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Interactive Multimedia: Design Issues and Research. James D. Lehman Educational Technology Purdue University. Interactive Multimedia: Design Issues and Research. Comparison Research. Multimedia/Hypermedia. Purdue Studies. The Future. Comparison Research. Comparison research.

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Interactive Multimedia:Design Issues and Research

James D. Lehman

Educational Technology

Purdue University

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Interactive Multimedia:Design Issues and Research

Comparison Research


Purdue Studies

The Future

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Comparison research

  • Over the past three decades, much of the literature in educational technology has concerned itself with the effectiveness of computers or other media in comparison with "traditional" methods.

  • So-called media comparison research is intended to address the need of decision makers to know whether new media justify their expense.

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Comparison research

  • This research is epitomized by the studies of James Kulik et al. at Michigan. Kulik conducted a number of meta-analyses comparing the effects of various media to “traditional” instruction. These have included several analyses of computer studies.

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Comparison research

  • Kulik's meta-analyses (and others) have consistently shown an effect size on performance of about 1/3 of a standard deviation for computer-based instruction compared to traditional methods.

  • Time savings and improved attitudes have often been reported.

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Comparison research

  • Meta-analyses have also been conducted on multimedia, such as interactive video. Two meta-analyses, by Fletcher and by McNeil & Nelson, showed effect sizes in the range of .50 for interactive video.

  • These analyses suggest that interactive multimedia may be somewhat more effective than regular computer-based instruction.

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Comparison research

  • Research summaries have also looked at the effects of hypermedia – interactive multimedia that is characterized by nodes of linked information. These too suggest positive outcomes.

  • We are now beginning to see comparisons of Internet based instruction with traditional methods. Olson & Wisher found an effect size of 0.24 for web-based instruction.

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Comparison research

  • While seemingly supportive of technology integration, are comparison studies really the right approach?

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Comparison research

  • Comparison studies have come under considerable criticism. For example, James Clark of USC has criticized Kulik's computer analyses.

  • Clark has cited several apparent problems in the findings, including: reduced effect with the same instructor, reduced effect in longer studies, and reduced effect in published studies. These cast doubt on the validity of a "computer effect."

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Comparison research

  • Clark also has a more fundamental dispute with media comparison studies. Clark suggests that media comparison studies by nature are invalid.

  • Clark says media merely deliver an instructional message. He argues that the medium has no more to do with instructional effectiveness than the delivery truck has to do with the nutritional value of the groceries it carries.

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Comparison research

  • Clark says, "Media are delivery vehicles for instruction and do not directly influence learning." As a result, he has called for a moratorium on further media studies.

  • However, Clark does concede that "certain elements of different media... might serve as sufficient conditions to facilitate the learning of students who lack the skill being modeled."

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Comparison research

  • Clark and his allies argue that media, including computers, should not be compared. However, Clark concedes that some research about media may have merit including: attitudes/perceptions of media and (perhaps) attributes of particular media.

  • Many agree with Clark's criticism of blanket comparison research. However, many also take issue with his view of media.

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Comparison research

  • Robert Kozma of Stanford’s Research Institute has been a prominent opponent of Clark's position on media.

  • Kozma argues that Clark's view of learning is too simplistic; a medium, he contends, is more than a delivery vehicle.


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Comparison research

  • In Kozma's view, the learner actively collaborates with a particular medium to construct knowledge. Therefore, media (which can be defined by technology, symbol systems, and processing capabilities) cannot effectively be separated from methods.

  • As a result, he argues, there is an influence on learning that we cannot ignore.

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Comparison research

  • In Kozma’s view, what is important is the interaction of media attributes with learner characteristics.

    • Learners make use of the stability of textual material to construct understanding.

    • Graphics can act as organizing agents.

    • Video is good at depicting dynamic events and realism.

    • Interactive multimedia has the capability to call on all of these media as needed.

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Comparison research

  • Kozma and his allies suggest that media do influence learning through the interplay of learner and medium. They feel that media studies should focus on issues related to this interplay of learner and medium.

  • Interactive multimedia is a particularly ripe area for exploration because of its richness and its use of multiple media.


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  • Today, the term multimedia connotes a situation in which multiple media – text, graphics, audio, and video – are integrated into a single delivery system under computer control.

  • Hypermedia refers to a multimedia system in which information is stored as interlinked nodes. While once a backwater of computer science, hypermedia is now front and center due to the World Wide Web.

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  • Interactive videodisc technology was one of the first multimedia technologies. It emerged in the 1970s with the help of the National Science Foundation.

