Multimedia learning packages: Design issues and implementation problems

Tags: Design Issues, Implementation Problems, Multimedia Learning, implementation, authoring tools, Manjit, TAPS, delivery control, problem solving, mechanical engineering, multimedia packages, Cairncross, interactivity, interactive multimedia, problem-solving model, engineering mechanics, Mannion, direct manipulation, Washington D. C. Mast V. D., International Conference, S. Jayakumar, S. Diljit, pp, University Malaya, Delft University of Technology, Mechanical Engineering University Tenaga Nasional, effective multimedia learning, computer packages, College of Engineering, Malaysian Online Journal of Instructional Technology, development problems, Computers Educational Journal, Integrated Development Environments, College of Information Technology, authoring tool, Manjit Sidhu, Computers and Industrial Engineering Proceedings, Experiential Learning, user interface design, multiple media, linear fashion, 3D modeling tool, authoring software, learning tools, engineering concepts, engineering learning tools, human computer interactions, Multimedia Technology, World Conference on Science and Technology Education., Technical Postgraduate Symposium, S. Ramesh, Active Learning through Multimedia, N. Selvanathan, Manjit S. Sidhu, user interfaces, Design Considerations, computer based learning, the design process, Ramesh S.
Content: Malaysian Online Journal of instructional technology (MOJIT) April 2006 ISSN 1823:1144
Vol. 3, No.1, pp 43-56
Multimedia Learning Packages: Design Issues and Implementation Problems
S. Manjit Sidhu & S. Ramesh *
College of Information Technology, Multimedia Unit *College of Engineering, Dept. of Mechanical Engineering University Tenaga Nasional (UNITEN) 43009 Kajang Selangor Malaysia
Abstract
The development of effective multimedia learning packages (MLP) used by students in their learning requires the exploitation of a variety of authoring tools. These packages developed using Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) such as C, C++ and Java is difficult and, could give rise to a number of design and development problems. On the other hand, the use of authoring tools such as Director MXTM, Authorware MXTM and Flash MXTM requires one to have a comprehensive knowledge on the capabilities of such tools under different design conditions. This paper addresses and discussed the design and implementation issues pertaining to the development of multimedia learning packages with particular emphasis on engineering. A problem-solving model was adopted and was found to be effective in designing the packages using various authoring tools that allow users to visualize a problem prior to solving it.
INTRODUCTION The use of conventional audiovisual learning aids for teaching are common in many university courses. However, under such circumstances not all students would understand or gain enough knowledge in the subject matter if there are a large number of students taking common subjects, particularly in the foundation year such as mathematics and engineering science. As such some students, particularly weak learners would require alternative learning aids such as multimedia packages to aid them in their learning. In this paper we described the development of some engineering multimedia packages that are used by students in their learning and visualization of selected engineering topics. Since the packages are developed to show the students how to solve engineering problems, the term technology-assisted problem solving (TAPS) is used to refer to the developed packages.
