|Australasian Journal of Educational Technology
2007, 23(4), 470-489.
We present an alternative method in the constructive perspective to enhance student learning through a multimedia project, in which computing and multimedia technologies are used to enable students to participate more actively in their own learning. Students in a second year course in the Multimedia University, Malaysia, used the multimedia development process (MDP) to build a project in a collaborative, problem solving learning environment. They worked in groups and sought to solve their design problems as a team, with the teacher acting as a facilitator supporting them in their learning. Results showed that this method enhanced learning and improved understanding of the subject.
Information and communication technology (ICT) provides powerful tools for accessing, storing, and disseminating information... Our approaches to teaching, preparing contents and delivering learning materials need to be adjusted according to the existence of this technology. The classroom is no more a static physical set-up, but a rather dynamic existence... Teachers should be able to integrate technology in their process of teaching and learning..." (Mat, 2000)In the traditional education realm, the role of the teacher is to provide the content and information to the students, through instructional media such as notes, diagrams, overhead transparencies, models and more. The information or content that is presented is based on the teacher's curriculum and other relevant information for the class. With the introduction of multimedia into various industries, many educators began to see computers as part of a combination of technology resources, which included media elements such as text, graphics, sound, video and animations, instructional systems, and computer based support systems. Multimedia is the combination of various digital media types such as text, images, sound and video, into an integrated, multi-sensory, interactive application or presentation, to convey a message or information to an audience. In other words, multimedia means "an individual or a small group using a computer to interact with information that is represented in several media, by repeatedly selecting what to see and hear next" (Agnew, Kellerman & Meyer, 1996).
At the heart of any digital multimedia development is interactivity. Interactivity in a multimedia application can be either linear or non-linear. With linear multimedia, there are no interactive features embedded into the design and the user simply navigates through the application in a sequential manner, whereas with non-linear multimedia, interactive features are embedded and the user can navigate to any part of the application in a non-sequential manner. With such interactivity, the audience is involved in the communication process and in the navigation of the content. Research suggests that people remember 20% of what they see, 40% of what they see and hear, and about 75% of what they see, hear and do simultaneously (Lindstrom 1994). Therefore, these types of interactivity and interactive features in a multimedia application facilitate interaction between the computer and the user, and increases user engagement (Bates & Poole, 2003).
Lindstrom (1994) stated that, "Multimedia provides a means to supplement a presenter's efforts to garner attention, increase retention, improve comprehension, and to bring an audience into agreement." In the light of this, educators can take advantage of the multi-sensory environment created by the multiple digital media elements to create multimedia education materials that would not only stimulate a variety of senses from the audience, but also elicit high attention and retention rates from them. This alliance of sophisticated computing hardware and software technologies provides educators with a powerful toolset for creating multimedia courseware content (Neo & Neo, 2004). Tway (1995) posits that "Multimedia offers an excellent alternative to traditional teaching. By allowing the students to explore and learn at different paces, every student has the opportunity to learn at his or her full potential." Multimedia is now penetrating the education field and changing the way teachers teach and students learn. With the advent of multimedia and technology in the classrooms, teachers can equip themselves with these technological skills and become better communicators of their content materials, thus enabling the students to learn in a more productive way (Zheng & Zhou, 2006).
Thus educational curricula are evolving to incorporate multimedia elements and interactive features that create a better learning and teaching environment for the students as well as the teachers. By integrating multimedia technologies into education, we will be better able to produce a workforce that can meet the needs of the 21st century. The infusion of ICT and multimedia technology into education has created a significant impact on the instructional content development and the methods of communicating information to the learners. It is leading to the evolution of new concepts and innovative teaching techniques in the instruction-learning process. It is changing the way teachers teach and students learn. As stated by Bates (2000),
...modern education theory is moving beyond the recall of facts, principles, or correct procedures and into the areas of creativity, problem-solving, analysis, or evaluation (the very skills needed in the workplace in a knowledge-based economy, not to mention in life in general). Learners need the opportunity to communicate with one another as well as with their teachers. This of course includes the opportunity to question, challenge and discuss issues. Learning is as much a social as an individual activity.This changing landscape of education focusses on the learner, rather than on teaching and pedagogy, curriculum and instruction. It seeks to create a generation of learners whose learning is defined as "the ability to retain, synthesize, and apply conceptually complex information in meaningful ways" (Lambert & McCombs, 1998), and to encourage better student learning through the learning objectives of project based learning or learning by doing (Schank, Berman & Macpherson, 1999). In addition to this, multimedia technology has been shown to affect students' motivation and self esteem levels, as well as allow them to be creative and self directed thinkers (Agnew, Kellerman & Meyer, 1996).
