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Designing A Successful Multimedia Program

Creating a multimedia program is much easier today than it was in the past. Gone are the days when you had to learn "programming code" to get your multimedia production to run. Now creating multimedia is as easy as dragging "icons" around the screen, and simply "pointing and clicking" with the mouse.

While the tools which help you create multimedia are now easier than ever to use, a good multimedia producer still needs to follow some simple instructional design concepts in order for a multimedia program to be successful. This guide explains the basic concepts of instructional design and how they apply to this new and exciting educational medium.

All instructional designers follow these four basic production stages:





If you follow each of these stages, you will save time, money and avoid headaches as you create your multimedia production. The key-word here is PLANNING.

Information Stage

This is the first step in planning for a successful multimedia production. Here you ask yourself the "who, what, when, where and how" questions:

WHO is your audience? Be as specific as possible in identifying your audience - this is who you want to target with your multimedia production. A good audience analysis would take into account all relevant factors about the audience. An example could be something like: "The primary audience for this multimedia program is made up of male and female college students, ages 18 to 22, who are majoring in botany and taking the advanced botany seminar." The key here again is to define your audience as specifically as possible - then you must tailor your message to that audience by making your message relevant to that audience.

WHAT is the MESSAGE you wish to convey in your production? Again, be as specific as possible when you define what information you wish to convey. This question is most important in determining how your program is to be designed since the MESSAGE must evolve out of your IDEA for the program. Create a statement which describes both your IDEA and WHAT the program will include. A sample IDEA/MESSAGE statement wouldbe "This multimedia program will guide the learner through the Amazon rainforests - As the student explores, s/he can examine various species of flora and fauna, as well as study the information from environmentalists who strive to save the delicate eco-system, and from the economic standpoint of the native peoples who must clear-cut the forest in order to survive financially." Well, you get the idea, and that's the point of this stage - to define the idea and message as specifically as possible.

WHEN is the production to begin and end? You need to plan your TIME carefully - how long is the production going to last? What's your deadline? How many weeks should be spent in research and finding information? How many weeks should be spent in actually creating the production on the microcomputer? Plan your time carefully and you won't run out of it!

WHERE is the production going to be created? What resources do you have available for scanning of photographs, audio and video digitizing, word processing for text items? If you have a limited production area, which is shared by many groups, then you have to plan to use your resources carefully. This again involves careful planning and time management.

HOW is the production to be assembled and completed? Are the students responsible for helping with research and design, or is this a faculty only project? Using students as members of the production team can help you save time and money. Students also learn as they synthesize and collect the information which is to be included in the production. A group effort can be very rewarding for all persons involved, and is a great way to facilitate learning. Large groups of students should be subdivided into several smaller groups - each responsible for specific tasks related to preparation and development of the project.

Design Stage

In the design stage you create a script or storyboard which includes ALL of the information that you wish to include in your multimedia production. You will need to list all of the textual information, video, audio, and photographs - each with a corresponding bibliography. You will also want to create a logical FLOWCHART of how all of your elements will "flow" together. A flowchart or storyboard is a visual representation of how the application "screens" will look and how the user will interact with it via multimedia "links." The flowchart should follow the general outline of your script or storyboard, but will include links to audio, video, or "hot-links" to other textual words and phrases which are to be included in your program. These linkages are what make multimedia interesting, powerful and interactive, so be sure to create many of them. Linking key words to pictures, videos, or sounds makes multimedia more interesting. A simple flowchart might look like the figure on the next page:

Undisplayed Graphic

Once you have the basic elements and linkages in place it's time to create your multimedia masterpiece.

Production Stage

In the production stage you "make it all come together." This is where you scan, digitize, format, and manipulate all of your information into one coherent multimedia program. During production you will make heavy utilization of your multimedia authoring tools, and you may experience headaches with different types of information files.

Make sure you follow your flowchart and script carefully to be sure that you don't leave anything out of the production. All of yoursound, video, and textual files need to be identified and correctly linked to the program. Once you feel the program is finished, you might want to take the time to make sure the interface is clean and understandable to the user.

Evaluation Stage

When you are finally "finished" with the production allow several people to run it through its paces. You will also want to try to run your production on less powerful computers to see how well it performs. Unless you are lucky, there are bound to be small problems with how buttons and links operate, files which have moved from one subdirectory to another, or problems with unclear navigation options. These can all be easily identified and corrected by testing. You also want to be sure that your finished program meets your objectives - i.e. how much of the information do the learners remember after they have used your program? Have they learned anything new from it? etc.

Revision Stage

Keep revising the program until you feel that the production is in it's final and finished form.

Once you are confident the program is complete - Congratulations!

You have created a multimedia production!

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