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Multimedia in industry and education: A decision model for design

Lynne Reynolds and Diane Ehrlich
Northeastern Illinois University

The need to develop life long learners has become increasingly urgent as we move into the twenty-first century. Technology and the move toward a global society demand continuous adaptation and change. Schools are under pressure from society to create a quality curriculum with additional components which go far beyond that which was expected fifteen or twenty years ago. In order to remain competitive industry is required to train individuals to work in particular environments and to upgrade skills and knowledge as new developments unfold. Fortune Magazine states that the most successful corporation of the 1990s "will be something called a learning organisation, a consummately adaptive enterprise."

Traditional methods of delivering training and education have had limited success in meeting the fast paced and high quality demands of learning environments today. Attracting and retaining culturally and academically diverse learners in schools today will be strongly influenced by the effectiveness of instructional delivery systems and whether or not learners can both relate to the material presented and see an almost immediate application for their learning. Multimedia can change the look and feel of learning by providing an opportunity to reach people with different learning styles, different skill levels, and in different geographical areas; multimedia offers the potential to reduce the learning curve and accelerate the learning process. Rather than being seen as expensive and frivolous, multimedia approaches may then be seen as an economic necessity both in industry and education. To be sure, there are situations where traditional approaches may actually be the preferred delivery system. It is also possible to become so enamoured of a particular technology that the equipment itself becomes more important than the need for learning. In order to make an informed decision about the use of multimedia, a systematic approach to design should be firmly in place and it should have as its driving force should be the needs and goals of a particular learning situation.

Figure 1 is a graphic representation of the design process in a puzzle form comprised of a series of interlocking pieces. The depiction of the process is not linear because of the reiterative nature of the process which may begin at almost any point. However, to be effective the process must be driven by clearly identified needs and goals, as with any good design model. This does not mean that the needs and goals may not shift as different pieces of the process are introduced, such as rapidly developing technology or budgetary constraints. The design model described here is derived from traditional instructional system design models (Kemp, Dick & Carey, Romiszowski); however, the potential impact of multimedia as a delivery system/learning tool is not often addressed as part of this process.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Decision model for multimedia design

It is apparent when looking at the possibilities that multimedia has to offer that communication with experts in other disciplines will be vital to the success of a project. The very nature of multimedia creates a need for interdisciplinary dialogue and a bluffing of discipline lines. It is not only educators, trainers, performance technologists, and instructional designers who are interested, but computer programmers, video and audio production specialists, and marketing professionals who are actively involved. Members of this diverse team must have a common understanding of the instructional design process to make the best use of each unique orientation to multimedia. As each element in the model is addressed it is important to note that previously developed elements may need to be evaluated and then revised in light of new input.

Needs and goals

in the analysis phase of design a consideration of the problems that need to be solved through instruction should be systematically developed. The needs and goals may change as a project takes shape because the primary concern in this phase is client centred. In a school setting or in an organisational setting, the client's expectations are key to the success of the end product. Although a correct analysis is the key to effective instructional design, many clients try to bypass this stage because they think that they have identified the needs. For example, a curriculum specialist may have decided that he/she wants to develop a videodisc on teaching fractions without determining whether such a disc would best solve the curriculum needs and whether such a program already exists. With the high costs of developing technological instruction, it is imperative to conduct an analysis of the organisation, the task, and the learners before any action is taken.

Learner characteristics

Learner characteristics reflect the demographic attributes, learning styles, readiness, and motivation to learn of the target audience. Variables such as learners' expectations affect the amount of time is needed for instruction, the level of instruction, and the varied approaches that are required. Multimedia enables the instructor to individualise learning to accommodate many factors. For example, special education teachers are called upon to modify curriculum and instruction to meet the unique needs of their students which may include modifications in student response methods and/or modifications in instructional or presentation methods. Special education students often require much repetition and reinforcement of learning through a variety of modalities. Multimedia may be useful in making those required curriculum modifications. Another example of the need to consider learner characteristics is found in corporate training in the United States where cultural diversity, literacy, and geographic location of the learners are key factors in determining how instruction will be delivered.


Topics and tasks are identified by performing a content or task analysis to determine what components should be included in instruction. Subject matter specialists or exemplary performers can provide the specific areas to be incorporated. At this stage of the design process, heavy emphasis is placed on researching items to include in the content and finding a sufficient number of sources to support the level of detail to provide the foundation for instruction. Subject matter experts can shorten the amount of research time by identifying key resources. They also can distinguish between information that is necessary to master the topic or skills and peripheral information that is "nice to know" but is not necessarily central to learning. For example, the history of photography, while interesting, is not required to learn how to take a photograph.

Once the topics and tasks have been defined, it will be necessary to conduct a thorough task analysis. In this process the actual performance of the task is observed and analysed. In addition to this simple observation it is necessary to identify the decisions and slight adjustments that are made by a master performer. Both Benjamin Bloom and Lev Landa address this issue when discussing the automaticity of expert performers. Skilful questioning and an ongoing dialogue are important elements of a successful task analysis. The expert or master performer also can help differentiate between the levels of skill needed for each component of the task.


