Sabtu, 21 Juni 2008

Proceed with Caution when Integrating Multimedia Learning Tools

Dawson et al. Electronic Journal of Science Education Vol. 7, No. 4, June 2003
Rules of Engagement:
Proceed with Caution when Integrating Multimedia Learning Tools
into Existing Course Formats
Mary Elizabeth Dawson,Ph.D.
Steven Skinner, Ed.D., and
Arthur Zeitlin, Ed.D.
Department of Biological Sciences
Kingsborough Community College of The City University of New York,
Brooklyn, New York, 11235
Phone: (718)368-5740
E- mail:
Research indicates that humans have the capability to integrate information from
different sensory modalities into a single meaningful experience- such as the way they
associate the sound of thunder with the visual image of lightning in the sky. They can
also integrate information from verbal and iconic sources into a mental model, such as
viewing a video of a process, while listening to a verbal explanation of that process. It
therefore becomes the challenge of a successful instructor to choose between different
modalities to promote meaningful learning (Moreno & Mayer, 2000).
It has been shown that working memory includes independent auditory and visual
working memories (Baddeley, 1986). Furthermore, humans have separate systems for
representing verbal and non- verbal information (Paivio, 1986). Finally, meaningful
learning occurs when the learner selects relevant information in each memory system,
organizes this information, and makes connections between the information in each
Dawson et al. Electronic Journal of Science Education Vol. 7, No. 4, June 2003
system (Mayer, 1997; Moreno & Mayer, 2000). Based on these data, will combining
visual and auditory modalities enhance student learning outcomes? Is an effective
learning experience one which provides a multimedia approach? Do students learn better
when they are presented with traditional laboratory materials in a format which combines
a computer enhanced laboratory exercise for visual input, in addition to the traditional
hands-on human anatomy and physiology laboratory approach?
In an attempt to address these questions, we conducted a study which compared
the learning outcomes of students who had a traditional human anatomy and physiology
laboratory experience with those who had, in addition to the traditional approach, free
and guided access to a comprehensive human anatomy program, known as A.D.A.M.
Briefly, A.D.A.M. is a software tool that utilizes illustrations, x-rays and other images,
coupled with on-screen text. Traditionally, human anatomy and physiology laboratories
are conducted with some combination of hands-on lab experiences, usually a dissection
and the use of slides and models, in conjunction with some lecture component. In the
current study, for one cohort we integrated instruction in and laboratory use of a
multimedia instructional tool, software known as A.D.A.M,
while the other group simply utilized the existing laboratory exercises.
Students were randomly selected from a double lecture section of the first
semester of a two semester, 4 credit, six hour Human Anatomy and Physiology integrated
course. Briefly, the students had the same lecture experience in terms of dates, time of
lecture and lecture instructor. One half of the class attended lecture on Monday, from
8:00 – 11:20 am, while the other section attended lab for the same time period on
Students from the Monday lab section (M) and the Wednesday lab section (W)
had the same instructor for both the lecture and the laboratory components of the course.
Dawson et al. Electronic Journal of Science Education Vol. 7, No. 4, June 2003
Additionally, labs were conducted in the same format. Basically, the students were
introduced to a topic, and then completed a lab exercise using either a model, a
dissection, a histological sample, or some combination of the three. Lab quizzes and
reports followed the same format for each group. Briefly, laboratory assessments
consisted of a minimum of 20 practical items, either on histological or wet preserved
specimens, as well as 10 short essay type questions.
In addition to the previously mentioned modalities, the Wednesday lab was given
formal instruction in the use of the A.D.A.M. software. Moreover, the instructor
provided a guided exercise each week that employed the software, and the students were
allowed free access to the software during laboratory session. We then compared the
overall performance of each group, as well as their laboratory and lecture grades.
A standard arithmetic mean was calculated for both the Monday and Wednesday
lab sections. Separate means were generated for overall course grade (50% lecture +
50% lab), as well as for the laboratory component, and the lecture component alone.
A two-tailed Student’s t-test was performed to compare the means for each group,
and the results are as follows.
· Lecture averages for the two groups were 80.28 for the group that was using the
