Recent trends in the design of educational interactive multimedia (IMM) have tended to move away from instructivist approaches and towards constructivist designs. Problem-based learning (PBL) is one of a number of constructivist approaches to educational design, best known for its use in medical education. Application of PBL as a design framework for design of educational IMM (IMM-PBL) has been proposed previously. This paper describes the derivation of nine guiding principles for IMM-PBL design from the relevant literature, together with examples of their application to an IMM-PBL package for use in teacher education.
PBL has been proposed as the basis for educational design of interactive multimedia (IMM) which would support flexible and powerful approaches to the initial and continuing education of professionals (Albion & Gibson, 1998b). Both PBL and IMM are sufficiently well established to have built up conventions and expectations about their implementation. Some challenges arising from the combination of IMM and PBL to create IMM-PBL have been identified and approaches to their resolution in an IMM-PBL product, Integrating Information Technology into Teaching (Gibson & Albion, 1999), for use in teacher education have been described (Albion & Gibson, 1998b, a). That product, comprises a set of four problem-based scenarios built around the context of a teacher seeking contract employment. Each scenario begins with an advertisement for a position and requires the user to respond to a selection criterion which is intended to stimulate prior knowledge. The four scenarios deal in turn with use of a single computer in a classroom, planning a unit of work to incorporate the computer, participating in an email discussion list and conceptualising a classroom project using the World Wide Web. Each is scaffolded by presentation as a series of tasks to be completed by the user. Feedback is provided in the form of alternative responses generated by a panel of teachers. The IMM-PBL materials are accessed in a web browser environment and may be delivered on a CD-ROM or web server. The materials (excluding the longer video clips) may be viewed at http://www.usq.edu.au/users/albion/pblweb.
This paper describes nine principles for IMM-PBL design which were derived from consideration of the relevant literature and informed the design of the IMM-PBL materials. PBL is a well established and powerful design for professional education. The principles described in this paper are intended to provide direction for the application of PBL to design of IMM.
Data from evaluations (Albion, 1999, in review) suggest that the materials are successful in presenting a problem and establishing a context for solution. This principle is fundamental to the claim that the IMM-PBL materials are a genuine expression of PBL. The anticipated benefits of the use of media, including video, audio and photographs, for presentation of problems (Hoffman & Ritchie, 1997) appear to be confirmed.
The video clips of the co-operating teachers were the feature most commonly mentioned by users in the evaluations. They referred to "real teachers there in the video" adding to the relevance of the materials and noted that the videos were "relevant because they are real life experiences of how these teachers used computers." There is also evidence that the video was effective as a means of communicating significant ideas about teaching with computers.
Evaluation responses indicate that students value seeing "how other teachers operate, solve problems and integrate computer technology" and the inclusion of "alternate responses to the same questions - different doesn't mean wrong." Others mentioned how their ideas about the use of computers had been changed or challenged by their encounters with different viewpoints in the materials. There were no suggestions, in any of the participants' responses, that the juxtaposition of alternative points of view had resulted in confusion or that they would have preferred a single "correct" answer to any of the tasks.
Evaluation data confirmed the presence of opportunities for activation and elaboration (Albion, 1999, in review). Users indicated that the materials had encouraged a reappraisal of existing knowledge, commenting that they "realised how much (they) need(ed) to catch up" and that they "felt overwhelmed by (their) feelings of inadequacy" in relation to writing to criteria for employment. Decomposition of each problem-based scenario into a series of tasks, which were designed to encourage activation and elaboration (Albion & Gibson, 1998a), was an effective method of encouraging users to access and review their existing knowledge.
Scaffolding in conventional PBL is provided by the tutor, who is able to adjust the guidance or assistance offered to suit the circumstances. By comparison, the scaffolding in the current version of the IMM-PBL materials is inflexible, being limited to predefined decomposition of the problem into tasks or access to the help system. The latter, though contextual, always offers the same help for a particular location regardless of the specific needs of the user. These mechanisms are better than nothing, but future developers of IMM-PBL could usefully investigate the possibilities for creating scaffolding systems that are more responsive to the individual needs of the user. Models exist in the "guides" or "assistants" provided in some modern software, but the necessary programming was beyond the limited resources of the current project.