Objectives are directly related to the goals and reflect the intent of instruction. Objectives should focus on learning outcomes and should be stated in measurable terms. Most find writing objectives to be a tedious task and team members outside the fields of education and training may have little or no experience in developing them; however, if objectives are not carefully constructed, the end result may not reflect the original intent and may not meet instructional needs. While all members of the team should be consulted and involved in the development of project objectives the refinement of those objectives may best be left to the team members who have this expertise. For example, the team member with expertise in media, may not understand the need to present objectives hierarchically from the simplest behavioural outcomes to the most complex to achieve desired learning outcomes.

Performance assessment

The methods of performance assessment should match the desired outcomes of instruction. They may range from simple pencil and paper tests to working through complex case studies. Media may be incorporated in assessing performance so that the learner may measure his/her own performance and/or review it at a later date. Multimedia facilitates more creative ways of evaluating performance because learners can use simulations to demonstrate newly acquired skills or integration of knowledge to help solve problems. For example when teaching language, the learner may be able to speak into a microphone and then compare his/her production with that of the native speaker used in the interactive multimedia program.

Performance assessment should take place immediately following instruction and should also occur several months after instruction to determine if a long term change in performance and behaviour takes place. According to Kirkpatrick (1976) assessment should occur on several levels: (1) reaction; (2) learning; (3) changes in behaviour; (4) long term results. Multimedia can play an important role in post-instructional assessment through teleconferencing, distance learning activities, etc.

Instructional activities

Instructional activities are the learning experiences developed to present instruction and to allow the learners to demonstrate their ability to meet the desired performance level. Activities may range from delivering instruction via an instructor dominated mode (such as lecture) to delivering instruction through a vehicle such as multimedia where many methods may be woven together. Activities need to be carefully planned and controlled by the allotted time which will determine the depth of the content and the number of activities which can be designed to support learning. Careful planning can also maximise the use of time; for example pre-work and follow up may be part of the instructional sequence. Instruction has to be carefully orchestrated so that it is part of a coherent learning experience rather than just a series of unrelated events. When designing instructional activities, it is necessary to determine whether the instruction is supporting the learning of facts, concepts, or abstract ideas because the level of learning and the amount of learner participation is also a key factor in selecting instructional activities. When non-linear strategies need to be demonstrated so that students can effectively engage in problem solving, negotiation, or conflict resolution, interactive simulations enable them to make choices and then immediately see the impact of their choices. For example, students may be called upon to make difficult choices in response to an interactive program about AIDS or to collaborate to prepare video term papers or to conduct research.

Media/delivery systems

The choices for delivery of instruction are extensive. If one is limited to a traditional classroom model, then lecture may be the primary mode of delivery. However, with the range of media available to entice, enhance, and reinforce learning, the selection of media/delivery systems may be one of the most important elements in designing instruction. The integration of instructional design and multimedia will be a key factor in the learning process of students in educational systems today because of the many changes in the instructional process. "Examples of changes in conditions in the instructional process include (1) spatial changes, (2) temporal changes, (3) using high preference reinforcers, (4) modifying the rules, (5) modifying the abstraction level of the lessons, (6) modifying perceptual organisation, (7) changing the instructional formats, (8) changing the location of instruction, (9) modifying for life management activities, and (10) modifying through new technologies." (Bigge, 1988)

Another key factor in selecting and implementing multimedia rests with the issue of teacher/trainer attitude. The fear of working with the new or unknown is well documented and has to be considered when assessing the potential success of media as a delivery system. Current investments in multimedia technology may also drive the choice of media/delivery systems. In addition to the obvious budgetary considerations, the familiarity with currently used systems coupled with a lack of knowledge of the capabilities of other delivery systems may limit media choices. This creates the demand for the inclusion of multimedia experts on the design team.


Resources impact all stages of the design cycle. Limited resources may lead to the conclusion that the use of multimedia is not a viable option. However, the use of technology is cost effective when it is selected based on strategic considerations. Many instructional designers are hesitant to work with technology because of a lack of knowledge and experience. For this reason many companies are using teams comprised of project managers and administrators, graphic artists, instructional designers, instructors/teachers, media specialists, writers, subject matter experts, and performance technologists whose combined expertise produces a more integrated learning experience. This necessitates that time be spent on building a psychological support structure to ensure the success of the team. Project management skills are crucial so that one member of a team is not wasting time while another fails to meet a deadline. An important item to consider when developing teams is whether or not the goals of instruction are clearly defined so that each team member's roles and responsibilities are clear; cross training can solve some of the anticipated concerns that arise when one team member is incapacitated or runs into scheduling difficulties.


The entire process goes through continuous revision and evaluation. Each decision made influences many others so that the various elements are constantly being reviewed. The Checklist for Multimedia Design shown in Figure 2 suggests questions that the instructional design team should ask. The form follows the pieces of the multimedia decision model and provides a series of items which to discuss so that all members of the team become aware of the broad scope of the project and the variety of decisions which are made during the stages of the design process. The questions are designed to encourage a sharing of ideas and reservations and also to provide team members with a common vocabulary. When the team invests the needed time up front to systemically research the pertinent issues, team members acquire a wider perspective.