ADAM software (W,n=18), and 80.44 for those who were not (M,n=17), were not
significantly different (t(2,33)= 1.67, p>0.01).
· Laboratory averages, 85.35 for the ADAM group (W,n=18), and 92.29 for the
traditional group (M, n=17), were significantly different t(2,33)=3.62, p<0.01).
· Overall course averages for the ADAM group (W, n=18) for the traditional group
(M, n=17), 82.83 and 86.36, respectively, were not significant. t(2,33)= 1.55, p>0.01).
Dawson et al. Electronic Journal of Science Education Vol. 7, No. 4, June 2003
A.D.A.M. 80.28 85.35* 82.83
Traditional 80.44 92.29* 86.36
* denotes statistically significance
We attempted to address the question of whether students would benefit from
multiple modality learning. It was hoped that student outcomes would be enhanced if
multimedia approaches to learning were introduced into a human anatomy and
physiology laboratory course. Much to our surprise, the results were actually the
opposite of what we expected.
The group which did not receive any enhanced instruction performed significantly
better on assessment outcomes. While these data are contrary to the expected results,
there are several logical explanations for these observations. One possibility is that the
format in which the narration for the A.D.A.M. visual information was presented was
inadequate to produce the expected outcome. Briefly, A.D.A.M. uses on-screen text to
describe and define an illustration. It has been suggested that depicting an illustration or
animation with a verbal narration is more effective than providing the same explanation
as on-screen text (Mayer & Moreno, 1998). Described as the split-attention principle, it
appears that students are better able to build referential connections between material
when there is corresponding pictorial and verbal representations, since these two
representations are in working memory at the same time (Mayer & Moreno, 1998). Since
the lab instructor did not provide verbal narration of the A.D.A.M. software, but instead
relied on the program’s inherent on-screen text, the student’s were not utilizing echoic
and iconic working memory simultaneously. Perhaps reworking the course to include a
Dawson et al. Electronic Journal of Science Education Vol. 7, No. 4, June 2003
spoken narrative of the A.D.A.M. software might positively influence student outcomes
for the A.D.A.M. cohort.
A simpler explanation would be that introducing a new component to the lab
portion of the course, without changing the existing time period for the lesson, may have
detracted from the time students spent engaging in more traditional laboratory learning
modalities, such as dissection and model manipulation. Furthermore, assessment tools,
such as practicals and quizzes were not altered to reflect the introduction of a new
instructional modality. Therefore, it is highly likely that the existing exam formats were
ineffective at assessing student outcomes when presented with a novel learning modality.
Finally, one possible explanation is that students simply felt overwhelmed with the
addition of the new modality since it required them to learn how to use the new software
while integrating it into their lab studies.
Future experiments need to address these issues. It will be interesting to assess if
students in the software enhanced group will learn better if the corresponding verbal
information is presented auditorially as speech, as opposed to visually as on-screen text
(Mayer & Moreno, 1998). Furthermore, if the students are familiarized with the software
prior to its utilization in a course setting, prior experience may enable students to employ
it more effectively as a way to enhance learning.
In conclusion, the introduction of multimedia tools as a way to enhance student
outcomes can be a valuable educational tool. However, instructors should carefully
assess the modality and its presentation format before fully integrating it into an existing
pedagogical format.
This work was made possible by a grant from the A.D.A.M. corporation awarded to
Arthur N. Zeitlin.
Dawson et al. Electronic Journal of Science Education Vol. 7, No. 4, June 2003
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Dawson et al. Electronic Journal of Science Education Vol. 7, No. 4, June 2003
About the Authors…
Mary Elizabeth Dawson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological
Sciences at Kingsborough Community College of The City University of New York
(CUNY) in Brooklyn, NY.
Steven Skinner is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at
Kingsborough Community College of The City University of New York (CUNY) in
Brooklyn, NY.
Arthur Zeitlin is Professor and Chairperson of the Department of Biological Sciences
at Kingsborough Community College of The City University of New York (CUNY) in
Brooklyn, NY.

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