Advances in technology and the information age have redefined the way that we teach students (Jackson 2009; Veerasamy 2010). Computers have been used in education since the late 1950's although mainly for administrative purposes and only by large universities (Alessi & Trollip 1985). Since the mid 1960's more educational institutions are using computers as the cost of owning a computer dropped with the increase in availability (Alessi & Trollip 1985). The first systems for learner controlled instruction where created in the early 1970's and although they failed to produce any meaningful results over teacher-led instruction (Mayer 2001), they have lead the way for students to develop problem solving skills in "the correct educational environment" (Alessi & Trollip 1985, p. 48). In 1985 Stephen Alessi and Stanley Trollip (p. 49) recognised that "All colleges and universities ... and most elementary and secondary schools" had computers. In 2008 it was suggested that;
Distance learning will increasingly replace face-to-face interaction, that digital technology will allow education to be increasingly customized to the needs of the learner, and will become increasingly efficient and accessible.
THREE USES OF COMPUTERS:
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Computers provide a facility for efficient administration for universities and schools. Correspondence, communications and financial information can be stored and easily altered and replicated using computers (Alessi & Trollip 1985). Individual teachers will also find computers useful for planning lessons, creating handouts and keeping test results (Alessi & Trollip 1985).
Teaching about computers
While computers can be used within education there is also a need for education about computers. There are two levels to computer education; computer literacy and computer science. Computer literacy provides students with enough information to use basic programmes and software. These programmes and software are designed by those that are educated in computer science (Alessi & Trollip 1985).
Teaching with computers
For teachers using computers in the classroom as a teaching aid has changed the way information can be conveyed to students thus providing a more meaningful experience for students. Alessi and Trollip (1985) and Clark (2002) outline tutorial instruction, drills, simulations, instructional games, tests, problem solving environments, games, intelligent computer assisted instruction and computer controlled video as some of the methods of using computers for education.
WHAT IS MULITMEDIA??
Multimedia has been seen by authors as presentation of material in multiple formats or in a way that appeals to multiple senses such as sight and sound (Mayer 2001; Pirosca & Mohanu 2009; Seo, Tempelton & Pellegrino 2008). By connecting multiple designs of the one piece of information students are allowed a deeper understanding (Mayer 2001). Teaching with computers or e-learning provides alternative settings and methods to present material to students (Clark 2002; Jackson, 2009). Methods include paint programmes, slide shows, movie programmes etc. (Priosca & Mohanu 2009). E-learning does not only pertain to web based training, it also includes:
virtual classrooms, digital collaboration and learning through electronic media including the internet, extranets, intranets, interactive digital TV , audio/video tape and CD ROM
Urden & Weggen 2000, cited Jackson 2009
Bala Veerasamy (2010) states that e-learning is the use of computers and other electronic devices for educational purposes. Learning through multimedia is sometimes seen as information acquisition; students receive information and learn it off (Mayer 2001). Contrastingly Mayer (2001) points out that multimedia can aid in knowledge construction by which students remember but also understand information. Mayer (2001) sees information as an object that is passable from one person to another while knowledge is created by the individual therefore cannot be transferred with such ease.
Course can be offered fully online or partially online. Distance learning or partially online courses will include material such as textbooks that are already in place but will add some elements of media instruction. Integrated courses will facilitate most of the learning through an MLE, by using e-mail chat and other online options as previously discussed (Verasamy 2010). At present some use of offline materials such as text books will be required however with greater widespread access to e-books and online journals, this need will presumably be phased out in the future.
The greatest advantage of technology based learning is the reduction in overheads such as classrooms and travel expenses; also the opportunity cost is reduced as time is not lost for teachers travelling between education centres (Jackson 2009). Grigore Pirosca and Florina Mohanu (2009) have observed that the price of technology is dropping and availability is therefore more widespread.
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The flexibility offered by e-learning and multimedia is also a key benefit, students can work at a time, place and pace that suits them and can therefore simultaneously hold down two life roles, as a student and a worker (Cahoon 1998; Veerasamy 2010). Students can be geographically dispersed and still easily receive the same course materials and data (Pirosca & Mohanu 2009). By nature of its design the internet records every interaction every computer has with it, that is to say the unique identity (IP address) of my computer records every website I visit, at what time and how long I spent on the site somewhere in cyberspace. This allow tutors who may never meet students to get an over view of the students learning activity by how many times they sign into a course web page and what links they used (Pirosca & Mohanu).
Modes of asynchronous communication provide students time to reflect on their response thus allowing them to think more about their answer (Cahoon 1998). For some time delays in replies may be viewed as an obstacle ( Lempereur 2004).
