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Multimedia Presentations Workshop


Philip Barker
Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory
University of Teesside


Computer technology offers many new dimensions for the provision of support for teaching and learning. Until recently, most emphasis has been given to learners and the creation of more effective and more efficient individualised and group learning systems based on the use of computer-assisted learning (CAL), computer-based training (CBT) and computer-mediated communication (CMC) techniques. In the majority of cases, this objective has been realised through the development of supportive and/or collaborative learning mechanisms involving various types of interactive, technology- based environment (Barker, 1990; 1994; 1995). Nowadays, as organisational attitudes and infrastructures are changing, more attention is being given to the use of computers as support aids for teaching. This chapter therefore addresses the important issue of how computer-based methods can be used to develop, maintain and deliver 'electronic lectures' as part of a more holistic approach to 'electronic course delivery'.

Despite their many known pedagogic limitations, lectures undoubtedly offer a cost- effective way of delivering instructional material. It is therefore imperative that we think about the different ways in which computer technology could be used in order to: (1) enhance and augment lectures; (2) increase their accessibility (not only to local, campus-based students but also to distant learners); and (3) improve their quality - from both staff and student perspectives. With these objectives in mind, this chapter strongly advocates the use of electronic lectures as a viable mechanism for improving both the quality of lecture material and the ease with which it can be accessed by students. It is also proposed that this approach to lecturing can significantly improve the quality of students' exposure to lecture-based resources.

Essentially, an electronic lecture is one in which the use of a computer-based projection system is used to augment (or indeed replace) the use of OHP transparencies or a slide projector (Barker, 1996a). Obviously, the use of lectures of this type allows a range of new types of instructional mechanism to be developed. Very often these can be based upon the use of multimedia resources that incorporate text, sound, pictures, animations and video material (Hofstetter, 1995). The various materials needed to create these lectures can be retrieved from a wide range of sources. Typical examples of these include: local resource packs (that employ re- writable optical storage facilities or read-only media such as compact disc); and remote locations that involve the use of computer communication networks such as the Internet and the World-Wide Web.

Because of the many different types of resource that can be used for their production, the design, creation and delivery of electronic lectures differs in many ways from the analogous activities involving non-interactive media such as OHPs and slides. For example, it is possible to integrate the use of special types of 'build sequences', transitions, sound effects, animations and simulations in order to illustrate particular points. Materials can also be 'pulled in' dynamically from any source to which a lecturer can connect during his/her presentation. Naturally, using techniques such as these, lectures can become far more exciting and motivating than they have been in the past.

Bearing in mind what has been said above, the objectives of this chapter are now to describe and discuss the issues involved in producing and delivering electronic lectures that use currently available computer-based presentation packages. The chapter commences with a short description of our reasons for wanting to use this approach to teaching. Some different approaches that reflect current practice in this area will then be briefly described. Finally, the results of a student-oriented evaluation of electronic lectures will be presented and discussed.


Before discussing the different approaches to preparing and delivering electronic lectures, it is necessary to consider some of the important factors that underlie the growing commitment to this approach to teaching. Undoubtedly, one of the most influential factors to consider is 'institutional policy' and the hidden or direct messages that organisational 'fund holders' pass across to lecturers and teaching staff. An example of such a message is reflected in an editorial that appeared in a recent edition of a journal devoted to learning technology (Jacobs, 1994). In his editorial Jacobs writes:
'I was recently invited to give a lecture at the opening of a new high- technology lecture theatre at Leeds Metropolitan University It is one of the best examples of its kind I have seen Its impressive features include hi-fi surround sound, an enormous back-projected screen giving superb picture quality from either a VCR or directly from a computer for live demonstrations, online facilities, and the latest remote-control slide-projection equipment Clearly, this set-up involved major expenditure It was therefore presumably discussed at great length before the decision concerning such a long-term commitment was taken But a commitment to what? To the use of technology in education, obviously, but also to the stand-up-and- deliver lecture Typically, computer-assisted instruction involves a single student or small group of students sitting in front of a monitor, interacting with some software and self-pacing their learning The traditional lecture represents the very opposite of this approach: large numbers of students taking notes, with interaction at best limited and at worst non-existent, and with the pace of proceedings depending almost entirely on the lecturer 's judgement '

The message embedded in this editorial would appear to suggest a somewhat negative institutional attitude towards the use of individualised instruction and computer-based learning. On the other hand, as Jacobs himself suggests, it would seem to offer considerable support for the thesis that lectures (in one form or another) will continue to be used as a major vehicle for university teaching in the years ahead.

In addition to institutional policy, there are many other, more pragmatic reasons why staff in higher education might want to use electronic lecturing techniques to support their teaching activities. Amongst the more important of these we must include the fact that, in general, electronic lectures are easy to produce - provided suitable authoring packages and appropriate automation tools are employed. Of course, we must also take into account the observation that, because they are in electronic form, lectures of this sort are easy to share with colleagues and with students; they can therefore be used to support distance learning and tele-teaching techniques. In addition, lectures that are in electronic form are easy to maintain and update; this important property enables high levels of re-usability to be achieved and, to some extent, allows us to combat obsolescence. Furthermore, provided that suitable design and development strategies are adopted, electronic lectures can form the basis for the production of ancillary learning support materials (Barker et al, 1995a; 1995b).

Because of their potential cost-effectiveness and their numerous pedagogic advantages, it is our belief that electronic lectures will become a primary mechanism for knowledge and information transfer within conventional establishments of higher education. In addition, as hinted above, it is our opinion that the electronic lectures which are used to deliver any particular course will also have to act as a foundation to support the creation of additional learning aids for that course (such as CAL and CBT resources) that can be used on both an individual and/or a small group basis. Using this approach, the very same resources that are used to support local campus-based students could thus also be used by distant learners.

Of course, as a longer term goal, it is important to visualise the role of electronic lectures as a ' stepping stone' towards the ultimate realisation of a totally electronic course delivery mechanism within the context of a 'virtual university' environment. Undoubtedly, by the next millennium many staff and students will teach and/or study by means of such an infrastructure.

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