Making the transition to a new way of thinking

Multimedia projects have laid the groundwork for a new way of thinking--and a new way of learning.

Do you remember the days when Extension educators delivered most of their programs in face-to-face meetings? What about workshops where a single-page fact sheet was adequate to reinforce an instructor’s message? These teaching methods have worked well for years and continue to have a place in many educational settings. However, emerging communications technology is creating new opportunities that many educators are finding difficult to resist.

In recent years, OSU Extension faculty have experimented with a variety of emerging communications technology. They’ve gathered traditional media such as text, graphics, photographs, audio, and video and “repackaged” them as new, interactive media. These multimedia projects haven’t always turned out as expected, but they have laid the groundwork for a new way of thinking—and a new way of learning.

Planning for interactive media

The first stage of multimedia development is similar to that of other educational materials. It involves a lot of questions, research, and planning. As you begin this task, ask yourself the following questions:

What is the goal of this project?
As with any communications project, the first step in producing a multimedia project is to identify the goal. It should be simple, direct, and well defined.

Why is the project needed? Who will use this program?
The multimedia developers must gain a clear understanding of why the project is needed and who will use it. This is important so that content can be tailored to meet specific audience needs.

How, when, and where will it be used? Does anything like this project currently exist?
Determining how, when, and where a multimedia project will be used has a direct effect on the project’s design and functionality. A program designed for use on the Internet might have very different characteristics than one designed for CD or DVD. Also, it’s important to ask whether similar products exist. If so, it might be far cheaper and more efficient to purchase that product, rather than creating your own.

Are resources available to create and produce the project?
Before starting a project, it is important to identify reliable funding sources. Multimedia development is extremely labor intensive and becomes very expensive when it incorporates animation, video, music, or content that requires copyright licensing.

Is an interactive multimedia project the best solution for your needs?
Finally, ask yourself why interactive multimedia is the best way to present your material. New technology presents a lot of new opportunities but will not save ill-conceived projects. It’s important to remember that a good old-fashioned meeting and a single-page fact sheet still might be the most effective way to make a difference with your audience.