ERIC Identifier: ED340388
Publication Date: 1991-11-00
Author: Schroeder, Eileen E.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Information Resources Syracuse NY.
Interactive Multimedia Computer Systems. ERIC Digest.
The merging of various types of media with the computer has presented the
field of education with a hybrid technology called Interactive Multimedia. This
technology utilizes new developments in data storage, ever-increasing computer
speeds and capabilities, and sophisticated software tools to allow a learner to
move through a rich multimedia resource base in a way that fits his/her own
learning needs and style.
Interactive multimedia can be defined as "the integration of text, audio,
graphics, still image and moving pictures into a single, computer-controlled,
multimedia product" (McCarthy, 1989, p. 26). Most current definitions describe a
powerful computer connected to a variety of other equipment: videodisc players,
compact disc players, scanners, music synthesizers, high resolution monitors,
etc. The workstation of the not-too-distant future will have all the multimedia
effects--text, audio, graphics, images, sound, motion footage--digitized or
converted into a code that the computer can store and manipulate.
Some equate hypermedia with interactive multimedia, and here the terms will
be used synonymously. Hypermedia is the software framework for representing
multimedia effects in a non-linear fashion, allowing user annotation, and
providing navigational systems. Interactive multimedia refers to the interactive
audiovisual aspect of hypermedia systems. The information is stored in nodes
(concepts) and connected by links (associations). Nodes and links are either
built into the system or created by the learner as he/she traverses the
database. Ambron (1986) sees computer-based multimedia learning stations
allowing users to "browse, annotate, link, and elaborate on information in a
rich, nonlinear, multimedia data base...explor[ing] and integrat[ing] vast
libraries of text, audio, and video information" (p. 7).
Interactive multimedia systems consist of
several components: 1) the information or data system; 2) the software for
accessing the information; 3) the hardware or technology; and 4) the
communications system needed to connect all these parts.
The information or data system (i.e., the contents of the multimedia
database) can be any type of text, audio, or visual images. Currently, optical
storage methods such as laser videodisc and compact disc are used largely for
storage of audio and images (both still and motion), while traditional magnetic
storage devices are used for text, graphics, animation, still images, and audio.
With the growing ability to reduce the storage space needed for motion and full
color still images, and with the decreasing cost of memory, the trend is toward
more storage in optical formats. Digital Video Interactive (DVI) is a developing
technology that holds promise in this area. By allowing the compression and
decompression of digitized images, it will increase the number of images that
can be stored on a compact disc and improve the capacity of that medium to store
The software component consists of generic programs such as Hypercard,
ToolBook, Linkway, Quest, Guide, and Notecards. These programs index, provide
access to, and allow navigation through the text, visuals, and audio in the
multimedia database. This component usually includes video and audio indexing
and control software, an index, a map of everything stored, linkages to navigate
through the database, and a way to build new links.
The hardware component currently consists of a variety of discrete pieces of
equipment which may include a CD-ROM player, a videodisc player, a voice
synthesizer, an audio digitizer, a video digitizer, and a digital scanner all
connected to a single computer system. The communications system consists of
local and non-local networks connecting the hardware and multimedia databases,
which may be stored in one place or scattered across locations.
Hypermedia provides many advantages to the
learner, especially through its abilities to adapt to individual differences and
to allow the learner to control the path of his/her study. The learner can
either be directed or wander through information. The system can provide
customized interfaces for each user with varying levels of guidance. Some
studies have shown that a learner-controlled environment can be more effective
than a program that adapts automatically to learner differences (Allred & Locatis, 1988).
By providing information in a variety of modalities, providing a context for
the information, and allowing multiple paths through this knowledge, the system
allows the learner to select information in the format or formats best suited to
his/her learning style, ability level, and information needs through one unified
system of access. All of this will increase the learner's engagement with the
learning situation as he/she elaborates on current knowledge. A hypermedia
system can also be used in cooperative learning or group composition with a
group of users contributing to a common database of information.
There are also several problems with hypermedia as
it is currently conceived. Hypermedia systems can be both confusing and
disorienting, especially for the less able student. One major problem is that
current user interfaces are not "friendly" enough for the average user and too
inconsistent across systems. Disorientation and distraction can be caused by
jumping around throughout the database, the sheer quantity of data, and the lack
of information on database size and extent. Some systems may be sacrificing
depth of learning for breadth.