  • Explorations of multimedia began with interactive videodisc technology used as an instructional tool, especially in science, and research into its effectiveness and use.

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  • Design issues related to interactive video include questions such as:

    • effects of interactivity, e.g., use of embedded questions and feedback

    • efficiency of learning

    • learner control vs program control

    • speed of access

    • attitudes and perceptions

    • appropriateness of the medium

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  • Hypermedia is multimedia that uses a linked node information structure.

  • Vannevar Bush, Truman’s science advisor, envisioned this approach when he proposed a machine that he called Memex that could work by associations like the human intellect.

  • Bush’s ideas were instantiated by pioneers Doug Englebart and Ted Nelson, who developed early hypertext systems.

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  • While some hypermedia is overtly instructional, most is designed for user exploration of an information environment. The Web is a prime example today.

  • Hypermedia information environments perhaps better reflect today’s constructivist perspective on learning – they give the user the opportunity to learn but may not provide much support or assistance.

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  • Research and design issues in hypermedia include:

    • user disorientation / navigation

    • cognitive overload

    • user commitment

    • nature of incidental learning

    • individual learner differences

    • dual coding of information

    • appropriateness of the medium

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  • While many of these design issues arose in the context of stand-alone computer-based media, they are just as relevant, if not more relevant, when considering the World Wide Web today.

  • Research focused on hypermedia environments has direct relevance to the World Wide Web.


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Purdue Studies

  • Over the past two decades, a number of Purdue dissertation studies have explored some of the research/design questions associated with the design of interactive multimedia and hypermedia. What follows is a brief overview of some of those investigations.

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Purdue Studies - Hytner

  • Gail Hytner, Ph.D., 1987

  • A long-time issue in computer-based instruction is learner control vs program control. One of the most commonly cited advantages of computers, and today of hypermedia environments, is the user's ability to control his or her own learning. Is learner control advantageous?

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Purdue Studies - Hytner

  • This study examined the effects of learner control (computer control, user control, or user control with guidance) on performance and attitudes of students using a computer-based interactive video program.

  • Control, in this study, consisted of the sequencing, pacing, and use of remediation in an overtly instructional program.

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Purdue Studies - Hytner

  • Hytner's study failed to detect significant differences, other than a time-on-task difference (computer control with forced review took longest), due to the instructional treatment. In this case, the instruction was apparently so well constructed that a ceiling effect obscured any effect of the treatment in this study.

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Purdue Studies - Hytner

  • Hytner's study demonstrated that the effects due to manipulation of learner control variables in an instructional program can be of little consequence when the instruction itself is very well designed.

  • However, other researchers have found effects associated with learner control. In many previous studies, learner control has actually been found to inhibit performance.

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Purdue Studies - Hytner

  • Why is this so? The fundamental reason seems to be that students are often poor judges of their own learning. Learner control can be a problem when learners must be self-regulated.

  • Most of today's hypermedia environments (e.g., the Web) are far less structured, and rarely overtly instructional, in comparison with Hytner's program. In these cases, poor self-regulation can be a big problem.

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Purdue Studies - Smith

  • Eric Smith, Ph.D., 1988

  • The information density of interactive multimedia, and its pacing, were the factors underlying this study. Interactive multimedia is often very information dense. Can control of program pacing contribute to helping students "catch their cognitive breath" in interactive multimedia?

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Purdue Studies - Smith

  • Smith's study examined the effects of embedded pauses in an interactive video program on the topic of DNA and protein synthesis. Two factors: pause duration (0, 20, and 40 sec) and pause location (after objectives, after content, or after summary review) were examined for their impact on student performance.

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Purdue Studies - Smith

  • The study found that 40 sec pauses following content presentation were the most effective in promoting achievement as measured by an immediate recall test. In other words, students benefited from having forced pauses placed in a highly information dense program after the presentation of the content itself (although, incidentally, the students did not much care for those pauses).

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Purdue Studies - Smith

  • The results of Smith's study imply that learners benefit from the opportunity to reflect in an interactive multimedia environment. This may be a function of cognitive processing time, or it may be due to stimulation of self-regulation functions.

  • From a practical standpoint, Smith's study also suggests that slow information retrieval, as from interactive videotape or the Web today, may not necessarily be bad.

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Purdue Studies - Lee

  • Ben Lee, Ph.D., 1989

  • Hypermedia environments tend to put a burden on the learner. The information is designed to be explored. Of course, this assumes that the learner will actively explore and seek out information. Is this assumption warranted? If not, are there ways to assist the learner?

