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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Impact of Technology and Multimedia on the Online Learning Environment

            Does technology and multimedia impact the online environment? If so, how? These are important questions to be considering during the design and development of any online course.

            If you have been involved in any online learning environment, you may or may not have noticed how the technology and multimedia affects your perception of the environment. But, in fact, it does!

            The technology that is used, shapes the way in which one interacts with the learning environment. If the technology tools are not set up to be user friendly, if time is not devoted to providing a practice session to walk-through the environment prior to the course, as well as many other factors, it can significantly affect the success of the learning experience for the learn.

            Let’s look at how technology and multimedia is selected by an ISD or instructor.

Example: Beth and an Accounting class

Let’s say that Beth is asked to move her Accounting course online. It seems easy enough since most of the tools that she is currently using are online anyway, right? Well, let’s see! Although Beth does have pre-defined technology tools to use, she needs to not only be able to link these items to the training environment but also make sure that it works within this environment and is accessible within the schools LMS. She also has to be able to get the core basic information to each learner. This is without speaking a word, seeing their frustration, etc. Not so easy, you might be thinking. This is where using the right type of support technology and multimedia can support her efforts. If she introduces herself to her students via video, she can bridge the distance gap. Using multimedia to demonstrate how to perform certain accounting functions on the program that she selected for the course will take care of her typical demonstrations in a brick and mortar classroom. Using technology to provide interaction through blogs, twitters, discussion posts and group projects provide the communication piece. Supplying content in a way that provides the information in a cohesive manner will add structure to the online learning environment. All of these variables need to be considered in order for the class to be effective.

Let’s talk about another important issue related to online learning. Usability and accessibility. We mentioned it a little above when we were talking about Beth making sure that the learners could access her software programs, videos, content. That does fit right into what we are talking about. It even goes beyond that scope. Since everyone learns differently, it is important that there are various ways to access the same information. This includes script for any audio or graphics as well as videos. It also involves instructor usability. Many LMS and CMS systems provide a “sophisticated set of tools that make tracking student engagement in course activities [such as through the use of] performance dash boards" (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010). Accessibility also relates to meeting the guidelines of the Americans Disability Act of Section 508. In this same way, usability also can mean navigation of the site. Peter states that “usability is the ability of the user to navigate through the site. [this means the student will be able to] concentrate more on the content than on navigating a site” (2002).

How about the technology tools that we mentioned that Beth was going to use in her class? As technology continues to expand and grow, so should the tools that an instructor uses online. Why is this important? As technology is updated and expanded, many of the tools that Beth may use today may be obsolete in a year or more. It is important for the ISD and instructor to keep up-to-date on what tools are available. With technology tools comes great responsibility in making sure that the instructor is “developing good habits, encouraging learners to use tools most useful for supporting collaboration, teaming and project coaching” (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010, p. 162).

One of the most important steps is to not forget interaction in your online classroom. I don’t just mean that you make sure there are questions or quizzes for the learners. I’m talking about interaction that happens between you and each learner, interaction between the learners via group activities and through the use of blogging, twitter, Skype, chat programs, etc. I would also recommend that, if at all possible, use a blended learning approach so that the human contact whether it be via webinars are available for the learners.

As I’m sure you have noticed, popping a course online is not that easy and takes more than just uploading it to the server and calling it done. It goes way beyond that to making sure that the interaction that was in your physical classroom is even better in the online environment.


Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Peter, D. (2002). Usability and Accessibility – Everyone Learning. Retrieved from

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  1. Hi Teri,
    I like how you used the example of Beth throughout your post to explain your major points. This made the information a lot more accessible and understandable. Also, great idea to bring it back around to interaction at the end of the post. After all, that element is crucial to learner satisfaction, engagement, and in fact, retention in the course. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Teri,
    I could not agree with you more. Accessibility and ease for use should be at the forefront of an instructional designer or educator when setting up a class.
    I have personally found that if given even the slightest reason to not complete an assignment or to not complete an assignment fully and completely a student will take it. I have even done it myself. We had a hard to access multimedia resource in class a couple of weeks ago and I tried to get access to it in a couple of different ways, which did include following the instructions. But rather spend a couple hours trying to get a small portion of the week’s assignment done, I just decided to move along and focus my energy elsewhere.
    So I guess the point I am trying to make is this; If you want the students to use a resource in class, you need to make that resource easily and readily available.

    Thank you for your post.

  3. Hi Teri,

    Your blog looks very nice. I like the way you incorporate graphics into the mix.

    Regarding: “It is important for the ISD and instructor to keep up-to-date on what tools are available.” This is doubtlessly true. However, the flip side of the coin requires the ISD to insure the selected technology is mature enough to enjoy wide-spread adoption by the target population.

  4. Teri,

    You make some excellent points in relation to the need for the instructor to be familiar with the technology they incorporate into their learning course, and how important it is for the learners to be able to access this information easily. You also mention the need for practice sessions. I would also include practice sessions with feedback from the instructor. I know earlier in this course we had to set up an introductory course on a CMS site of our choosing. Without the weekly feedback from the instructor on how to make the information easier for learners to find and how to direct the navigation of the site the final product would have lacked these important elements.
    - Jordyn

  5. Teri:
    It is great to see so many other who value to support of learning that can come from online resources. You have make it clear that you have an appreciation for the process. I enjoyed reading your blog. The post of others also shared or gave me insight as to how to better post and provide learning resources for my students. Thanks for sharing. Melvin