Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Impact of Technology and Multimedia

The temptation to use technology and multimedia in the online environment must be tempered with an understanding of the diversity of the online user (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010; Cooper, Colwell, & Jelfs, 2007; Laureate Education, 2010; Pittman & Heiselt, 2014).  While technology and multimedia add richness to online curriculum and provides an alternate mode for learning, there several important issues which the instructor should consider before implementation.  Clark and Meyer (2011) make an excellent and, more importantly, research supported, case for several principles concerning multimedia learning which includes addressing the details of including multimedia in online curriculum as well as psychological and cognitive considerations.

In addition, considerations surrounding the issues of accessibility and usability must be considered.  Cooper, Colwell, and Jelfs (2007) define accessibility as the “…flexibility of the e-learning system or learning resource to meet the needs and preferences of all users” (p. 232).  Usability, however, is the “extent to which a system can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals…” (p. 232).  The Internet has allowed learners access to education by removing a physical barriers, however the over- and inappropriate use of multimedia has created new barriers (Pittman & Heiselt, 2014).

Overcoming these barriers through the mindful use of technology and multimedia to increase usability can be accomplished through the use of universal design for learning.  The National Center on Universal Design for Learning provides information on three principles to guide educators in the creation of accessible and usable content.  There are a multitude of tools available that address these issues.  One of the tools that I find the more appealing is the simple web search.  By using a search engine such as Google, I am able to locate resources that fit a particular need. 

As the prevalence of online learning increases, it will be necessary for instructors and instructional designers to control the urge to use technology for the sake of technology.  No matter how cool a tool may seem, it is only useful if it addresses the training need by building to a learning objective (Laureate Education, 2010).   Luckily, resources such as the Quality Matters Rubric exist to provide a comprehensive framework to ensure online courses are not only usable, but accessible.


Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Clark, R. C., & Meyer, R. E. (2011). E-Learning and the science of instruction (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Cooper, M., Colwell, C., & Jelfs, A. (2007). Embedding accessibility and usability: Considerations for e-learning research and development projects. ALT-F, Research in Learning Technology, 15(3), 231-245.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2010). Enhancing the online experience [Video file]. Retrieved from

Pittman, C. N., & Heiselt, A. K. (2014). Increasing accessibility: Using universal design principles to address disability impairments in the online learning environment. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 17(3).


  1. Hi Rebecca,

    I like how you look at technology and multimedia integration through the lense of diversity. I find that balance is key as an instructional designer. Although it is our professional responsibity to be aware of emerging technology and multimedia that can be used to enhance the learning experience, it is essential to know that there is still a great technological divide and not all of our learners will be at the same level of proficiency.


    1. Jason,
      Thank you for your comments. You stated the need for balance very well. I find that it is difficult for me to get my colleagues at the college where I teach to share that same need for caution when it comes to technology and multimedia in an online course!

  2. “As the prevalence of online learning increases, it will be necessary for instructors and instructional designers to control the urge to use technology for the sake of technology.”


    Your point is well taken, although, using technology in instruction is the latest educational “buzz” teaching strategy. How can the instructor or instructional designer control the demand of school administrators to use technology for the sake of technology? Most instructors are not aware of the work of Clark and Meyer (2011) and their research on designing multimedia learning. I agree, technology is not the answer for all learning experiences, but I see an uphill battle convincing school administrators of the need to increase training for instructors so that instructors understand the appropriate way to use technology based on instructional design research and best practices. Thoughts?


  3. Sheri,
    I am glad I didn't respond to you right away as yesterday morning I had a conversation with a friend who has just been assigned to teach an online course. He was outlining the process to me where he would be transfering the grounded content to the CMS and that he would just add some really cool graphics and interactive tools to that. He was excited with all the apps available in Canvas and was trying to figure how to make use of as many as possible.

    Imagine me sitting there with my jaw dropping!!

    To me, it showed the continuing problem with higher education - a lack of intentional design. Instructors, who are knowledgeable in their fields, are given online teaching assignments and a deadline. There are very few instructional designers in the college system where I am and it really shows.

    The solution, perhaps, is increased administrative awareness of the need for instructional design for online courses. How do we get that?? I think it will have to come from the economics side of the equation. As learners leave colleges with shoddy online programs for those with well-designed programs, the fall in full-time equivalent students (and the lack of enrollment dollars) will open the eyes of the administration to the need to improve their project.

  4. Rebecca,

    This is definitely a concern as many key decision makers are recommending the use of online education to reduce costs. The instructional designer by assignment movement is alive and well. It is not as easy to change educational institutions as it is to exchange other consumable products. I agree with your comment regarding economics helping administrators understand the need for quality instructional design, I just wonder how long it will take before the student as a consumer understands how to identify a quality online learning experience.