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Purdue Studies - Lee

  • Lee's study examined two factors: learning style (active, passive, or neutral) and instructional strategy (with or without cues to prompt the learner to seek embedded information) and their effects on student performance in a hypermedia program on the topic of DNA and protein synthesis.

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Purdue Studies - Lee

  • This figure summarizes the key results.

Statisticallyno different

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Purdue Studies - Lee

  • Active learners performed well in the hypermedia environment. They sought out embedded information, spent time browsing, and as a result performed well. They did not need but were not hampered by cues that prompted them to seek out information.

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Purdue Studies - Lee

  • More passive learners, on the other hand, did not perform as well without assistance. They failed to seek out embedded information, and that resulted in poorer performance.

  • However, when cues to seek out embedded information were given, more passive learners came up to a level of performance comparable to active learners.

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Purdue Studies - Lee

  • Lee's study suggests that hypermedia programs intended for instruction should include cues to prompt those students who are not naturally active learners to seek out available information.

  • It also implies that it is possible, through some types of interventions in programs, to assist students in becoming more active learners in hypermedia environments.

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Purdue Studies - Lin

  • Xiao-Dong Lin, Ph.D., 1993

  • Most of the effort in the design of hypermedia environments to date has focused on external supports for learners. Research suggests that this approach is only partially effective. Is it possible to design a hypermedia environment that promotes self-regulation in learners to enhance learning?

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Purdue Studies - Lin

  • Lin's study investigated the embedding of cues designed to promote self-regulation in a hypermedia-based simulation of a biology lab experiment of the behavior of organisms.

  • It examined whether metacognitive cues embedded in a hypermedia program can facilitate students' problem-solving and the transfer of problem-solving skills.

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Purdue Studies - Lin

  • The results of Lin's study showed that students who received metacognitive cues performed significantly better than those who received cognitive, affective, or no cues on a test of problem-solving designed to demonstrate transfer of skills learned in the simulated laboratory.

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Purdue Studies - Lin

  • Students in the metacognitive cue group focused on the process of problem-solving rather than on problem features or their feelings. This focus on the problem-solving process translated into a greater depth of understanding, improved immediate performance, and the ability to transfer problem-solving skills to a problem with an entirely different surface context.

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Purdue Studies - Lin

  • This research suggests that self-regulation is particularly powerful in promoting students' learning.

  • It also suggests that it is possible to embed features within hypermedia to help learners regulate their own learning processes. This has significant implications for the design of hypermedia environments.

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Purdue Studies - Lin

  • Lin's dissertation received widespread recognition. It received the Outstanding dissertation award from the School of Education, from the national Association for Educational Communications and Technology, and from Division C of the American Educational Research Association.

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Purdue Studies - Lin

  • Ella Lin, Ph.D., 1995

  • This study also examined the issue of self-regulation via hypermedia by looking at the effects of prompting students to self-elaborate and the effects of embedded strategic cues designed to help ESL students focus on their own understanding.

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Purdue Studies - Lin

  • Subjects studied hypermedia based materials to learn English.

  • Those in the self-elaboration condition had to generate their own summaries of the content.

  • A comparison condition presented students with computer-generated summaries of the same content.

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Purdue Studies - Lin

  • Also, the effects of embedded strategic cues were compared with no cues.

  • In the cued condition, students had access via hypertext to information that was designed to promote students' self-regulation skills and self-efficacy.

  • In the comparison condition, no such cues were available.

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Purdue Studies - Lin

  • The results showed significant effects in favor of both the use of self-elaborations and the use of strategic cues.

  • These results confirm that it is possible to promote students' self-regulation and thereby their learning through the use of embedded cues and techniques in a hypermedia environment.

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Purdue Studies - Kao

  • Michelle Kao, Ph.D., 1995

  • Learner support can be built into software. However, there is concern that learners may over-rely on support provided in software, and, as a result, fail to successfully internalize learning. Could this problem be addressed using a technique such as scaffolding that includes both support-building and support-fading?

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Purdue Studies - Kao

  • Kao's study investigated the use of scaffolding embedded in a CAI program on the topic of hypothesis testing in statistics.

  • The scaffolding model created for the study included both support (in the form of visual, textual, and symbolic cues) as well as a systematic scheme for withdrawing levels of support as the learner successfully completed problems.

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Purdue Studies - Kao

  • Students using the version of the program with scaffolded support were compared to those using versions of the program providing full support and with least (symbolic only) support.

  • The subjects were drawn from an introductory educational psychology class that was studying elementary statistics.

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Purdue Studies - Kao

  • The results showed that learners in the scaffolded support group outperformed those in the other two groups on a test of knowledge maintenance.