What is a constructivist learning environment? Wilson (1995) defined it as "a place where learners may work together and support each other as they use a variety of tools and information resources in their pursuit of learning goals and problem-solving activities." As stated by Savery and Duffy (1995), the learning activities generated by solving a design oriented problem are constructivist in approach. This mode of learning is considered as a student centred instructional model whereby students determine their own learning needs, set their own goals, monitor their own progress and determine how to reach the desired learning outcomes in a collaborative learning environment (Land & Hanafin, 1996; Newby, Stephich, Lehman & Russell, 2000; Yildirim, 2005). The teacher is no longer perceived as the sole authority, but rather as the facilitator of learning, guiding and supporting learners in the process of constructing knowledge (Berge, 1999; Nelson, 1999). The amount of guidance teachers provide depends on students' prior knowledge levels and experiences (Orlich, Harder, Callahan & Gibson, 1998; Vygotsky, 1978).
This constructivist process is geared towards determining how the student structures and processes knowledge rather than how much is learned (Mayer, 1998). Thus, the focus is on the learning process rather than on the content, learning 'how to learn' rather than 'how much is learned'. Students develop critical thinking skills, problem solving and team skills, experiential learning and interdisciplinary knowledge, with technology being integral to their learning (Cook & Cook, 1998; Oliver, 2000). It also represents a move away from traditional education towards learners being active participants in the learning process (Oliver, 1998).
In constructivism, there is a strong belief that learning is a personal interpretation of the world, as learners create interpretations of the world based on their past experience and interpretations (Wilson, 1995; Duffy & Cunningham, 1996; Jonassen & Henning, 1999). In this context, students must play an active part in their learning process and not remain as passive learners as in the teacher led instruction process whereby the teacher is the sole authority and distributor of knowledge. In the constructivist mode of learning, the learning process is shifted towards the student centred mode where students become active learners and take more responsibility for their own learning, and in the process, learn to construct knowledge on their own and determine their own learning outcomes. Collaboration is an important and integral component to the learning process, whereby the learner seeks out more experienced people to help solve the task and in doing so, acquires knowledge and experience he or she would not otherwise have had if acting individually. Scaffolding, then, becomes an important aspect to constructivist learning as older, more experienced peers, as well as teachers, become "scaffolds" who help and support individual learners in a task and guide them until they reach a sufficient competence level (Winnips & McLoughlin, 2001; McLoughlin, 1999; Collis, Winnips & Moonen, 2000). The collaborative activities with others allow them to develop multiple perspectives, where some type of "shared reality" is produced (Jonassen, 2000) and enables them to consider "...varying and discrepant points of view with which to consider the merits of his or her own mental models" (Oliver, 2000).
The advantages of constructivism are that it provides learner centred activities in the learning process, enables students to participate in their learning process and become autonomous and independent while the teacher acts as a facilitator, supporting the students in their learning process, facilitating social interactions and communications between students, and encouraging collaborative and cooperative learning. In such an activity, student centred learning can be cultivated because the students will engage in collaborative activities with their team members, as well as with the instructor, who acts as a facilitator and guide to the students. By working in a group situation, students will have to tap into their group skills and use a variety of activities to accomplish the project's overall objectives. The group would be responsible for their goals and learn to solve problems and work collaboratively. Learning takes place in a meaningful, authentic context and is a social, collaborative activity, where peers play an important role in encouraging learning (Herrington, Oliver, Reeves & Woo, 2004).
