Designing Multimedia Presentations for Your Course

Steven R. Crawford, Ed.D.

When designing an online course, I am often asked about recording videos for the course. While my response to this question is varied, my goal is to identify the purpose of what is being done and then to match that purpose to the most effective method for communicating the message to students. When deciding what is the “most effective” methodology, you have to consider a number of factors that include: the role of instructor presence, potential cognitive distractions, and the amount of effort to create the message.

Multimedia is more than just video 

There is more to multimedia than just video. Video is only one of four types of multimedia presentations. The other multimedia types are audio, voiceover slide presentations, and screencasting. When preparing a multimedia presentation, you will want to ensure that you are selecting the type that best meets your pedagogical needs (Crawford & Senecal, 2017).

Audio: Audio recordings are a great way to communicate with your students while allowing your enthusiasm and personality to assist in increasing your social presence in your course. This works particularly well for providing course announcements as well as weekly introductions and summaries. Another way that audio works well is when you can interview experts in the field. This can be particularly useful when meeting a subject matter expert at a conference or over a phone conversation.

Voiceover slide presentation: When you have a large amount of content to present to students, the most efficient way to do this is via a lecture (French & Kennedy, 2017). A well-designed slide presentation with a voiceover presentation works best in this situation as you can record audio one slide at a time. One thing to remember when using this approach is to avoid reading slides that are full of text. Instead, you will want to have as many images and graphs as reasonable with as few words as possible. This will allow the students to focus on what you are saying as you should be descriptive and explanatory. 

Screencasting: If you are providing a demonstration of a website or software package, you will want to capture video of the screen while narrating what you are doing and why in a screencast. Another thing to consider is that with a tablet, you can narrate a screencast of how to perform certain mathematical processes and formulas as you write them out. This would allow students to hear your talk through how to do a problem while demonstrating it at the same time. 

Video: While video can be used for all of the items mentioned above, it really excels in two areas. The first area is in establishing an instructor’s social presence as it can be an especially powerful way to build a connection to your students during a course and/or personal introduction. The second area that video is effective at is demonstrating processes and scenarios as they can be shown step-by-step in a way that allows students to see the entire process. And don't forget to add captions so that your video will be accessible for all learners. 

Design considerations

When chunking content into smaller pieces, you are not only assisting your student to better learn the content, but you are also making it easier to edit the content in the future.

Regardless of which multimedia type you choose, you will want to ensure that you have organized the content in a manner that will help your students learn the content. Both instructional design theory and educational research on multimedia provide guidance for us to follow. Cognitive load theory is based on the premise that a learner’s working memory has a limited capacity and that in order for something to be retained, a learner must have an opportunity to transfer this information from their working memory to long term memory. This learning theory guides us to reduce unnecessary distractions and encourages us to “chunk” content so that it can be more efficiently processed from working memory to long term memory (Tempelman-Kluit, 2006). In addition, by chunking the content into segments you are providing the learner with more control over their learning (Brame, 2015; Ljubojevic, Vaskovic, Stankovic, & Vaskovic, 2014).

When deciding the length of your multimedia presentation, there are multiple studies that have different suggestions. Some of these length suggestions include three to four minutes (Clossen, 2018), three to seven minutes (Buzzetto-More, 2014), six minutes (Guo, Kim, & Rubin, 2014), six to twelve minutes (Fishman, 2016), and under 15 minutes (Berg, Brand, Grant, Kirk, & Zimmerman, 2014). Regardless of the length of your presentations, the most important consideration is your content and what you are trying to communicate. When designing your presentations ask yourself if there are points where you want the learner to pause and reflect about what they have just seen and/or heard before moving forward to the next item. These points are a good place to consider ending one presentation and starting the next one. If the topic you are explaining has three parts, you might want to consider having a separate presentation for each part and then an additional presentation that shows how the three parts interrelate.

When chunking content into smaller pieces, you are not only assisting your student to better learn the content, but you are also making it easier to edit the content in the future. It is easier to re-record a single six-minute presentation than it is to revise a sixty-minute presentation.

Multimedia and the Quality Matters Rubric

When making decisions regarding the use of multimedia, there are several Quality Matters Specific Review Standards (SRS) that should be considered.  HE SRS 4.5/K-12 4.4 C states that “A variety of instructional materials is used in the course” and HE SRS 6.3 states “A variety of technology is used in the course” (Quality Matters, 2018). Any multimedia presentations you create for your course will be considered by reviewers to support these Standards. While it may be easy to use pre-existing materials from other online resources and publishers, you will want to, at a minimum, supplement those materials with other instructional presentations that you have created. 

Another review standard to consider is HE SRS 8.5/K-12 8.5 T, “Course multimedia facilitates ease of use” (Quality Matters, 2018). To help meet this Standard, you will want to ensure that you have reduced distractions by providing visuals that are purposeful by either establishing instructor presence or focusing the attention on the content being presented. For example, when you are providing a lecture, a voiceover slide presentation that contains visuals or keywords related to the content is better than a video of you just speaking into the camera. In addition, you will want to ensure that you have appropriately segmented your multimedia presentation by chunking them.


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