Navigation is a unique problem for the interactive multimedia environment - the user must browse information often with a number of options and choices. These options are cued by a number of different devices. Navigation can take a series of forms: It can allow increased learner control, by indicating learning options; it can provide a physical model of either the learning sequence or the layout of the information; or it can be adapted to meet the learner's requirements and even allow the user to specify the relationships he or she wishes for the information. Information in a multimedia environment can include any form of representation, text, graphic, picture, sound, animation or motion video. These options increase the difficulty in organising information by the learner. Faced with a multitude of possible choices, inputs and paths through information landscapes, a learner can easily become confused and a powerful vehicle for learning can become a time consuming problem. This paper reports on a study of the navigational demands of hierarchical, relational and sequential navigation systems in interactive multimedia learning materials and discusses the instructional design implications for learner generated and instructor generated interactive multimedia materials.
This rapid technological development necessitates a closer examination of the ways in which information is accessed and the concept of an information landscape has been introduced into the literature to indicate that this information can be represented and retrieved in a number of ways and in a variety of forms. It has allowed new and more complex instructional strategies to be employed in instructional software which offer the potential of more efficient and effective learning. While these learning strategies can be controlled by the learner and can employ a variety of cognitive modelling opportunities to facilitate learning (Hedberg, 1989), research on the efficacy on the variety of information access systems is lagging behind the technological developments.
As the use of this technology has developed the concept of user control has become an important and essential issue. There needs to be consideration of how much user control over learning strategies is the most efficient. Hedberg and Perry (1985) have proposed that used effectively, the technology can allow users to interact in ways that the designers of the system did not plan and that good instructional design of interactive multimedia materials makes it unnecessary for materials to be structured for the learner. Effective student use of unstructured materials however, will depend on the type of access to the information the user can obtain, that is, the navigation options available to the user.
Using the computer to model the knowledge base and to give the learner the freedom to interact with it gives autonomy back to the learner. Rather than give the learner a set of pre-designed learning sequences that assume some learning model, a more interactive approach could be developed by giving the user an information landscape and the tools necessary to explore and investigate the information. The change in locus of control from instructor to learner raises a series of hypermedia issues about cognition, motivation and navigation which need to be explored (Grabowski & Curtis, 1991) and the outcomes applied to the current navigation systems. This is where the level of flexibility and adaptive nature of the navigation system is important.
Package designers have used a variety of techniques in screen design to present navigation cues for users. They include:
Modal - selection of either graphic or text to carry most meaning and be the governing way information is presented. If the user has a preference of either form of navigation, should this be available, or should one consistent mode be available to the user? The following icons from The Parliament Stack represent a purely graphic mode of navigation.
Relational - how elements relate through objects such as stack maps. Stack maps are graphic representations of the information outline showing key nodes or decision points. When used, it should be ever present and accessible from all parts of the materials. A number of interactive multimedia packages make efficient and effective use of this navigation tool. The great advantage for the user is the availability of rapid access to location in the information landscape by cutting across the conceptual forms of representation of the information The following example is again from The Parliament Stack.
Hierarchical - moving through the content in terms of main idea to minor idea or visually clicking to see what is a small component of the larger. Most information has a subdivided or categorised structure. Each element of this structure of the information metaphor should be able to be used in conjunction with navigation around the overall metaphor or information environment. The information structure is often chunked to allow the hierarchical classification or structuring of the information to be accessible level by level as the detail is revealed. This type of navigation form is often strongly associated with a metaphor to represent the information and then what might be called sub-metaphors or maintenance of the metaphor is used to continue the analogy of the metaphor to more detailed information levels. This type of hierarchical information access maintains the overall metaphor of the information landscape, and yet can also allows the designer to represent the more detailed information in a variety of forms such as textual, video or audio format rather than maintaining the higher level metaphor. A simple hierarchical menu structure is shown below.
Sequential - moving through a database one card at a time either forward or backward. This type of navigation tends to be most appropriate at the lowest level information level or chunk and also is most appropriate when common elements need to be accessed. The following palette represents such a simple sequential structure.
Geographical/Spatial - selecting parts of a whole by an inherent physical/geographic relationship. This approach might be exemplified region by using a map as the link between objects.
Conceptual - choosing between different key conceptual representations of the information landscape. Information access of a larger contextual nature can be embedded in learning packages in a variety of forms. The metaphor concept is commonly used for this type of information organisation system. There have been some quite good examples of this type of navigation implemented in current commercial packages( McCormick, 1987). The following two examples are for an ecology simulation and a series of learning tools in an instructional sequence.
A number of representational forms can be used for navigation which have the potential to allow greater user control of information landscapes. There are a variety of strategies that can be incorporated into these navigation systems, but we know little about the effectiveness of the claims for clarity of access and development of user centred learning outcomes. These examples are drawn from a current research program that is investigating the range of navigation processes that can be applied to interactive multimedia.
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|Author: Associate Professor John Hedberg is Coordinator of the Information Technology in Education and of Postgraduate Programs, and Dr Barry Harper is Director of the Interactive Multimedia Laboratory. Their address is Faculty of Education, University of Wollongong, PO Box 1144, Wollongong, 2500, NSW, Australia. Email J.Hedberg@uow.edu.au
Please cite as: Hedberg, J. G. and Harper, B. (1992). Navigation options in interactive multimedia. In J. G. Hedberg and J. Steele (eds), Educational Technology for the Clever Country: Selected papers from EdTech'92, 10-16. Canberra: AJET Publications. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/edtech92/hedberg.html