Much of this push to incorporate constructivist based approaches into teaching and learning is in answer to the problem of current graduates lacking in creativity, communications skills, and analytical, critical thinking, and problem solving skills (Teo & Wong, 2000; Siaw, 2000: Tan, 2000). This mismatch has created a need to seek new ways to transfer the appropriate skills and knowledge to the students in order to meet the rising expectations of the IT society. Research in Malaysia has shown that using constructivism and multimedia technology are becoming increasingly important in teaching and learning in higher education in order to promote and enhance the teaching and learning process. Shaziti (2000) posited an online learning environment as a platform to support constructivist teaching and learning practices in the everyday classroom, to provide "a repository of useful resources, to showcase teacher 'best practices' and for reflective dialogue." Lee (1999) reported on the Malaysian experience with students in a joint collaboration study on the use of problem solving methods in a constructivist environment with learners from three different countries, and found that rich learning environments must present authentic problems to the learners. Lee (2005) found that constructivist approaches such as guided discovery, interactive Q&A sessions and the use of multimedia elements such as animations, simulations and graphics enabled mathematics students to learn better, by promoting active learning strategies in distance and e-learning environments. Wong, Kamariah and Tang (2003) investigated the use of a constructivist learning environment for addressing anxiety levels among pre-service teachers, and found that it was successful in reducing the anxiety levels among participants who perceived themselves as IT incompetent, enabling them to better transfer their knowledge to their students in the classrooms.
Therefore, in their efforts to progress towards more student centred methods of teaching and learning, Malaysian institutions of higher education need to further study the use of constructivism and multimedia technology. In this case study, we sought to provide an alternative method to enhance the student learning process in the constructive perspective through the development of a multimedia project embedded in a constructivist learning environment and to study its impact on the learning process of Malaysian students. By integrating a multimedia project into a constructivist learning environment, students would have to apply the Multimedia Development Process (MDP) in order to complete it. Throughout this process, students have to actively participate in their own learning process and become more engaged learners. This study reports on the students' feedback and their experience with collaborative problem solving.
1. The pre-authoring phase
The pre-authoring phase involves the planning of the project. The plan identifies the specific aspect of the project that the student groups want to present, the overall concept of their project or solution, and the target audience. It groups brainstorming activities and storyboarding of ideas. It also involves the acquisition of media elements (text, graphics, animation, sound and video) from various analogue or digital sources. Media elements acquired from analogue sources are converted into digital formats and saved in the computer for later use. In this phase, students can also edit and modify their media using third party software such as Adobe Photoshop (for image files), Premier (for video files), Flash (for animation files), and SoundForge (for sound files), to customise them to their project's design.
2. The authoring phase
This is characterised by the integration and synchronisation of media elements in an authoring tool and the integration of interactivity, to create one final, standalone application. Interfaces designed according to the storyboard in the pre-authoring phase are used in the application, and the media elements are incorporated accordingly. Interactive features and navigational tools are incorporated, and the final application is then packaged, or saved, as a standalone application for delivery to the end user.
3. The post-authoring phase
The final application is presented and delivered to the end user. It is interactive, media rich, and is presented in accordance with the group's own concept of what the project should be, as decided by the group in the pre-authoring phase.
Figure 1: The Multimedia Development Process (MDP) (Neo & Neo, 2004)
1. Group formation and task delegation
Students began their collaboration by forming groups of 4 to 5 members and choosing a group leader. At this stage, groups created their own group identity and began division of tasks.
Collaboration in the project took the form of brainstorming activities to identify a variety of possible solutions to their project problem, as well as the skills needed in the group to properly develop the application. Students scoured the Internet for ideas and resources to help them make decisions and group meetings were held to discuss these issues. Ideas for the project were then presented as a proposal to the class and the lecturer, who was acting as a facilitator in the class, for feedback and approval.
3. Pre-authoring: Conceptualisation
Storyboarding and interface design were carried out in this stage, where student groups visualised and generated materials for the final application. Members created sketches for the interfaces of their application's screen and started to acquire the necessary media elements (e.g. graphics, sound, video, animation and text) and created the visuals for their Director application. This process was iterative as members modified their designs according to ongoing group discussions and decisions. Conflict management and problem solving were prevalent in this stage as members experienced problems in group dynamics.
4. Authoring: Integration and interactivity
In this stage, student groups utilised Macromedia Director to translate their storyboard concepts to the final digital application. Collaboration was still prevalent in this stage as students collaborated to put their individual screens together under one final application.
5. Post-authoring: Presentations
Work in progress presentations were carried out to ensure groups were progressing on schedule and to solicit feedback and comments from other members in the class. Final presentations, two weeks later, were done to showcase the completed application.