Learning can be improved by the addition of appropriately placed and timed graphics, such as images, charts and animations (Clark 2002; Liu & Beamer 1997) and by using multimedia to enhance understanding ( Seo, Templeton & Pellegrino 2008). Simple use of multimedia can be far more effective than pages of text (Hills 2003). By providing two communications, text and graphic, two aspects of our working memory are stimulated, phonetic and visual, giving the learner two opportunities to convert the information to the long term-memory (Clark 2002). If this image or graphic was narrated through audio rather than text our auditory memory would be stimulate allowing for improved learning (Clark 2002).
If attention and focus are the foundation for learning, then multimedia is a powerful pedagogical tool because it engages the greatest number of the senses and sparks the imagination.
Liu |& Beamer 1997
Educators must respect the diverse nature of individuals and the ways in which they learn (Schrand 2008). How students learn in our classrooms will be defined by the hard and software made available by the educational institute (Schrand 2008).
The provision of a learning agent to fulfil a personalisation role can also aid the learner by contributing instructional advice (Clark 2002).
Where the media used creates an affinity with the student culture motivation for learning can be increased (Jackson 2009). Kay Kyeongju Seo, Rosalyn Templeton and Debra Pellegrino (2008, p. 261) observed that using multimedia for project based learning made students more "engaged, self-motivated and persistent".
Information is displayed and can be accessed by many in the same format; location or operating systems do not affect the data received (Jackson 2009, Liu & Beamer 1997). The ability to update web pages means that all research will be more up to date then that done using textbooks (Jackson 2009). Software distributed via the internet can be updated with ease by prompting the user to download new versions (Jackson 2009). Students can study around their own schedules as the internet is open at anytime (Jackson 2009). The internet provides synchronous, chat rooms, and asynchronous, e-mail, methods of communication (Jackson 2009). This communication is important for web based courses as it enables students to overcome the feelings of isolation they may experience (Horton 2003, cited in Jackson 2009). Online interaction can also allow for "greater equality of participation" as vocal persons are not capable of dominating the situation and shy students are not afraid to join in when hidden behind the computer screen (Cahoon 1998; Pirosca & Mohanu 2009, p. 33)
This asynchronous mode of communication allows student/teachers to send the same message to a group of people simultaneously and attach documentation or project work in text/spreadsheet/image files (Jackson 2009). Its cost efficient and almost everybody has access to an e-mail account (Lempereur 2004).
Electronic Bulletin Boards:
Offer teachers and students another method of sharing work with a class of people, this method of uploading work allows files that are more memory intensive such as videos to be shared with class. Text files and other small files may also be shared via a bulletin board. Other members of hte class can come to the board at any stage and add comments and feedback.
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This mode of synchronous communication enables students to have a discussion, with immediate response with class mates that are online at the same time (Jackson 2009).
Audio and Video Teleconferencing:
The key benefit of this communication is the ability students have to view files on the other students or teachers computer (Jackson 2009). Both are cost efficient and video conferencing allows participants to see one another, creating a more real face-to-face situation (Jackson 2009).
Managed Learning Environments (M.L.E.):
Provide a venue to house all content and communication for a course such as student records, class lecture notes and e-mail from outside of the school or institution (Jackson 2009; Veerasamy 2010). Notices about exams and other important notices for students can be posted here and assumed as read, it is the responsibility of the student to check regularly for updates (Pirosca & Mohanu 2009). MLE's can help to reduce running costs of large educational institutions by the use of online records and communications (Veerasamy 2010).
Compact Discs (C.D.) Digital Versatile Discs (D.V.D.):
Video and audio files which are memory intensive are suitable for use with CD's and DVD's (Jackson 2009). DVD's can also be used in teacher training and for in-service to view situations of best practice (Jones & McNamara 2004). They also allow the student the opportunity to go back over material as often as they wish in any order that they wish (Lempereur 2004). As Howard Hills (2003) points out with self study students can progress at their own pace, tutors do not have to work to accommodate varying levels of ability.
When used in the classroom TV can reinforce material covered and enhance the students' comprehension through the provision of image, audio and motion simultaneously (Jackson 2009).
Personal Digital Assistants (P.D.A.'s) and Mobile Phones:
In 2004 Prensky (cited in Jackson 2009) observed that there were three times as many people who owned mobile phones then pc's (Jackson 2009). With the availability of mobile internet there is potential for learning with PDA's and mobile phones.
Interactive White Boards (IWB):
This piece of equipment allows teachers to project images onto the blackboard where they or the student can add extra information, the entire piece of work can then be saved in its edited version or printed (Jackson 2009). This method of delivery is believed to help teachers reach teaching aims (Jackson 2009).
Internet connections and download speeds are constantly improving but the material supplied to online students must be accessible to all, teachers may be prevented from providing students with all or the best information/images/animations they have at their disposal (Veerasamy 2010).