engineering educationalist are developing and making use of an increasing number of computer packages to assist in their teaching/lectures (Fogler et al., 1992; Squires et al., 1992). However, its effectiveness and efficiency for both learners and instructors depend crucially on the available resources, which determine their easiness and retrieval. Currently available learning materials, such as electronic textbooks and computer-based courseware, are mostly hypertext containing hierarchical links that represents the book or course structure and possibly simple "horizontal" (contextual) link from a page to associated pages that are similar. The main problems related to using hypertext for learners are cognitive workload, disorientation and distraction, poor narrative flow and poor conceptual flow. To overcome these problems, instructors using authoring tools needs support in designing, implementing
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Multimedia Learning Packages: Design Issues and Implementation Problems
and evaluating multimedia materials. This requires efficient knowledge and organization of the resources available to them. Multimedia authoring tools (software that could be used to develop student learning aids) such as Director, Flash and Authorware have evolved tremendously that today these tools can be successfully integrated and used to aid teaching of undergraduate courses. In addition these tools can be used to create high quality TAPS packages, which could engage the user/learner, thereby promoting deep learning and visualization of an area in engineering, medical, science, etc. (Cairncross and Mannion, 2000; Manjit et al., 2002a). In this paper, we present an innovative approach to designing and implementing TAPS packages with particular engineering mechanics subject. TAPS packages allow slow learners (learners who did not understand the problem presented during normal lecture hours and needs additional assistance). We start with a discussion of the benefits of applying multimedia in the context of learning packages and then present our current work on designing, implementing, evaluating and utilizing TAPS packages. With the advancement of computer technology, TAPS packages that are used by students to learn has shifted from the model that involve "point and click" with still images and text that lacks interactivity to a dynamic (animation) model that can be used to deliver information in multiple formats i.e. text, image, animation, audio and video. Since the delivery of information, the organization, and timing in which it is delivered could be controlled, the user could engage and interact with the material being presented. This is certainly an added advantage to slow learners. The educational benefits offered by multimedia technology include the ability to take users into environments otherwise inaccessible by conventional methods, create a dynamic and interactive environment for learning, the high memory retention of experience, and the ability to reach out to visually oriented learners. Although, multimedia-authoring tools are being used extensively to implement engineering learning packages, inexperience academician's in implementing such packages are faced with the challenge in deciding which authoring tool would be effective to model their learning package so as to meet users requirements. Thus, this is an area that requires further research in terms of design and implementation of TAPS packages. In general, the benefits of incorporating multimedia in engineering education includes: · Accidents could be avoided. · Multimedia environment enable students to perform sophisticated experiments which otherwise require high level of physical or technical skills. · It eliminates the need for physical sets of specialized and expensive equipment. · body of knowledge can be stored permanently and used repeatedly thus enhancing learning and understanding. · Dynamic or real time motion such as moving links, pistons, crank shaft and structures which is difficult to show or visualize during lecture or lab setting could easily be accomplished using multimedia technology (Manjit et al., 2003d).
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TECHNOLOGY-ASSISTED PROBLEM SOLVING LEARNING PACKAGES Most varsities and higher-learning institutions have embarked on using interactive multimedia and associated learning technologies (Manjit et al., 2002a). Previous studies (Manjit et al., 2002a) have not dealt with concepts that lend themselves to visualization. In this context, the present work focuses on the feasibility of using various authoring tools, good quality graphics and color-coding to enhance visualization and to draw users attention to various concepts being presented. The content contained within the learning package is intended to provide users with better understanding of the theoretical concepts in engineering mechanics as well as to apply knowledge in solving a variety of engineering Design Problems. In general engineering problems presented in textbooks such as (Meriam & Kraige, 2003) could be difficult to understand by students because the engineering diagrams and figures shown are usually in a static form (not animated). Furthermore engineering mechanics subjects are fundamentally about problem solving through the application of scientific principles. However there are many cognitive steps leading from problem to solution. As a result, there are many educational difficulties such as learners lack the ability to translate mathematical equations/terms into the form necessary for effective computation. These engineering problems are often complex, and relationships among the variables of an experiment could also be difficult to visualize. Traditional or face-to-face instructional environments have been criticized because they encourage passive learning, ignore Individual differences and needs of the learners, and do not pay attention to problem solving, critical thinking, or other higher order thinking skills (Lee and Sullivan, 1995; Banathy, 1994). Therefore, multimedia can be used to improve teaching materials in a number of different areas. Of interest to the authors is the application of multimedia to the implementation of TAPS packages to provide an alternative means for presenting engineering and scientific information that is easy for learners to understand (Manjit et al., 2003d). In engineering mechanics statics course, the problems are normally presented to the learner as a combination of schematic diagrams and text descriptions. The learner must immediately apply learned knowledge in order to form an internal model of what the problem is all about, failing which often result in lack of interest in the subject matter. In general, the shapes and lines that make up the