Use of Multimedia in Masaryk University Information System
Use of Multimedia in Masaryk University Information System
Jitka Brandejsová, Michal Brandejs, Gustav Novotný
Presentation for ICTE 2008 conference (8. – 11. September 2008)
Abstract: Multimedia contents have recently been becoming increasingly popular. That is, multimedia have infiltrated a lot of areas of human activity including education, where they, if deployed effectively, dramatically boost the efficiency of teaching process. Since teachers come to realize their importance and tend to use them in their courses much more often than ever before, Masaryk University has begun to provide its lecturers with technical support capable of assisting them in integrating multimedia contents in these.
Although the e-learning tools currently operating under IS MU are Web-based and thus enable their users to integrate a wide range of elements (e.g. images, slide shows, audio, animations, Web sites, etc.) in their teaching materials, their implementation sometimes requires advanced IT knowledge, which most teachers lack. Even if a teacher happens to know how to work with the tools, they are too busy to design the contents. This very fact has led to the establishment of Service Center, whose staff attend to multimedia-related requests made by IS users.
The primary task of the Center is to create visually appealing multimedia contents that are too complicated to be produced by non-professionals and, at the same time, provide technical support to large-scale courses, i.e. high budget projects participated in by teams of developers. Over the last two years of its existence, the Center has proved its worth not only in assisting the teachers technically, but also in encouraging them to continue in their e-learning activities.
Some of the Center’s recent products represent multimedia textbooks containing audio and video, some of them are interactive flash animations, 3D
animations, and objects made to synchronize digitized audio and video material with texts. Once completed, every product becomes accessible to students via
the Information System.
Keywords: E-learning, Masaryk University, multimedia, technical support, Elportal, Service Center for E Learning, s-technician.
1. E-LEARNING AND MULTIMEDIA AT MUThe utilization of advanced IT technologies in everyday life as well as the ever-increasing number of people connected to the Internet have changed the form in which information is presented from mostly textual to multimedia-based. Multimedia have thus been becoming increasingly popular as the means of communication and exchanging information.
This development also appears to have a significant impact on e-learning, where the multimedia-based material proves to be far more explanatory than its chiefly-textual counterpart. Besides, a student usually finds the former more attractive and amusing. However, the deployment multimedia contents is not always suitable and special attention should therefore be paid to whether or not it will turn out to be an asset in a particular course and whether or not it is worth making it intuitive and easily accessible – the main two aspects that ensure its success.
Masaryk University, as a progressive educational institution, reacts to the aforementioned development by incorporating multimedia support in its Information System, which, apart from the applications managing the school-related data, also hosts complex e-learning modules. The Web-based nature of the System and the high adjustability of its e-learning tools render this incorporation smooth and seamless.
The rate at which the implementation of modern e-learning activities is carried out depends on the promotion of what can be achieved with the multimedia themselves, the merits of the latest technologies used as well as the teacher’s potential and quality of technical support he/she is offered. At Masaryk University, the support is provided by the team of the so-called e-technicians deployed at individual faculties. There is also the Service Center for E-Learning, whose members specialize in the development of advanced multimedia contents. Both the teams assist teachers in that they attend to the routine tasks which are not directly associated with education, but must be done for the materials to achieve their goal, such as their conversion into a multimedia format. As regards the promotion, this is carried out via Elportal (http://elportal.cz/) – a Web site hosting all the useful tips regarding the design process, demonstrations of the materials hitherto created and case studies related to these.
2. AREAS OF MULTIMEDIA USE AT MUThe multimedia contents designed at Masaryk University are most frequently used in advanced learning materials and tests created under the so-called ROPOT (acronym standing for Revision Opinion POll and Testing) section. Apart from images and diagrams, it is also elements of other formats that teachers want to get included in their materials. Thus, for instance, the language teachers appreciate having the opportunity to utilize listening exercises, those teaching presentation skills videos, etc. Nevertheless, the latter as well as the PowerPoint presentations accompanied by an audio track prove their worth particularly in the field of distance learning. In this respect, they can also be used by the students who fail to attend a lecture.