  • Students in the full support group performed the most poorly, which suggests that concern about students' over-reliance on software support is warranted.

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Purdue Studies - Kao

  • Kao's study further confirms the importance of developing students' own abilities through techniques embedded in the software. In this case, the study confirmed that too much support can be detrimental to student learning. Scaffolded instruction provides a way to address this problem and help learners to successfully develop their problem-solving abilities.

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Purdue Studies - Chang

  • Mei-Mei Chang, Ph.D., 2001

  • Motivation clearly is a very important factor in student performance regardless of instructional setting. Can students’ motivation, and hence performance, be enhanced through the use of specific techniques embedded in interactive multimedia?

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Purdue Studies - Chang

  • This study employed a 2 x 2 factorial design examining learners’ intrinsic motivation (higher or lower) and use of embedded motivational constructs, specifically relevance enhancement (with or without).

  • Learners were Taiwanese college students learning English via a web-based multimedia program including video.

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Purdue Studies - Chang

  • Results showed that intrinsically motivated learners scored higher than those who were not, and learners who received the relevance enhancements scored higher than those who did not on measures of motivation and on a comprehension exam.

  • The embedded treatments, therefore, were successful in promoting learners motivation leading to better performance.

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Purdue Studies - Chang

  • This study again showed that learner supports can be successfully embedded in hypermedia, in this case web-based instruction.

  • The challenge today is to find the most effective types of supports and how best to implement them in web-based hypermedia environments for students in various disciplines and learning settings.

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The Future

  • Several significant developments are impacting education today:

  • (1) knowledge creation is accelerating requiring more self-directed learners

  • (2) media are going digital, allowing computer manipulation and delivery

  • (3) networks are expanding exponentially – the accumulated knowledge of humankind is becoming available online

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The Future

  • With the rapid growth of the World Wide Web, we can look forward to a time when multimedia information on any topic will be instantly available anywhere and at any time.

  • While this unprecedented level of access to information will be wonderful, will learners be able to successfully utilize it?

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Learning in the Future

  • Previous research gives us ample reason to have doubt. Many students are passive learners, and many are poor judges of their own learning. Access to huge stores of information may exacerbate rather than relieve problems.

  • We need ways to develop and support learners’ self-directed learning in these new environments.

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Providing Supports

  • Our research suggests that:

    • Certain elements of hypermedia may be manipulated to facilitate learning.

    • Online environments have the potential to build communities of practice.

    • Problem-centered approaches can stimulate thinking, motivate students using authentic problems, and enhance self-directedness.

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The Future

  • We need to take what we have learned about hypermedia , PBL, etc. and apply it to the design of new online environments for learning.

  • We need to further develop our understanding of the interplay between learner and medium to improve the effectiveness of multimedia/hypermedia environments for learning.

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The Future

  • The future may well redefine aspects of traditional education as we know it today.

  • It is important for us now to think about what those changes might bring and to continue to research ways to help learners get the most from the new technologies of education.


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Ayersman, D.J. (1996). Reviewing the research on hypermedia-based learning. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 28(4), 500-525.

Clark, R.E. (1983). Reconsidering research on learning from media. Review of Educational Research, 53(4), 445-459.

Clark, R.E. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 21-29.

Fletcher, J. D. (1989). The effectiveness and cost of interactive videodisc instruction. Machine-Mediated Learning, 3, 361-385.

Hannafin, M. J. (1985). Empirical issues in the study of computer-assisted interactive video. Educational Communications and Technology Journal, 33(4), 235-247.

Heller, R. S. (1990). The role of hypermedia in education: A look at the research issues. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 22(4), 431-441.

Kozma, R. (1991). Learning with media. Review of Educational Research, 61(2), 179-212.

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Kozma, R.B. (1994). Will media influence learning? Reframing the debate. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(2), 7-19.

Kulik, C.C. & Kulik, J.A. (1991). Effectiveness of computer-based instruction: An updated analysis. Computers in Human Behavior, 7, 75-94.

McNeil, B. J. & Nelson, K. R. (1991). Meta-analysis of interactive video instruction: A 10 year review of achievement effects. Journal of Computer-Based Instruction, 18(1), 1-6.

Najjar, L.J. (1996). Multimedia information and learning. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 5(2), 129-150.

Olson, T. M. & Wisher, R. A. (2002). The effectiveness of web-based instruction: An initial inquiry. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 3(2). ISSN: 1492-3831.

Park, I. & Hannafin, M.J. (1993). Empirically-based guidelines for the design of interactive multimedia. Educational Technology Research and Development, 41(3), 63-85.