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What is Multimedia?

Pedagogy and technology
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Generic requirements
3.3 The Framework
3.4 Insurrect
3.5 Conclusions

Future Work

Case Studies

Multimedia in the Teaching Space



There are a number of solutions to taking multimedia into the teaching space; information can be transmitted over networks from local multimedia servers or from the World Wide Web, CD-ROM can be used with computers located in the teaching space, or video networks can be used to transmit real-time information either over legacy analogue networks or digital networks such as ISDN or the INTERNET. These possibilities open new opportunities to current thinking in Higher Education and the route to a wider acceptance of these new technologies may be through the encouragement of distance and open learning teaching in our existing institutions, especially in the higher degree and diploma courses. The interest in this technology is giving rise to a considerable wealth of experience in UK of using in using multimedia in the teaching space in a wide variety of applications.

The Dearing Report and the Government Green Paper on Lifelong Learning indicate that there will need to be changes in the pedagogical approach to the subjects which are being taught. The most common idea is to integrate the old and new experience in the hope that we can produce something which is both workable and pragmatic. There is strong resistance to change by some teachers because it threatens security, and for this reason the use of multimedia communications technology in the teaching space is often resisted. It means new relationships with the students, new ways of presenting the material, and perhaps a new role for the teacher. The teacher can now take on the role of manager and controller of streams of information or knowledge transmitted over networks into the teacher space.

The best way of managing this change is through enriching the experience of both the teacher and the student. The cycle of designing and building, prototyping and piloting courseware followed by evaluation and modification is one in which the experience is passed on in each cycle and one in which the confidence and awareness of both the teacher and the student can be built up. It is important that new technology is considered in hand with the pedagogical approach; there is little point in producing, transmitting and displaying super high-resolution images if there is no consideration of the way these images will be used in the teaching and learning. In some regions the introduction of new high speed networks has included the provision and connection of teaching space, and significant numbers of new teaching projects are developing to exploit these opportunities. In other areas no provision has been made to link teaching space to these networks and the high additional expense of making and equipping these links for the teaching departments has resulted in very little activity.

It is vital that where new technologies are brought into use that both the student and the teacher are aware of their potential - they are both users of the new systems and this implies that interactivity has a high priority in the performance characteristics of these systems. Interactivity plays an important role in all types of teaching and learning and in particular in higher education. The importance and the variety of modes of interactivity is recognised in the new MPEG-4 standard discussed elsewhere. The historic traditions of learning have always included discussion and an exchange of experience between the student and the teacher. The apprenticeship system is an expression of this process in the same way as the groups of students taking part in their discussion with Socrates. When evaluating video network teaching the students themselves have pointed out that the reason why they have come to university is to have the opportunity to hear first hand the opinions of their teachers and to be able to question them directly. They are prepared to accept that there is no reason why with sufficient care and ingenuity technology cannot extend that facility to a wider and more remote audience.

It is vital to realise the enormous step which has to be taken to convert the results of a feasibility study into a reliable service which can support teaching and learning. The original SuperJANET ATM video service and the London University LIVENET succeeded in providing a reliable service such that mainstream teaching could take place. The provision of a reliable working network involves not only the technological performance, but also the collaboration of a number of technical staff from different departments being at the right place at the right time. Video networks have exacting demands as the service is real-time.

The role of telecommunications and networks is to move information between different sites and this implies that there is a need to share information and experience, which is the essence of collaboration. Many teachers need to be convinced that this need exists, and that there are educational and organisational advantages in collaboration. Those people who have taken part in collaborative projects have in many cases found it to be a positive experience.

For a long time students have gone to the seat of learning and the idea that in distance learning we can take the teaching and learning to the student is new. Not surprisingly this will alter the relationship between the student and the teacher in a number of ways. The student is now able to see their role as the user and the consumer, and therefore they expect to have a greater say in how the course is run. In the cases where the student is employed their employer also see himself as a consumer, especially if they are funding the study. The student requires 3 components to facilitate the process of learning;

1. The information or subject content related to the subject being considered.

2. The tools by which they can access and organise this subject material

3. The guidance on how to structure their learning to understand the relationship between the subject material.

New technologies rarely provide all the functions and features that people would like and their successful use will depend upon a collaboration between teachers, students and technologist to reach a compromise between the advantages and limitations of the technology as it is implemented in education. There is little doubt that a solution can be found to most problems if money is not limited. In education money is not freely available to introduce new technologies and compromises have to be made. To maintain that educational processes should not be technology driven is a sensible comment; but to say that educational needs should be solely determined by the pedagogues, and the technology must be at their command is likely to waste much time and money. When the SuperJANET ATM video network was set up, the users learned that collaboration was required; the expertise of the teachers to design courses and to teach, the network engineers to transmit the information to the teaching space and the audio-visual engineers to provide good the visual images and good quality audio. All these groups worked well together, and the result was a system which was able to provide a flexible environment supporting a variety of teaching styles.

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