Last but not least, it is also various Flash animations that are in their heyday these days as these allow teachers to illustrate a wide range of processes with the aid of advanced visuals. What makes them quite popular is the fact that they can be made interactive (the material they present can be divided into branches, steps, etc.) as well as their seamless integration in Web based contents. The Flash format is so widespread that the Flash animations do not require their users to install any additional applications and are platform-independent. That is also what makes them quite powerful when it comes to e-learning.
3. SERVICE CENTER AND S-TECHNICIANS
The Service Center (for e-learning support) has been created to assist teachers in designing multimedia contents and their maintenance. The Center, using the latest technical equipment and comprising a team of flexible students with good interpersonal skills who are knowledgeable about the latest multimedia technologies, eager to search for novel solutions as well as keen to build the know-how of the strategies not used hitherto (the so-called s-technicians), came into existence in 2007 as a reaction to the increasing demand for incorporating multimedia in education.
Now that the Center has been in operation for more than a year, it is possible to start assessing its contribution to the design of multimedia contents from the global point of view and that of e-learning development at Masaryk University. In this respect, the positive impact of the contribution is obvious and teachers’ reactions to its products often overwhelming. Last year, the team of five part-time s-technicians have fully processed seventy six orders. Thirty four more came in April 2008. During the one-year period, the team members have developed an efficient strategy for dealing with numerous orders and tested as well as fine-tuned the portfolio of the services offered by the Center. Each of them also began to specialize in a certain design area such as Web applications, flash technology, 3D animations, etc.
Image 1: Front page of the Web site describing the services provided by the Service Center for E-Learning
Most orders placed with the Center have been for the design of new educational Web pages as well as modifications made to those already available. The orders have enabled the team to create a swatch of multiple multimedia solutions so that the teachers can currently choose those they consider most suitable for their purposes as regards their design and functionality. After one of the solutions (a design, application) is selected, the team apply it to the teacher’s materials or give him/her a tool to use to fill the selected application (design) with data. This usually results in a visually appealing Web site, which students find easy to access and navigate around. Last but not least, its appearance matches that of the rest of orders.
A large number of orders placed with the Center represent those for interactive objects created in Adobe Flash such as various animations, tutorials, etc. In this respect, it is mainly the materials developed for the Faculty of Sports Studies involving flash video streams embedded in complex Web sites aiming to teach sports methodology that have recently been developed. As a result, students can currently use tutorials targeting swimming, badminton, rehabilitation, and other areas.
There have also been several somewhat unusual orders such as those asking for an interactive dictionary, a “textbook” of phonetics and a module synchronizing lecture video with presentation materials designed for teaching mathematics. The Center’s team have also developed multiple tools facilitating the teacher’s deployment of multimedia. A case in point is, for example, an interactive human-like figure that can be moved and put into multiple positions designed for the purpose of creating images illustrating physical exercises. Some other tools falling into this category represent applications allowing teachers to create test items enabling students to provide their answers by clicking on elements of an image and a universal flash audio player. The Center’s foundation and its existence have turned out to be extremely beneficial when it comes to incorporating multimedia in teaching. They have also enabled teachers to get to know the potential of multimedia contents and realize the importance of cooperating with s technicians – aspects that finally motivated them to place some more orders later on.
4. REFERENCESBRANDEJS, Michal, BRANDEJSOVÁ, Jitka. Rozvoj multimediálních objektů na Masarykově univerzitě. Seminář SMVP [online]. 2007 [cit. 2008-04-15]. Dostupný z WWW: http://www.aldebaran.cz/smvp/.
BRANDEJS, Michal, BRANDEJSOVÁ, Jitka. ELPORTÁL – E-LEARNING NA MASARYKOVĚ UNIVERZITĚ. In ALTERNATIVNÍ METODY VÝUKY 2007. 2007. s. 127-133. ISBN 978-80-7041-1.
BRANDEJS, Michal, BRANDEJSOVÁ, Jitka. Tvorba multimediálních a interaktivních objektů na Masarykově univerzitě pro rapid e learning. In Sborník 4. ročníku konference o elektronické podpoře výuky SCO 2007. 2007. vyd. Brno : Masarykova univerzita, 2007. s. 127-132. ISBN 978-80-210-42.