schematic diagram have very specific engineering meanings, and the words accompanying the diagram normally provide additional information that could assist the learner in applying the proper theory to solve the problem (Manjit et al., 2003d). As such, the objectives of TAPS are to help learners gain a better understanding of the fundamental mechanics concepts, to resolve complex topics i.e. forces and moments, and to apply engineering principles in solving engineering-related problems. Design Issues and Implementation Problems This section present the design and implementation process of TAPS for mechanical engineering subjects. Previous work indicated that the inclusion of interactive features however may not necessary lead to deep learning. The primary aim of these authors was to produce guidelines for embedding virtual experiments into a supportive learning framework where guideline, background theory and exercises could be incorporated. In this study, emphasize is given in the design and implementation aspects of interactive multimedia. Five important issues prior to implementing an interactive multimedia-learning package namely
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design and user considerations and three essential multimedia attributes i.e. multiple media, interactivity and delivery control are discussed in the subsequent sections. Design Considerations Practitioners in the study of human computer interactions had demanded for more detailed research to be carried out pertaining to the effects of different user interfaces (Whiteside et al., 1985; Frohlich, 1993; Benbasat and Todd, 1993). Numerous literatures have described the advantages of direct manipulation interfaces (Norman, 1983; Marongo and Schneiderman, 1987; Te'eni, 1990; Eberst and Bittiada, 1993). More recent studies, however, indicated that it is still not clear which interfaces is to be employed and for which problem (Guttormsen, 1996). In any high quality interactive multimedia engineering learning package, the design phase is considered as the most critical part of prototype development. Although the topic of design has been discussed in many programming books in general, every developer has different sets of technical expertise and thus has his/her own method of designing a learning package. However, both teaching and learning user interface design are complex, especially because it is a discipline that has grown by trial and error, rather than by theory since there is not many literature available on the design of user interfaces (Mast, 1995a). Therefore, the main issue that must be considered during the prototype stage is that the design and implementation follow the same paradigm of stepwise refinement that applies to the package lifecycle as a whole i.e. adding information progressively until sufficient details exists for authoring and scripting to take place. User Considerations A fundamental reality of implementing a learning package is that the user interface is the system to the users. Basically, what users want is for developers to build tools that meet their needs and is user-friendly. Cairncross and Mannion (2000) argued that the very richness and complexity of interactive multimedia could lead to problems if the needs of the user are not given careful consideration. Similarly, Abraham et al., (2001) added that although well designed, the multimedia-learning package is not "intelligent", i.e. it does not provide individualized instruction. In addition, many inexperience academicians who develop the aforementioned packages do not cater for the needs of the user in the development process of the learning package. Their design, guidelines and authoring tools used to implement the learning packages are solely based on their own experiences and ideas. This could be in part due to lack of Computer Science and instructional development background (Manjit et al., 2003e). Another problem is its multidisciplinary nature i.e. besides software engineering, knowledge in disciplines such as perception theory, media design and task analysis, and user engagement psychology are required during the design process (Mast, 1995b). Generally multimedia learning packages should take into consideration both, humancomputer interaction and learning theory. Failure to do so can lead to poorly design learning packages that may mislead the learners. Schank (1994) pointed out that most multimedia packages fail because they merely add video and graphics to page-turning programs.
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Schank (1994) further argued that in the event when a learner attempts to answer a question using a multimedia-learning package and the learner input a wrong answer, the package instantly provide the correct answer. The multimedia-learning package is not designed to explain the reason why the input answer was incorrect, and makes no effort to discover the source of the user error. Aldrich et al. (1988) added that learning applications often are superfluous and do little to support effective learning. Therefore, a good interactive multimedia-learning package should incorporate features such as explanation when the user gives an incorrect answer or provide some hints to help the user answer the question or solve the problem correctly. According to Dewhurst and Williams (1998), it is not always possible to make a clear distinction between different approaches in teaching. For example, for some instructors there maybe an overlap in their approaches in lectures and tutorials, and some may have different ideas of the function of a tutorial. Therefore, when considering research in computer based learning it is always difficult to visualize exactly the perceptions of users pertaining to lectures, seminars and tutorials. Multiple Media The main attributes of multimedia can be generalized into three functional groups, i.e. multiple media, delivery control and interactivity as shown in Figure 1. Multimedia enables learning package developers the freedom to select from a variety of media elements to express a particular message in the form of text or motion to represent a process. In addition, a given piece of information can be delivered using one or more media element (Cairncross and Mannion, 2000). For example an image can be employed to illustrate a textbased description. Furthermore, the information originally presented on screen can be supplemented by the use of audio, video and pop-up boxes. Audio can be useful as text can be minimized on the screen. Therefore, multimedia elements could be combined and presented simultaneously and in a variety of ways (Manjit et al., 2003b). Cairncross and Mannion, (2000) inferred that media presentation is only one aspect of screen design and media selection must also be considered.
