Can Multimedia Enhance Learning?

Before I attempt to address the question, I thought it may be appropriate to identify my position – from a learning context. That was an interesting exercise that I would encourage all learning professionals to review from time to time, particularly when considering designing a new learning event!

So – what am I trying to achieve when I create learning? My underpinning purpose always comes back to the same answer: I’m attempting to enhance knowledge and improve performance. Now – that positions me firmly in the paradigm of providing learning opportunities to engage the learners.

With that position in mind – let’s review the original question: Can Multimedia enhance learning? The short answer (from my position) ABSOLUTELY! – but (there’s always a “but”) only when used with the intentions outlined in my purpose and careful consideration of the learners needs and designing learning opportunities to match these issues.

Then – when might multimedia NOT be appropriate – and I think these answers come from the organisational or institutional perspective, not from enhancing learning. When timeframes for delivery are tight (very tight!), when budgets are tight (or non-existent), and when the learning product will only have a single use or short lifespan.

However, from the learner’s perspective, some great results are being reported from converting and designing learning opportunities that address the “hard to teach and hard to test” concepts, according to David Hegarty from Cadre Design (have a look at David’s showcase of Education products on their website ).

Success is also being reported from the scenario based learning advocates – immerse your learners in an experience and allow them to interact and control the outcomes. A couple of examples can be found on the following website: You will need Flash players and preferably sound cards activated but options are available to participate without sound by using subtitles. Let me know if you get a raise from the boss – I’ve yet to find anyone that can negotiate their way through to a positive outcome!

To gain the most value from multimedia and technology will require a re-framing of the tried and true learning event paradigm and perhaps your entire pedagogical approach. In doing so, we need to review HOW the learners are embracing the technologies – how do they use them? – and stop letting the IT developers dictate the potential for learning! Their track record is rather shaky – for example, wasn’t technology going to create the paperless office?…still waiting! And then there’s sms – it took many years for mobile phone companies to realise the potential in the general marketplace and release the capabilities for public use!

Technology, and indeed multimedia, can be so much more than just a tool for delivering content – it can be an enabler…it just takes a shift in our paradigms of designing and delivering learning!!

So – let’s open the debate – what are your views – after all this technology enables digital dialogue, let’s embrace it and enhance our own learning!
Can multimedia enhance learning?

Looking forward to your comments – ABB
PS. You may find it useful to review the DLRN’s Technology Resource Guide (this month’s Free Stuff in the newsletter) – the section on multimedia could shape your thoughts further!