Old School vs. New School

(Week 5 application, part 2)

Okay, I admit it. I’m a little bit old. I remember when multimedia in the classroom meant showing a film (using a projector) or showing slides, with an accompanying CD or tape playing music in the background.

Now it’s possible to create a truly multimedia experience – to create a presentation that actually incorporates audio, video, presentation slides all in one file. But guess what? That’s old school too.

Technology and multimedia provides a new face to the old training model. Suddenly we can reach more students across the globe, students can engage when it works best for them, we can encourage students to share their real-life experiences, and to grow and learn from one another. As stated by Cairncross et al, the learning process can be enhanced through the integration of multimedia. It allows users to have control over the delivery of information and interactivity (Cairncross et al, 2001).

Caincross et al also states that multimedia allows for multiple representations of information in a variety of formats. This repetition creates what they describe as an Authentic Learning Environment (Cairncross et al, 2001). One example of an authentic learning environment in online instruction is a course that combines:

  1. An interactive learning module based on course curriculum.
  2. Implementation of the content of the module in online course.
  3. Use of blogs or wikis to document learner’s process and engagement within the course.

At my work, we often use two of the above components – an interactive learning module (in Captivate), and implementation of the course in an online environment, such as a class Webex. What we seem to be missing is the important element of learner engagement.

Why stop without fully engaging all students? Part of it is the twin demons of usability and accessibility. After all, we are engaging learners all over the globe. Many without the benefits of consistent internet connectivity. There’s also a huge cultural process to address. Many of our learners are simply more comfortable in a traditional face-to-face classroom environment.

I’m excited about the rapidly changing face of technology and multimedia and what it means for our learners. Sometimes it takes a while for organizations to catch up to technology, sometimes it takes a while for learners to catch up. Eventually, I believe we will all be working together in an online learning environment that is truly an authentic learning environment, with students engaged and actively participating. Of course, by then technology will have made another huge leap, and we will once again be playing catch up!


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

Cairncross, S. and Mannon, M. (2001). Interactive Multimedia and Learning: Realizing the Benefits.

Innovations in Education & Teaching International, 38(2), 156-164(9).

Conrad, R., & Donaldson, J. A. (2011). Engaging the online learner: Activities and resources for creative instruction (Updated ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass


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