Multiple Media
Interactivity
Delivery Control
Figure 1: Key Attributes of Multimedia. In the present work, we have employed and presented the learning materials by using multiple mediums. Additionally, audio was used to explain certain theories and to summarize information pertaining to the problem in question. Video files was also incorporated with an avatar (a human face character) to draw the user attention, particularly in the event when the user has made a mistake.
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Delivery Control The non-linearity offered by many multimedia learning packages provide a learner greater navigational and freedom to learn (Cairncross and Mannion, 2000). Users may go onto any section and in any order, in a multimedia-learning package. In addition, media such as audio and video can be controlled i.e. pausing, playing and repeating clips. Multimedia learning packages could be enhanced further by including links to additional supporting materials, for example to guide a learner if he/she is lost during navigation. Such approach could help the user without consulting the instructor and could be extended to allow users to annotate the material and do their exploration. Cairncross and Mannion (2000) found that at the simplest level an electronic notepad could be provided to allow a learner to take notes. The authors further argued that it can be perceived that by having control over the delivery of information, could help promote a sense of ownership over the material, and this in turn could accelerate the learning curve. Interactivity In general, the term "interaction" refers to the reciprocal action of two phenomena and has both a physical connotation (one entity operating on another) and a psychological connotation (two entities influencing each other behavior). User interaction with the computer by way of hardware events usually occurs in the form of mouse clicks, i.e. discrete events. Furthermore, multimedia allows the users to experiment safely, enabling them to examine the consequences of taking wrong approaches, as well as correct ones, thereby assisting the user to have a deeper understanding of the theory involve in the particular subject (Ramesh et. al., 2003). The interaction between user and learning package is thus very important. The degree of interaction with, and control of, the package could increase user motivation by making the user feel more in control if compared to in a linear-type application. Although many learning packages provide some interactivity, what makes the difference even in a simple learning package is whether the package allows the user to work at his/her own pace, in the order desired, repeating sequences at will, manipulate virtual objects on screens and simulation of experiments or Industrial processes. In general, the benefits of human-machine interactivity in engineering must always be seen in light of specific contexts and courses. Virtual environments may facilitate learning technical courses, but they must not become an escape from reality. In the effort to elucidate the meaning and value of interactivity, a program's quality and pedagogic pertinence should not be ignored (Manjit et al., 2003b).
IMPLEMENTATION SOFTWARE FOR ENGINEERING PACKAGES Another important issue to take into account when implementing multimedia-engineering learning packages is the choice of authoring tool to use. Although the market is dominated with a variety of authoring tools such as Director MX, Flash MX and Authorware MX, yet IDEs such as C, C++ and Java could also be employed.
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The selection of authoring tool needs to be reduced to one or two necessary for implementing each learning package. Furthermore, there is no one authoring tool that has all the features that meets a subject content. Thus the developer needs to be aware of the limitations of the available tool. In developing the multimedia-engineering packages in the present work, the criteria shown in Table 1 were incorporated during the design stages. Table 1: Criteria for Implementing Multimedia-engineering Packages.
· Knowledge of the developer
This refers to the degree of technical expertise of the developer.
· Suitability
This is in terms of whether the software posses the features necessary to implement the learning packages. This is an important factor in the comparison of authoring tools, as generic programming languages (3rd Generation Languages) allow the programmer to do anything he/she wants. However, some authoring tools and 4th generation languages are design for particular functions and are weak in other areas such as scripting.