An open-ended question on the evaluation questionnaire asked participants to describe the materials to a colleague. Some of the responses outlined the sequence of tasks in the scenario and one referred explicitly to role-playing, but none recounted the story associated with the scenario. Based on the evidence from the participant journals, it seems possible that relatively few users in the evaluation trial progressed far enough into any of the scenarios to develop a strong sense of the narrative. Many users appear to have spent a large proportion of their time exploring the resources and some worked with the initial part of each scenario rather than all the way through one scenario. The narrative might become more evident to users if they spent more time in a single scenario. Making additional time available for each scenario or structuring class activities which depend upon and support sustained interaction with the materials might encourage students to spend more time engaging with the scenario.
Because PBL is intended to increase the capacity of learners to solve real problems (Boud, 1985) and because identifying critical elements may be counter-productive (Savery & Duffy, 1995), the selection of resources for inclusion in the package is gauged to require judgement in selection from what is provided and initiative in employing material from alternative sources. (Albion & Gibson, 1998a)Beta reviewers of the materials gave high ratings to presentation of resources and relevance of reference materials. The data suggested that there was little room for improvement in these aspects of the materials at the beta stage. Participants in the final evaluation appeared to concentrate on the video interviews and sample responses generated by the consultants. Users indicated that they found the resources they encountered both relevant and useful.
In these materials, each time users complete a task they are able to compare their response with those offered by the co-operating teachers. Although the materials are not able to offer any judgement of the user's response, they include a summary of key points from the sample responses and, in some cases, additional commentary. Comments made by participants in the evaluation trials, in their journals or elsewhere, indicated that the sample responses challenged their thinking and provided them with new ideas. Several individuals identified specific ways in which their thinking about teaching with computers changed as a result of using the materials. These data suggest that the materials are encouraging users to engage in self-evaluation.
"Expert" evaluators (Albion, 1999, in review) agreed that the design of the IMM-PBL materials was consistent wit their use to support both individual and collaborative learning but comment on the absence of explicit encouragement for collaborative interaction. Students who participated in the evaluation were not required to participate in any related group activity and did not specifically mention collaboration although it is likely that they interacted with peers in the laboratory. The data from the evaluation do support the conclusion that students' thinking was challenged by the materials and that, for at least some of them, conceptual change did result.
No specific provision is made to support collaborative learning with these IMM-PBL materials. Where the materials are used by classes there would be value in having groups of students share their responses to the materials. The use of e-mail or other forms of computer mediated communication would allow for group interaction in response to the materials even where students are geographically separated.
Reviewers agreed that the IMM-PBL materials developed using the principles incorporate the key characteristics of PBL (Albion, in review). Final year pre-service primary school teachers who worked with the materials found them both enjoyable and educative. They found the video and sample responses provided by practising teachers especially engaging. Data from the evaluation revealed conceptual change as well as changes in attitudes towards the integration of information technology into teaching. Users reported changes such as new appreciation of the possibilities for use of computers across the curriculum rather than as time fillers or in isolated subject areas such as mathematics.
It seems unlikely that simulated experiences of the type provided by IMM-PBL could ever provide a complete substitute for practical experience in the education of teachers or other professionals. However, they may provide valuable preliminary and supplementary experiences. Certainly there are potential benefits in the self-instructional nature of IMM-PBL and its related capacity to support PBL experiences for learners who may be isolated by space or time from conventional PBL offerings. At a time when there is increasing demand for lifelong professional learning opportunities to be offered in flexible modes, this may be a significant advantage of IMM-PBL developed using the principles outlined in this paper.
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|Author: Peter Albion|
University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba Qld 4350
Phone (07) 4631 2356 Fax (07) 4631 2828 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Please cite as: Albion, P. (2001). Developing interactive multimedia using a problem-based learning framework. In L. Richardson and J. Lidstone (Eds), Flexible Learning for a Flexible Society, 30-38. Proceedings of ASET-HERDSA 2000 Conference, Toowoomba, Qld, 2-5 July 2000. ASET and HERDSA. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/aset-herdsa2000/procs/albion.html