6. Reflective thinking
Reflective thinking occurred throughout the development period and encouraged students to think about their progress in the class, the problems they faced and how they overcame them. Reflective thoughts were documented in their journal reports at the end of the semester.
Figure 2: The students' collaborative problem solving learning process
Throughout their learning, aside from the face to face meetings, students utilised various methods of communication and collaboration tools, especially the Yahoo! Instant Messenging service, emails and even telephone SMS (short messaging service) to exchange ideas and files, collaborate, hold meetings and discussions, and keep in touch with each other.
|1.||Challenging yet inspiring project||4.2||24.5||67.9||5.7||1.9||0||0.60|
|2.||I felt motivated to involve myself in project||4.0||18.9||64.2||15.1||0||1.9||0.72|
|3.||Willing to change to keep growing||4.2||24.5||66.0||9.4||0||0||0.57|
|4.||Accept critical/negative comments||4.1||24.5||62.3||9.4||3.8||0||0.70|
|5.||Place more emphasis on learning in the project than studying for exams||3.9||22.6||50.9||24.5||0||0||0.74|
|6.||The individual and group assessments encourage me to give full commitment||3.8||7.5||66.0||22.6||3.8||0||0.64|
|7.||Smooth interactions tightened the bond among members||3.7||17.0||45.3||30.2||3.8||3.8||0.94|
|8.||Willing to pay price to ensure growth of group||3.9||15.1||58.5||24.5||1.9||0||0.68|
|9.||Able to manage group effectively||3.6||7.5||54.7||30.2||5.7||1.9||0.79|
|10.||Willing to make improvements to keep project growing||4.0||20.8||56.6||20.8||1.9||0||0.57|
|11.||Team resolve problems together||3.9||22.6||56.6||13.2||7.5||0||0.73|
|12.||Team solve problems in positive manner||4.0||18.9||64.2||11.3||5.7||0||0.82|
|13.||Project presented well using MM technology||3.6||11.3||47.2||30.2||9.4||1.9||0.89|
|14.||Presentation skills developed and improved||3.6||11.3||45.3||35.8||7.5||0||0.79|
|15.||Project increased my understanding||4.1||18.9||71.7||7.5||1.9||0||0.58|
|16.||Capable of thinking critically||4.0||17.0||64.2||18.9||0||0||0.60|
|17.||Gained confidence in acquired skills||3.9||17.0||66.0||11.3||5.7||0||0.72|
|18.||Developed skills needed in real-world||3.9||15.1||64.2||18.9||1.9||0||0.65|
|19.||Able to apply skills||4.1||22.6||64.2||13.2||0||0||0.71|
|20.||Overall, I am very satisfied with my performance||3.8||18.9||50.9||26.4||1.9||1.93||0.83|
The survey also sought open ended comments from students to elicit more in depth feedback on their attitudes towards the project. These open ended comments were at the end of the survey and students were encouraged to be candid and honest with their feedback. These comments were useful to gauge the individual student's inner feelings toward the development of the multimedia project and working in a team to complete it. These comments, illustrated in Table 2, also provide richer support for the survey items that the students' completed at the same time.
Results in Table 1 show that the majority means were above 3.6, indicating very favourable and positive responses from the students in this learning environment. Comments in Table 2 lent further support to the results in Table 1 as students provided richer and more candid comments to the items on the survey. All of the responses in the three tables were organised and reported together (concurrently) under the four constructs detailed below.
This construct sought to measure the students' motivation towards developing a multimedia project as part of their learning process, and was made up of Items 1, 2, 13, 17 and 20 on the survey. Overwhelmingly, 92.5% of students in the class reported that the project was challenging yet inspiring (Item 1, m=4.2), making that item the highest rated item in the survey. This is followed by 83% of students reporting that they felt motivated to be involved in project (Item 2, m=4) and that the project was presented very well using multimedia technology (Item 13, m=3.6, p=58.5%). 83% of students also reported that they gained confidence in their acquired skills after completing the project (Item 17, m=3.9), and 69.8% reported being very satisfied with their performance (Item 20, m=3.8). The survey results are further supported by the comments at the end of the survey, as shown in Table 2. Results showed that learners were delighted and satisfied with knowledge achievement through the learning activity, for example comments 1 and 2 in Table 2.