· Ease of interface design Most modern multimedia learning packages are implemented for graphical environments such as Microsoft Windows, where the interface of the package is significant. The authoring tool should allow the developer to design and manipulate objects, buttons, fields and dialogues on the screen without spending much time to code them.
· Cost
The cost of implementing multimedia-learning packages could be high. The least expensive are generic Programming Languages or IDEs such as C, C++ and Java, all of which are meant for the experienced programmer. However, an important factor to be considered when comparing cost is the time that the developer would take to learn the programming languages. Therefore, in favor of less programming and familiarity with multimedia authoring tools, we have used Macromedia DirectorTM, Flash MX, and Authorware MX.
Package Development In this study, three prototype of the engineering learning packages based on Windows platform under the components listed in Table 2 were developed and tested to address the 49
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aforementioned issues on design and implementation. These learning packages were developed to supplement weak and slow learners. Animations were used to illustrate the conversation process in order to promote better recall. In the earlier prototype packages, shown in Figures 2 and 3, interactivity was limited to menu selection. Based on the users feedback, the prototype packages was further enhanced as shown in Figure 4, by incorporating user directed activity through the use of specific problem-solving questions. In addition, real-time motion simulation and interactivity were added via navigation over the playback of animations, audio and video control. Additional features such as a calculator, notepad and a glossary of commands were also included in the packages. Table 2: Components of Engineering Learning Tools for Each Problem-Solving Module.
Tool 1 Tool 2 Tool 3
Engineering Materials Mechanics Statics Mechanics Dynamics
According to Kolb (1984), active experimentation is an essential part of the learning process but that experimentation must be focused if it is to be successful. Laurillard (1993) inferred that discovery learning implies that the learner has some research skills and is able to make appropriate mental connections. However, some learners may require assistance during their investigation. In the engineering materials learning tool shown in Figure 2, structured navigation was achieved through careful menu layout, as in any textbook, are divided into various chapters such as Phase Diagrams and each chapter is sub-divided into relevant topics e.g. Eutectic Phase Diagram, etc. as shown in Figure 2. The advantage is that the learner could decide the sections to visit in an application and in any order. Basically, the interface is a blackboard on which the navigation controls the words or phrases that a lecturer would normally write on the board, the diagrams, photographs, animations, video clips, and derivations that appear during the play-through presentation as the page is displayed. Every page or important terms are linked to the interactive glossary in the help menu so that the learner could look up for further explanation. In the mechanics statics-learning tool shown in Figure 3, a menu comprising the itineraries of the analysis has been included. Such feature enables users to skip sections where necessary. The tool is user-friendly; for example, at the click of the "Continue" button, the computation of unknown reactions at the supports is carried out in a step-by-step approach. In one of our latest TAPS package development in mechanics dynamics course as shown in Figure 4, more interactivity was included. In this prototype tool, the user is tested to solve a given problem in a step-by-step approach. The user clicks the option from the itineraries list to activate a procedure. Each procedure can be assumed as a different page just like in a textbook. As each procedure is activated, relevant elements such as text, equations,
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photographs, graphics, and animations are displayed accordingly. In the present work, the learning tool is designed in such a way that the user is taken through the lesson in a step-bystep approach; providing explanation and also motion where necessary to emphasize certain theories and concepts.
