Unit 1: Multimedia Overview


Unit 1: Overview of Multimedia Use in Online Learning

TribulletGrn.pngLearning Objectives

Upon completion of this unit learners will:

  • demonstrate understanding of issues and affordances of multimedia use in online learning.


Topic: an overview of multimedia use in online learning

Multimedia is the integration of different forms of media, for instance, including graphics with text. Multimedia use in online learning encompasses a wide range of various media and interactive tools. Some media that are commonly used in online learning are text, images (photos and illustrations), video, animations, simulations, audio or podcasts and more. Interactive tools are also widely used. These would include tools such as blogs, wikis, discussion forums, synchronous instant messaging (or chat rooms), live voice, live video and web conferencing or webinars (live or recorded audio and visual interactive presentations, usually with some or most of the following: slide shows, screen sharing, text chat, voice chat, voting and presenter webcam).

Multimedia, especially video and animation, can be used to introduce a topic, to spark interest and motivate learners, encouraging them to delve deeper into the subject matter. Furthermore, according to constructivist learning principles information must be presented in a meaningful context, and multimedia can provide such contextualized experiences for learners. This is especially important in an online learning environment where teachers aren't as easily able to physically establish a context for learning, as in a science lab. Multimedia is useful in providing meaningful examples, through images, animation, video and audio. In addition, the interactivity afforded by many types of multimedia can be instrumental in active or hands-on learning, helping students construct meaning and make connections by engaging with the content and with their learning community (classmates).

Content should be delivered in a form that is most appropriate to the learner and the learning activity. The chart on the following page illustrates how different media types (audio, visual and tactile/interactive) impact different modalities of the learner and support varied learning activities to achieve learning of a concept: chart by the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics.

To follow are examples of how multimedia can be used in various content areas.

Science and Math Multimedia is particularly useful in the visualization of abstract phenomenon in mathematics and science. Such as in the following simple example: Simulation of Molecular Bonding animation, or in highly advanced visualization software such as Gapminder for statistics visualization.

Language Arts and Foreign Language Studies Multimedia is an excellent tool for language learning due to its capabilities in delivering audio, both synchronously and asynchronously, with visual associations if desired, as well. In language learning, multimedia can be used for a range of exercises from drill and practice to live communication with native speakers or language experts.

Music Music is an obvious discipline that can benefit from multimedia, especially audio files, streaming audio and podcasts.

Social Studies Video is commonly used to provide a glimpse into global cultures. Interactive tools, such as wikis, can support collaborative work and problem/project-based learning activities, which help learners become better citizens by solving problems as a team.

TribulletGrn.pngLearning Activities


Skim the introductions and conclusions. Consider the following question: How can multimedia help achieve a learned concept in various subject areas?

Calderhead, D., & Hills, P.(2009). Helping To Keep History Relevant: Multimedia And Authentic Learning. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2009, 1-20.
Muller, D., Bewes, J., Sharma, M., & Reimann, P. (2008). Saying the Wrong Thing: Improving Learning with Multimedia by Including Misconceptions. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 24(2), 144-155.


Topic: Multimedia in Your Subject Area.

Use our discussion board in ANGEL to summarize key points in the readings and your thoughts on how multimedia can help achieve a learned concept in various subject areas.

Discuss multimedia use strategies that you would employ in your courses. Comment on each other's posts and generate ideas for various disciplines.

Share a Resource

Post a multimedia resource in our resource sharing board in ANGEL.


Reflect upon what you've learned in your personal blog in ANGEL. Choose one multimedia resource from our resource board (either one that you submitted yourself or one submitted by another participant), reflect on how you might use this with your students.

TribulletGrn.pngResources for Further Exploration

Interactive Multimedia-Enabled Learning and Training

Merlot: Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching

NASA Multimedia


In this unit you have learned about various types of media used in online learning and ways to use media in various disciplines. You are now ready to proceed to Unit 2 where you will become familiar with design principles for multimedia.


Proceed to Unit 2: Design Principles of Multimedia

Return to Multimedia in Online Courses main page.