courses and the specific modules taught in the computer lab. Apart of the IT
courses in Table 1 that are taken by all students as required courses for their degree, there are also IT elective
courses for students that want to acquire a better IT background for their field of study. These IT elective
courses are: a) Video Editing Principles b) Creative Animation c) Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
d) Political Marketing (e-campaigning) and e) Creative Design for Company Profile.

Table 1 Information Technology Courses in Public Relations and Communication Program of Studies.
Course Name Semester Theory Project Laboratory Modules Assessed in Laboratory Workshops
Classes Meetings Workshops
(hours/ (hours/ (hours/
week) week) week)
Introduction to 1st 2 - 2 Operating System Software, Word Processing
Computer Science Software, Spreadsheets Software
Use of Specialized 2nd 2 - 3 Vector Graphics Design Software, Powerpoint
Software Presentation Software, Desktop Publishing Software
Applied Public 6th 3 2 3 Web for research, Social Media Networking, Net-
Relations (e-PR) meetings, Emails, Mailing Lists, Blogs.
Modern 6th 2 2 2 Web Design Software
Technologies in
Communication
Creative 7th 3 1 2 Multimedia Authoring Software
Multimedia

During laboratory workshops students have a teacher to assist them in practising specific IT skills. The time
students spend in the lab is usually not enough for deeper understanding of the workshop’s thematic and more
exercise is required of them on their own time without any teacher assistance. Multimedia is an ideal
application, which can be used for creating self-study applications (i.e. learning without a tutor) and for
demonstrating step by step exercises carried in the lab (laboratory simulations). Moreover in a multimedia
application there can be included additional features like questions for testing acquired knowledge, course
references, training materials, advanced examples, video capturing of exercise demonstration, etc.
Public relations and communication is the application area of interest in our case for applying IT skills.
Figure 1 demonstrates a schematic representation combining course, student and field of expertise requirements
for deciding what multimedia tools, features, training methods, and related content examples may be used in
order to design the multimedia applications for an IT course.

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Fig. 1 The Multimedia Design Framework for using multimedia tools, features training methods and related content to
meet course, student and field of expertise requirements.

3.2 Multimedia Project Implementation


The design of the three multimedia applications for IT courses consisted of two phases. In the first phase we
focused in the course “Use of Specialized Software” of the 2nd semester. The specific course has demanding
laboratory exercises as students are expected in a 14-week period to acquire three new software skills for a)
creating Powerpoint presentations, b) creating vector graphics in Corel Draw and c) creating desktop publishing
products. Even a single lab absence by a student may be detrimental in comprehending and mastering the rest of
the lab workshops. Demands from laboratory workshops created the need for assisting students with self-study
material. To meet student demand for lack of time in demonstrating some skills in the lab as well as to
compensate for lab hours not attended by students, we decided to design a multimedia application for the
specific course to facilitate the learning process.
There are benefits if such application is implemented from members of staff teaching this course as they are
very familiar with most parts of the Multimedia Design Framework of Figure 1. Moreover, the use of a teacher’s
voice in guiding through the exercise helps to increase student trust in the application. This way students feel
more comfortable in understanding the multimedia learning drills.Figure 2 displays the main screen of the final
multimedia application in the “Use of Specialized Software”.

Fig. 2 The main screen of the Multimedia application for the “Use of Specialized Software” course.

Questionnaire responses of students found the specific multimedia application for the “Use of Specialized
Software” course motivating, very useful and even suggested that they would like to welcome more multimedia
applications in other courses as well, not confined to IT courses only. This finding encouraged us to proceed in
a second phase designing multimedia applications for more IT courses. Designing multimedia applications for
non-IT courses requires more effort and the same problem discussed in [3] of faculty lacking adequate support

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and training to adopt such multimedia approach is also emerging here. The final goal is to design such
applications for all IT courses and for a number of other courses of the program of study having in mind that
close collaboration among members of the teaching staff is required for this approach to work.
In-between the first and second phase we didn’t considered designing a multimedia application for the
“Introduction to Computer Science” laboratory course of the 1st semester. The reason was that students enter this
course with different IT skills, which may colour any post-evaluation regarding the benefits of using the
multimedia application. The introductory course aims to provide to all students the required IT background in
order to efficiently use a computer, create professional documents and create professional spreadsheets. A
multimedia application for this course, emphasizing in public relations and communication practices, will be
considered in the future.
In the second phase of designing multimedia applications for IT courses in public relations and
communication studies, the elective courses “Video Editing Principles” and “Creative Animation” were selected
for implementing multimedia applications for supporting the laboratory courses. The reason for selecting these
two specific courses emanated from the fact that they were next in row in the IT course sequence, placed to
appear on the 3rd and 4th semesters of the program. Being accorded an elective status, we reasoned that enriching
these courses with multimedia applications would make them more appealing increasing in the process course
registration. Figures 3 and 4 present the main screen from the multimedia application of the two courses.

a) b)
Fig. 3 a) The main screen of the Multimedia application for the “Video Editing Principles” course. The main screen is
partitioned into areas displaying the lesson id, a lesson description and a link to a video demonstrating the lesson steps. b)
One of the 31 lessons appearing in the multimedia application demonstrating a lesson on how to create video effects.

Fig. 4 The main screen of the Multimedia application for the “Creative Animation” course.

4. Conclusions
Modern programs of studies oblige students in all disciplines to acquire more knowledge in less time. New
theories, tools, scientific discoveries and research results are adopted every year under existing course modules.
Multimedia may enhance the learning process by interactive applications designed to meet specific course

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requirements. Designing multimedia applications by using own resources allows trainers to easily modify
existing multimedia applications meeting new course requirements or meeting student evaluation criteria.
Three multimedia applications have been presented demonstrating an example of using own resources for
designing interactive support applications in IT courses in public relations and communication studies.
Information technology laboratory courses require considerable effort from students who can receive teacher
assistance only during the laboratory workshops. Multimedia applications designed for IT courses allow
students to drill computer laboratory exercises on their own preferred time accomplishing at the same time the
twin goals of comprehending better the laboratory workshops and of managing time allocated for study in an
efficient manner.
Post-experience responses from students found this learning media to be motivating and very welcome. Post-
experience responses from the staff members found this media stimulating for further development adding more
features and learning material according to students and course needs. More courses are currently under
consideration for adopting such interactive multimedia support. A side effect of the multimedia experience
gained by the staff and students is the significant increase in quantity and quality of student final year projects in
designing their own interactive multimedia applications for better public relations and communication practices.

Acknowledgements The design and implementation of the multimedia applications presented in this paper were supported
by the project “Restructuring of the Program of Studies in Higher Education” funded by the European Union and the
Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs of the Hellenic Republic. We wish to acknowledge the contributions in the
project of the members of teaching staff and multimedia creators D. Amanatidis (Use of Specialized Software), A.
Efopoulou, and A. Kleftodimos (Video Editing Principles), and O. Vasileiadou (Creative Animation).

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