Figure 2: Screen Snapshot of the Engineering Materials Tool. Figure 3: Screen Snapshot of the Mechanics Statics Tool. 51
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Figure 4: Screen Snapshot of the Mechanics Dynamics Tool. In order to facilitate user control over the lessons, the navigational interface includes the following functions: · Move forward and backward one screen at a time within the lesson. · Jump to sections of interest of the analysis, step number and solutions. · Buttons to play, pause and repeat a step, solution and motion. · A calculator for performing simple calculations. · A notepad to summarize and save useful notes for later use. · A glossary of commands. · A graph to show the velocity versus time and distance versus time. · An exercise and quiz as a measure of countercheck to gauge the level of user understanding. · Exit the tutorial easily. In our approach to implement multimedia tools to solve engineering problems, we have adopted a problem-solving model, as typically shown in Figure 5 for the TAPS mechanics statics package. Similar model was used to structure the other tools based on the problem statement. In general, the organizational design flow of the problem-solving model can be represented as a list of procedures that must be executed in a serial order which lead from a problem 52
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statement to the solution. The arrows represent the possible flow between procedures. Since mechanics engineering concepts build in a linear fashion, the tools are structured to present information sequentially. The problem-solving model contains several sections that are made up of any number of pages/procedures. Each page builds at a time, so that a particular concept is illustrated as the user clicks the "Continue" or "Next" button. While it is intended that learner will proceed through the content in a linear fashion, the choice to move back and fourth throughout the tutorials is also provided in the tool. As each page builds, several elements such as text, equations, images, graphics, and animations are displayed. The user could repeat any procedure as many times as desired or go to a page/procedure that is unclear.
Figure 5: The Problem-Solving Model of Mechanics Statics Multimedia Learning Tool. In general, the tutorial contents used in these prototypes were found to be appropriate for presenting factual information for problem-solving strategies in engineering subjects. Figure 5 also depicts the structure and sequence of the engineering tutorials. The tutorials begin with an introductory and objectives section that informs the user of the purpose and nature of the tutorials and problems. The user begins by reading the question and then proceeds in a step-by-step manner to solve it. The system processes the response to assess user comprehension, and the user is given feedback to improve comprehension and future performance. At the end of each iteration, the tool makes a sequencing decision to determine what information should be treated during the next iteration. The cycle continues until either the user or the program terminates the lesson. At the end of the lesson the user is normally given a summary of progress in the form of a graph. Apparently, not many multimedia tutorial systems engage its users in such activities (Stephen et al., 1985). 53
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IMPLEMENTATION PROBLEMS Most engineering based learning tools are being developed using authoring software rather than programming languages. In general by using authoring software such as Director and Authorware, developers can create sophisticated applications without needing to be expert programmers. However, with the variety of authoring software available in the market, the task of selecting the most appropriate software to develop the engineering learning tools become more tedious and complicated. Although we have designed and implemented a series of mechanical engineering learning tools, we encountered a number of problems such as modeling two and three-dimensional objects, synchronizing audio, video, animation and text files. When an instructor is considering to develop and to implement such TAPS package to aid his/her lectures, the instructor needs to have experience and expertise in modeling 3D simulation object, be able to use a 3D modeling tool such as 3D studio Max or Maya, rendering the object and then importing the object into an authoring software such as Macromedia Director, Flash or Authorware. To make matters more complicated, in order to make the 3D model behave so as the user could interact with it requires scripts such as Lingo or Java to be incorporated in the tool. In addition Sound Effects could be added by using a mike or recording using a sound-editing software and video using a PC camera that could be embedded into the learning tool. Therefore, it is important that the instructor is proficient in using external devices to enhance the TAPS package (Manjit et al., 2003c). CONCLUSIONS The incorporation of multimedia in engineering learning tools provides added advantages to undergraduates and engineering trainees. Although the effort in developing the technology has not been matched by a similar concerned with the pedagogy, the discussion in this paper clearly shows that multimedia technology has great potential to assist learning as well as to enhanced learner visualization and understanding of concepts in mechanical engineering. Pertinent issues in design and implementation of engineering learning tools have been discussed based on three prototype engineering multimedia-learning tools covering various topics in mechanical engineering course. A problem-solving model was adopted and was found to be suitable in designing TAPS packages that allows learners to visualize a problem prior to solving it.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The authors would like to express their gratitude to UNITEN and University Malaya for the support provided. REFERENCES Abraham D., Crawford L., Lesta L., Merceron A and Yacef K. (2001), The Logic Tutor: A Multimedia Presentation. Interactive Multimedia Electronic Journal of ComputerEnhanced Learning. (http://imej.wfu.edu/articles/2001/2/03/index.asp)
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