Selecting the right media for e-learning can be a real puzzle. It’s a media puzzle. (You might not get that reference right now but keep reading and you will). The puzzle exists because there is just too many options and it is easy to be swayed by something pretty and shiny.
So what is media? What are we talking about? Media can include (but not limited to) images/graphics of people, places and things; avatars, both 2D and 3D; audio/sound including voice over, podcasts, sound effects and music; videos and animations. Before you select your media, here are the 5 key things you need to consider:
1. Learner experience – What do you want them to achieve by viewing your media? Is it possible with what you selected?
To solve your e-Learning media puzzle, you must consider who your learners are and the outcomes you want them to achieve. If your media doesn’t fit, don’t use it. I’m sure you have all come across media in e-Learning that doesn’t work properly, poor quality and frankly a little confusing. If the image you really want needs to be stretched out of proportion to fit, don’t use it. You need to select media that achieves the outcomes you want, not because you are whetted to a particular image or video or design concept. (I must have a video every second page)
“If the picture you really want needs to be stretched out of proportion to fit, don’t use it.”
If you stretch images in your e-Learning courses, your learners will notice. Find an alternative.[/caption]
Do you choose an Image or video for your e-Learning? Video is probably one of the best types of media for e-Learning as it has audio and visual elements which can be engaging and break up text. But be careful, depending on where your learners are viewing your videos, they can have issues with poor internet capability or low bandwidth where the video does not play or continues to buffer. This kind of negative learning experience is going to have a detrimental effect. Make sure you know who your learners are and if this is an issue for them, cut down your video usage. For example a low cost and low fuss alternative could be a labelled graphic or pointing out elements on a screen shot when explaining a key piece of equipment.
2. Relevance – You might see the connection between what you are teaching and your media selection, but do your learners?
When searching for media to incorporate into your e-Learning make sure your selection is relevant to your learners. I always talk about how I used to use an image of a racehorse in my training. The training was about the relevance of imagery, and the image was selected because I know many people would see the relevance of the image. It’s the same picture below, a picture of a racehorse that won the 2002 Melbourne Cup called Media Puzzle. So there was a definite relevance between the content, talking about the media puzzle and the imagery of the horse Media Puzzle. I understand that with my background in racing I have that connection and it’s relevant to me but I’m not the learner and using an image that is not relevant to the learners has no impact. You need to consider how relevant the image is to the learner. If the media does not have any impact on the learner than it is pointless.
3. Accessibility – Will your media for e-Learning allow everyone to access it?
An advantage of e-Learning over a face to face training course is it’s accessibility by people you might not otherwise be able to reach. Ironically, e-Learning isn’t always accessible if designed only for people who have no disabilities. Disabilities requirements can be broad but some of the basic limitations your learners might have include hearing, sight and mobility restrictions. When solving your media puzzle consider how your media selection can be accessible to learners with these restrictions. How can your media be used in another way to make it more accessible? For example a video as part of an e-Learning resource is not accessible to people with visual disabilities so make sure provide a transcript. Closed captioning can be created for people with hearing disabilities. Images should have alternative text that provides a relevant description of the image so that screen readers are able to provide an accurate description.
4. Technical limitations – Does your learner have the knowledge and computer systems to support your e-Learning?
I remember a self confessed ICT developer and enthusiast once told me that she had to remind herself that not everyone gets as excited about system updates as she does. She would roll out the latest and greatest update and be totally astounded when her customers would ring and complain. They seemed to prefer the old way and didn’t like the fact that they had to learn a new way even though it was an improvement. Why aren’t they as excited as she is? Not everyone has strong technological knowldege or updated computer systems that can run the latest and greatest technology.
When selecting media for e-Learning, keep in mind learners’ technical requirements and limitations. Will they be able to listen the course, or will they be utilizing the course in on-the-job learning environments? Are you using media elements that may be too advanced for some computers or that some devices are unable to run? Alternatively, are you using media elements that are not supported by some computers or devices, for example Flash not being supported on mobile devices, IOS operating systems and through the Firefox browser. Also, you’ll want to consider whether or not your audience is tech-savvy. Will learners be able to navigate through the eLearning course easily with the multimedia elements you’ve added?
5. Size – Does size really matter?
The size of the media files (images, video and audio) can have an impact on the download or streaming of your eLearning content, especially when the learners have issues with internet connectivity or limited bandwidth.
When it comes to images, the smaller the size, the better. Low resolution images (fewer than 100 pixels per square inch – 96ppi & 72ppi are the most common) are appropriate for use in eLearning and online materials. High resolution (greater than 300 ppi) are generally used for print resources and will have a larger file size. Size is also related to the file format. Use images that are JPG (or JPEG), GIF or PNG. All of these file formats keep file sizes very low by compressing the file and/or by reducing the number of colours in the image. Also consider the size of the audio and video files. Video files in MPEG 4 format (also known as MP4) (H.264 codec) are widely used (including recommended file format for YouTube videos) as they are displayable on a number of devices and browsers and can be of a smaller file size than other video formats (such as AVI, MOV, WMV). Audio files should be on MP3 format. This is an audio-specific file format that is designed to reduce the amount of data required to represent audio recording. .WAV is another common audio format (it is the file type that most simple computer-based audio recorders will produce), however this format, if uncompressed, creates a large file size making sharing online unpractical.
Some key questions to ask yourself when selecting the media includes:
- Is the media relevant to the learner, content and context?
- How will students that do not have access to technology to view this media be supported?
- If learners are bringing their own device how this is impact on the media you’re using?
- How long is it going to take you to develop the media?
- Does the development time relate to the benefit? What could you do quickly and easily?
- Is the medium effective? Does it help students learn content better?
- Is the medium accessible?
- Does it suit the technology of the learners?
- Are my images, audio or video files of an appropriate size?