2. Knowledge construction/enhancement
This construct measured the students' perception of their knowledge construction process and their attitudes towards an increased understanding of the topic after the project was completed and were made up of Items 3, 4, 5, 6 and 15 on the survey. As seen in Table 1, the survey showed that 90.6% of students reported that the project increased their understanding of managing and developing a multimedia application (Item 15, m=4.1). 90.6% of the students also reported that they were willing to change to keep growing, even if it meant sacrificing a lot of time learning to solve problems by themselves (Item 3, m=4.2). 86.8% of students reported a willingness to get rid of improper attitudes and inappropriate methods in acquiring knowledge by being open to critical or negative comments (Item 4, m=4.1). They also reported favorably upon the individual and group assessments, which they found encouraged them to give full their commitment to the project (Item 6, m=3.8, p=73.6%). 73.6% of students reported that they placed more emphasis on learning by doing the project instead of just studying for exams (Item 5, m=3.9), which allowed them to understand their topic and the class better. Results from their comments also lent support to the notion that the project enabled them to build knowledge and increase their understanding, for example comments 6 and 7 in Table 2.
In the teamwork/collaboration construct, students were measured on their willingness to participate as team members and support the team goals and were made up of Items 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 on the survey. Results showed that students were very positive towards working in teams. As seen in Table 1, 77.4% of students reported favourably on their willingness to make improvements to keep project growing (Item 10, m=4.0). 73.6% of students reported that they were willing to pay price to ensure growth of group (Item 8, m=3.9), which reflected their concern towards learning and team building. In terms of solving problems, 79.2% of students reported that the team resolved their group problems together (Item 11, m=3.9) and in positive manner (Item 12, m=4, p=83%). The majority of them reported being able to manage team work effectively (Item 9, m=3.6, p=62.3%), with 62.3% reporting that the smooth interactions tightened the bond among members (Item 7, m=3.7). Comments from students in Table 2 also showed that teamwork was an integral part to the successful completion of the project. Some found the benefits of teamwork as they are able to learn more knowledge than expected, for example comments 9 and 10.
4. Skills (critical thinking, problem solving, confidence and presentation skills)
This construct sought to measure students' attitudes toward the various skills experienced during the project development period and were made up of Items 14, 16, 18 and 19 on the survey. As seen in Table 1, 81.1% of students reported that the project allowed them to think critically (Item 16, m=4.0), 56.5% of students reported that the project allowed them to develop and improve their presentation skills (Item 14, m=3.6). Many realised that they had developed skills needed in the real world (Item 18, m=3.9, p=79.2%), with 86.8% of students reporting that they were now able to apply these skills in a more valuable manner on upcoming projects (Item 19, m=4.1). They also reported similar attitudes in their comments on the survey, for example 12 and 13 in Table 2.
To provide further support to the survey and feedback results, students' learning outcomes in the form of their final project are showcased in Figures 3 and 4. These examples of their work are in line with Winnips & McLoughlin's (2001) statement that student' final learning outcomes show proof of student learning. Figure 3 shows a screen picture from one group's interactive application on Malaysian heritage, Baba & Nyonya, and Figure 4 is a screen picture from another group's interactive application on Malaysian traditional craft, Wayang Kulit (shadow puppets).
Figure 3: An interface from one group's application on Malaysian heritage
Figure 4: An interface of one group's application on
Malaysian traditional craft, Wayang Kulit (shadow puppets)
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|Authors: Dr Mai Neo, Senior Lecturer, Dr Tse-Kian Neo, Senior Lecturer, and Gillian Tai Xiao-Lian, Tutor, Centre for Innovative Education (CINE), Faculty of Creative Multimedia, Multimedia University, Cyberjaya, Malaysia. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please cite as: Neo, M., Neo, T.-K. & Tai, G. X.-L. (2007). A constructivist approach to learning an interactive multimedia course: Malaysian students' perspectives. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 23(4), 470-489. http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet23/neo.html
Print version errata: Pages 470 and 479, table of contents and cover contain an error in author name, Gillian Tan Xiao-Lian should be Gillian Tai Xiao-Lian. We apologise for the error.