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”
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 https://class.walden.edu
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).