Prompt: What is different about developing instruction with both images and audio combined? Is it more efficient? Do you think about how you instruct someone differently? Are there limitations? Benefits? If so, what are they?
This week for our project, I had to redesign my instruction set to include images, audio, and text. While that may seem like an easy task to undertake, reality was starkly different. This assignment was hands-down, the most difficult concept for me to wrap my mind around. How was I going to effectively teach my project with only one page and incorporate all three media forms? I really had to think about the overall layout of the content as well as the how to combine my previous images, text and visuals to make a whole, seamless instruction, instead of three separate forms of communication.
From a design perspective, I was limited to a one page interactive PDF to include all my instruction content so space was at a premium. Since my topic is about how to checkout a book from an academic library, I decided to have my design layout mimic a book. I halved my page and put the section headers as chapter titles on the left and the actuals instructions as the chapter content on the right, similar to how people read. In addition, I decided to not have the audio automatically play when the learner clicked on a section. I dislike pages that automatically play sound on websites, so I made the audio part of my project as an option that the learner must click on to hear it play. On the plus side, since we used InDesign to create our instruction set, I know now how to make interactive PDFs and find that they are a useful method to deliver multimedia instruction. A downside of them is that since they export as Flash files they exclude mobile devices as an option to view the content. Since many people appreciate the convenience of learning on the go, this is a serious drawback in my opinion. With future interactive PDF content, I plan to research how to make them compatible across devices so that they are device and platform agnostic.
Another drawback of designing instruction with multimedia is that it becomes very easy to overload and overwhelm learners with content. It is important to not throw all the information at the learner in one swoop. If the learner’s sensory memory becomes overloaded, they will not know which part of the content they should focus on, which in turn means that they will not be able to successfully encode the information for retrieval later (Lang, 1995). In Lang’s research, she found that when presenting content in multiple channels, such as audio and visual information, that presentations that shared similar visual and audio content were the ones most successfully remembered and were the ones that imposed less of a cognitive burden on the learner (Lang, 1995). The instructional designer should keep this in mind when designing instructional content and ensure that all the components complement each other to increase the learner’s chances to successfully attend to and encode the information.
From a learning perspective, instructions that use audio, images, and text are expected and standard learning techniques. Personally, as a learner, I enjoy being able to choose how I want to learn and the types of media I employ, and I think the majority of learners are the same. We appreciate choices and having the ability to decide how we learn. Using multiple forms of media provides the learner with control (Koumi, 2003). With multimedia, the learner can choose if they want to listen to the instructions, read them, or view them. They can pause or stop the audio to read something more deeply and can go back and listen to content again if they choose. They can look at the visuals and then read the text. Compare this to instruction using only single media where the learner does not have an option. They are forced into relying on one media for instructional content delivery.
Overall, I am pleased with how this week’s project turned out and think that designing with multimedia is always better from a learning perspective than single media. It is important to give learners choices and control over how they learn. While the learner may not have a choice about the content, they can have a choice about how they learn it.
Koumi, J. (2003). Synergy between audio commentary and visuals in multimedia packages. Journal
of Educational Media, 28, 19-34. doi:10.1080/1358165032000156419
Lang, A. (1995). Defining audio/video redundancy from a limited-capacity information processing
perspective. Communication Research, 22, 86-115.