This is a response to an assignment, given by the manager, to evaluate the different types of media, and present their weaknesses and strengths, in relation to the use of multimedia in E-learning. Three media types were evaluated. The selected three media types are audio, video and animation.
Because of its characteristics and its nature, multimedia is currently being used in educational institutions in the E-learning sector. Multimedia is the integration of different types of mono-media, such as text, audio, image, video, graphic, program, and animation, within a single computer workstation. Multimedia applications and services are based on processing and presenting information, which has a communicative goal. In e-learning, the communicative goal is to ensure the aims of an educational institution, to provide specific types of training and learning are achieved (Gerfelder, 1998). There are, however, strengths and weaknesses of each type of media, as integrated in multimedia systems and used in e-learning. These are, as described below:
Audio files aid interaction and are used as part of multimedia application content. They are normally presented in the following formats - RealAudio, MP3, MIDI, Wave, and WMA (Smith, n.d). E-learning makes use of online audio, which has the following strengths:
- Audio DVDs and CDs control learners like seen in lectures. This is caused by audio's one way of interaction.
- Improved technology supports the type of media for learning purposes; for example, operating systems such as Apple OS, Windows and Linux produce built-in hardware and software that allow playbacks in DVDs, CDs, and other features in audio file devices.
- An audio lecture can help students recall, retain and develop high-order thinking, and concept formation.
- Audio is considered more motivating, compared to print alone. An integration of the two is even more powerful.
- Audio makes use of the human voice as the mode of presentation. This has an advantage, as it is considered a more powerful teaching tool (University of Wisconsin, 2011).
- There is very little interaction in cases of one-way audio.
- Audio presentation, whether text only or text plus, do not give room for immediate recall effects.
- Audio added to texts do not benefit learners with higher verbal skills.
- Audio restricts learners' ability to follow through the material and understand, at their own rate. This affects the achievement of the teaching aim.
Available resources also limit the use of audio in e-learning. The utility and quality of digitized speech, for example, is dependent on the sampling rate, amount of compression, and available bandwidth to the user. It means that there are other factors that need to be considered when using audio for e-learning services. It is, therefore, important to compare the benefits of using audio against its costs (University of Wisconsin, 2011).
Digital video is used in multimedia applications, especially on the Web formats, such as QuickTime, Flash, AVI, MPEG, and WMV (Smith, n.d). It has the following strengths for teaching and learning if appropriate instructional strategies are used:
- It provides participants with social cohesion and presence, especially, in cases of distance learning, which improves motivation.
- It gives participants the chance to take part directly and enjoy the physical presence.
- Remote students are also able to access global expertise.
- Video technology support encourages group education by making them more feasible and attractive.
- There is a sharing of a variety of visual resources.
- It eliminates or reduces wasted time while traveling to learning institutions.
- The video involves motion integrated with sound, and this increases retention of the presented information, as well as the audience's understanding (University of Wisconsin, 2011).
- Video has the greater degree of audio limitations; the use of online video requires a lot of storage and bandwidth.
- It also requires accurately trained instructors, integration of other media into its presentations, technical design and support, most favorable group sizes and length of sessions, and professional quality visual elements.
- Delivery of a video presentation is costly, complex, and of doubtful advantage, that other simpler forms of media can replace.
- It also requires sophisticated software, hardware configuration and support, for quality digital video clips to be produced (University of Wisconsin, 2011).
Animation serves the same purpose as video since it also allows a person to view object sketches in a form of motion pictures. It involves drawing object sketches and making them look like moving objects. Animation, therefore, shares the same strengths and weaknesses as video, considering their role in e-learning. The difference is in the creation of the videos. The animation is time-consuming, more difficult to create, needs specific software in order to edit, and the final product may not even relate to the intended content. An advantage is that it can be used to visualize dynamic processes or phenomenon, for example, meiosis (University of Wisconsin, 2011; Pearson Higher Education, 2013). It can sometimes be used to explain concepts that images or video cannot. An example is the explanation of specific mathematical concepts (Pearson Higher Education, 2013).
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