Finally, there is still a technological lag between the hardware and software
currently available and what is needed for efficient, effective systems. Further
development is needed in optical and other storage methods and in equipment
Ambron & Hooper (1988, 1990) provide numerous
examples of experiments with hypermedia. Most of the projects described in the
earlier book are employed in a research context. The later book discusses
applications in public schools and higher education. A few of the numerous
examples documented elsewhere in the literature include:
KANJI CITY (Ashworth & Stelovsky, 1989): a program for teaching Japanese
through trial and error exploration of a real life environment.
ZARABANDA NOTEBOOK (Underwood, 1988): a language program based on a Spanish
PALENQUE (Wilson, 1987): a research prototype using DVI that allows learners
to explore Mayan ruins in the Yucatan.
SHAKESPEARE PROJECT (Friedlander, 1989): a program used to study various
productions of Shakespeare plays.
INTERMEDIA (Yankelovich, 1986): a hypermedia system with tools for text
processing, graphics editing, timeline editing, scanned image viewing, and 3D
applications that can be used for a variety of subjects.
Numerous design issues need resolving: 1) what
authoring principles and methods work; 2) how misconceptions can be corrected
and feedback provided; 3) how assignments can be created; 4) how the needed
self-regulation can be developed in learners; 5) how both the materials and
learning can be evaluated; 6) how links can be created and managed; 7) how
assistance can be provided; and 8) how the learner can be prevented from feeling
lost (Marchionini, 1988). Research and development are needed for more powerful
searching techniques, better graphic structure searching, and friendlier user
This technology is just beginning to develop. Watch for rapid developments as
storage mediums which allow a reduction in the required storage space become
more fully implemented; as optical storage formats gain wider acceptance; and as
software programs for hypermedia become commonly accepted for accessing
databases of visual and audio images. As the technology develops even further,
the interactive multimedia computer system will move from a mixture of discrete
storage formats utilizing various pieces of equipment to a fully digitized
storage format contained on one system.
Allred, K.F., & Locatis, C. (1988).
Research, instructional design, and new technology. JOURNAL OF INSTRUCTIONAL
DEVELOPMENT, 11(1), 2-5. ERIC number EJ 380 492.
Ambron, S. (1986). New visions of reality: Multimedia and education. LEARNING
TOMORROW: JOURNAL OF THE APPLE EDUCATION ADVISORY COUNCIL, 3, 5-13. ERIC number
ED 302 180.
Ambron, S., & Hooper, K. (Eds.) (1988). INTERACTIVE MULTIMEDIA: VISIONS OF MULTIMEDIA FOR DEVELOPERS, EDUCATORS, & INFORMATION PROVIDERS. Redmond, Washington: Microsoft Press.
Ambron, S., & Hooper, K. (Eds.) (1990). LEARNING WITH INTERACTIVE MULTIMEDIA: DEVELOPING AND USING MULTIMEDIA TOOLS IN EDUCATION. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Press.
Ashworth, D., & Stelovsky, J. (1989, June). Kanji City: An exploration of
hypermedia applications for CALL. CALICO JOURNAL, 6(4), 27-39. ERIC number EJ
Friedlander, L. (1989, July). Moving images into the classroom: Multimedia in
higher education. LASERDISK PROFESSIONAL, 2(4), 33-38. ERIC number EJ 396 860.
Marchionini, G. (1988, Nov.). Hypermedia and learning: Freedom and chaos.
EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY, 28(11), 8-12. ERIC number EJ 384 406.
McCarthy, R. (1989, June). Multimedia: What the excitement's all about.
ELECTRONIC LEARNING, 8(3), 26-31. ERIC number EJ 395 537.
Paske, R. (1990). Hypermedia: A brief history and progress report. T.H.E.
JOURNAL, 18(1), 53-56.
Underwood, J. (1988). Language learning and "hypermedia." ADFL BULLETIN,
19(3), 13-17. ERIC number EJ 369 045.
Van Horn, R. (1991). ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY IN EDUCATION. Pacific Grove, CA:
Vandergrift, K.E. (1988, Nov.). Hypermedia: Breaking the tyranny of the text.
SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, 35(3), 30-35. ERIC number EJ 384 332.
Wilson, K.S. (1987). THE PALENQUE OPTICAL DISC PROTOTYPE: DESIGN OF MULTIMEDIA EXPERIENCES FOR EDUCATION AND ENTERTAINMENT IN A NONTRADITIONAL LEARNING CONTEXT. (Technical Report No. 44). New York: Bank Street College of Education, Center for Children and
Technology. ERIC number ED 319 377.
Yankelovich, N. (1986). INTERMEDIA: A SYSTEM FOR LINKING MULTIMEDIA
DOCUMENTS. (IRIS Technical Report 86-2). Providence, RI: Brown University,
Institute for Research in Information and Scholarship. ERIC number ED 296 735.