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Increasing Awareness on Using Multimedia in Education — Barbara Watson

Barbara Watson started her presentation by noting that the use of multimedia in teaching is, of course, just one aspect of the wider issue of the effective use of IT in Higher Education.


In encouraging use of multimedia in teaching, there are 3 main issues:


Lack of awareness is a major problem for many academic staff who may not be fully appreciative of the educational potential of IT when appropriately used, or of CAL applications which may be available. Even if they are aware of the potential, they may not have reliable access to suitable lecture theatre facilities or sufficient support to feel comfortable with making use of facilities available. Barbara noted that few lecturers watched other staff teaching and that this could prove a useful training method. The use of IT at conferences is becoming more common (though not always better!) and this may be an additional incentive to staff to use presentation technology.


Staff need support within institutions from:

Teaching staff need to make decisions about whether they will develop their own materials or use existing systems.


For presentations do-it-yourself is clearly appropriate and there are many tools and an emerging set of experience of good practice. Software tools such as PowerPoint, authoring packages such as ToolBook and HTML editors such as Netscape Gold offer suitable technology for putting together a presentation. All allow inclusion of text, images and video and presenters should be using the technology to good effect if the end result is to be an improvement on simple transparencies and slides. Use of video can be very effective. The incorporation of already existing "clips" of images, video, models etc can make presentations effective and less time-consuming to produce.


Teachers considering embarking on development of CAL packages need to do so with some caution. Training is a requirement but the major barrier is the time involved in creating quality resources. Teachers should look at materials which are available through TLTP (Teaching and Learning Technology Programme) and other sources.


There is a need for institutional support in causing a change in culture if IT is to be taken on board in teaching and learning in a way which is time-effective for the teacher and enhances learning for the student. This needs to happen despite the sometimes conflicting pressures caused by assessments of research and teaching. Not an easy balance to strike. External support is available to staff through CTI Centres (Computers in Teaching Initiative) and the TLTP Support Network (TLTSN).


Barbara described the activity of the Teaching and Learning Technology Service at the University of Durham which was set up in 1992. The aims are to encourage, support and develop the use of IT in teaching and learning. This is a service to all departments offering advice, information and courseware development. The University has about 70 lecture rooms spread over (a hilly and river dissected) 3 miles. Nearly all rooms have OHPs and slide projectors and most larger theatres are networked. New lecture facilities have been built with data video projection, twin slide projectors and data network connection. The central service also has some portable equipment which is in constant use. In addition some departments and colleges (with conference trade in mind) have their own equipment. A major problem for both fixed and portable equipment is in timetabling, with matching lecturers' needs and expectations to the available equipment. There is also a problem with transporting portable equipment around various University sites. Support is provided by 2 technicians though there is no formal training programme on the use of the facilities.


Modern teaching and learning requires access to self study facilities for students and Durham has 350 open access PCs (including some multimedia PCs) for their 9000 undergraduates. There are to be a further 150 PCs in a new library extension.


Lecturers often wish to conduct presentations away from their own institutions and use the facilities of other institutions. The technology can still present considerable problems with software and hardware variations and with the need for technical support and a suitable physical environment (darkness of room, OHP power). A backup of OHPs is always a good idea!


In conclusion, Barbara noted the following requirements to improve the current situation:



Finally, it is critical that we see these issues as part of the wider issue of integrating IT into the curriculum.

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