Hardware used by an organisation in the creation of a website or MLE can allow for varied user capacity's, you may have to limit the amount of students permitted onto a course for this reason (Pirosca & Mohanu 2009). It is not possible to prevent all unauthorised users from accessing course websites (Pirosca & Mohanu 2009); hackers can find a way through most security. As hackers can enter restricted areas so too can students allow others to enter the website by giving them access information, by this means students can get others to complete their work, making it hard for tutors to know whether each assignment submitted is the original work of the student (Pirosca & Mohanu 2009).
There will be a large time commitment involved in learning to use multimedia and also in creating full scale online course but the addition of multimedia elements to a face-to-face course can done with as much or as little effort as desired (Cahoon 1998; Liu & Beamer 1997). Nonetheless it is important not to recreate course materials and info in multimedia versions and offer them to students, we should revolutionise the courses by offering authentic material (Schrand 2008).
Hard and software required to produce multimedia elements of a face-to-face class or indeed a full on line course are markedly more expensive then text based materials such as books (Jones & McNamara 2004; Liu & Beamer 1997). There may also be technical difficulties with the hard and software used and teachers may not be fully educated in there use (Lempereur 2004; Seo, Templeton & Pellegrino 2008).
Inappropriate placing of images or the use of images purely for entertainment value can in fact hinder the students learning (Clark 2002).
Learning can be hindered by what Clark (2002) refers to as the "Las Vegas approach" this is the over use of media formats to the extent that the student is distracted and confused as to what parts of the presentation are important.
The novelty of using modern technology will decrease in time (Jackson 2009). Seen with mobile phones and IWB's.
Without body language, voice tone and facial expressions it can be hard for students to get a deep meaning of a conversation, conversation may therefore be more drawn out and time consuming (Horton 2000, cited in Jackson 2009). Tutors must work hard to guide students and keep discussions on track without inflicting their own opinion (Cahoon 1998). It is also difficult for tutors to know whether each person involved in synchronous communication is engaged, they may be logged on but taking no part in the conversation, when a student is disengaged in a classroom situation it is very easy for a teacher to observe (Hills 2003).
Not all students enjoy the autonomy of online learning and can experience feelings of isolation and frustration (Cahoon 1998). Their learning style can be described as a shared activity where information is given and taken within a group (Cahoon 1998). Emotional needs of a learner are not met when there is no human involvement; emotions such as motivation, encouragement and praise are all part of the learning process for most people (Hills 2003). As we are gregarious in nature being part of a class satisfies us (Hills 2003). Feedback we receive from class mates makes us feel good about ourselves and this cannot be replaced by computer feedback as we have no emotional bond with it (Hills 2003).
Information uploaded to the internet is not monitored, any person with a high degree of computer literacy can create a webpage etc therefore the quality of the information cannot always be trusted (Jackson 2009; Richardson 2006). This is of upmost importance for academic research. Video uploads require more memory then most standard internet connections can tolerate (Jackson 2009), however bandwidth is improving.
Audio and Video Teleconferencing:
The speed of your internet connection can have a negative impact on videoconferencing in particular (Jackson 2009). The cost of videoconferencing is also markedly more than using e-mail for communication (Lempereur 2004).
Compact Discs (C.D.) Digital Versatile Discs (D.V.D.):
There is connectivity to tutors or other students and information cannot be changed or up dated without the distribution of a new disc (Jackson 2009). Film that is shown in class may have to be shot and edited to match the teaching topic (Liu & Beamer 1997).
There is no control over the pace of information and unless it is used in conjunction with a recording device it can only be viewed once, students who where inattentive during the showing will not have learned the designated information (Jackson 2009). Presenting material through a TV has not shown to increase a students learning over teacher presentations (Jackson 2009).
Personal Digital Assistants (P.D.A.'s) and Mobile Phones:
There are issues with running some systems on various networks as not all systems support the same software (Jackson 2009). Handsets are developing at a faster rate than the infrastructure creating a barrier sizeable use of mobile phones in education (Jackson 2009).
Podcasts, blogging, Flickr and social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter are other media based options for teachers to explore; Richardson (2006, p.121) suggests that "today's students may not be well suited to the more linear progression of learning that most educational systems employ".
Technology should be adapted to suit the needs of the user and aid in our development, humans should not force themselves to work around the technology (Mayer 2001).
Universities are no longer sustainable if they do not embrace M.L.E.'s (Jackson 2009).
"The on-line learning environments of the next decade are likely to be shaped by social and economic forces than by the efforts of researches". (Cahoon 1998, p. 75) Whilst the economic downturn may deter institutions from investing in technological advancements the greater amount of online learning they use they can cut down on continued expensive overheads such as facilities and tutors etc.
"imperative to match the right tool with the specific teaching challenge" (Lempereur 2004, p. 149).