Specific tasks should be assigned to team members as the questions on the checklist are discussed, or at a later date. The Project Task Timeline in Figure 3 lists a number of tasks that should be completed as part of the design process. It is important for newly formed teams to be made aware of budgetary limitations, completion dates, and the most effective distribution of resources. Many specialists are used to working in isolation or have only been involved at certain points during the developmental process with other types of projects. Instructional multimedia requires a different approach. For this reason, when first working with design teams it is imperative to stress the importance of deadlines and the impact of seemingly minor changes. Changing a word or two may not have much impact in a print medium; however, it may require extensive adjustments when dealing with multimedia. Team members may be unaware of the tasks for which other members are responsible and lack appreciation for the amount of time these tasks realistically take.

Figure 2: Checklist for multimedia design

Needs and goals
  • What systems or strategies should be used to assess needs?
  • What are the desired outcomes of instruction?
  • Are desired goals congruent with assessed needs?
  • Are goals realistic considering the learner characteristics and available resources?
  • Are there possible future needs that should also be considered at this time?
Learner characteristics
  • What prerequisite skills do the participants have?
  • What are the demographics of the participants? (gender, ethnicity, age, etc.)
  • What are the learning style preferences?
  • What are the limitations or handicaps of the learners? Is literacy a problem?
  • What is the size of the participant group?
  • Where are the participants located geographically? Is access a consideration?
  • Are the participants there by choice or are they required to attend?
  • What are the participants' expectations?
  • What content areas need to be covered?
  • What are the domain requirements? (affective, cognitive, psychomotor)
  • what skills does the learner need to master to perform the task(s)?
  • What changes in learner behaviour need to occur?
  • How should learning be sequenced to be most effective? (hierarchical, functional, general to specific, etc.)
  • Are the objectives directly related to the goals?
  • Are the objectives stated in measurable term so that the learner understands what he/she is accountable for?
  • Do the objectives contain actions, conditions, and criteria for performance?
  • Do the objectives reflect the desired domains?
  • Are the objectives sequenced appropriately for the tasks/content?
  • Have you introduced the objectives to the learners?
Performance assessment
  • Is a prerequisite skill inventory required before Presenting the program?
  • What criteria/standard is necessary to demonstrate mastery?
  • Does the evaluation match the domain identified by the objective?
  • Are there appropriate activities designed to assess learner performance based on previously identified needs and goals?
  • Is the level of mastery required realistic for learners being presented with this particular program?
  • Under what conditions will the performance assessment be conducted?
  • Is time a relevant factor when evaluating performance?
Instructional activities
  • What is the preferred way of presenting this material to the participant?
  • Is there a need for pre- or post-instructional activities?
  • Have sufficient time and activities been designed to ensure mastery and transfer of learning?
  • How much learner control is desired?
  • Do the activities match the learner characteristics?
  • Do the activities match the task, topic, and domain requirements specified by the objectives?
  • Have the learning activities been designed based on logistical concerns? (comfort space, convenience, etc.) Has there been sufficient time allocated for breaks and refreshments?
  • Are the activities compatible with the available resources?
Media/delivery systems
  • Has an in depth analysis been done to explore the options available to support instruction and make the most informed choices?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of each type of delivery system? (print, hands on, slides, field trips, computer based training, interactive, etc.)
  • Given the chosen activities, what are the most ideal systems for presenting the material?
  • What learner characteristics have the most significant input on the selection of delivery mechanisms?
  • Are there constraints or limitations due to the current investment in a particular hardware or software delivery system?
  • What are all the resources/constraints that impact the project?
  • What is the expertise of the design team? Is instruction limited because of a lack of expertise in specific media? Should additional expertise be added?
  • Has sufficient time been allotted to design the program?
  • How will time affect the process?
  • Has consideration been given to providing administrative and clerical support to the project?
  • How can the best use be made of the allocated budget?
  • What are the costs connected with both the design time and the development of materials?
  • What equipment is available?
  • What material is currently owned that can be incorporated into instruction?
  • Are there materials already developed which can be used or repurposed for instruction?

Figure 3: Project task timeline

Project completion date

Team leader

Team members

Project budget

Needs and goals
  1. Conduct needs assessment
  2. Develop project goals
  3. Identify possible future needs

Learner characteristics
  1. Develop learner profile

  1. Develop content outline
  2. Define and analyse task(s)
  3. Determine sequence of task(s)/content

  1. Develop objectives
  2. Sequence objectives

Performance assessment
  1. Diagnose prerequisite skills
  2. Develop assessment instrument

Instructional activities
  1. Develop design document
  2. Develop instructional activities
  3. Develop support materials

Media/delivery systems
  1. Evaluate current media/delivery systems
  2. Determine media/delivery systems necessary for current project
  3. Develop media/delivery system proposal for presentation to decision maker(s)
  4. Select media/delivery system(s)

  1. List available resources, budget and personnel
  2. List constraints and limitations
  3. Allocate resources, budget and personnel

The potential impact of multimedia on education and business

Discomfort with new technology and the creation of strategies to introduce new methodology to classroom teachers are global concerns shared by universities and curriculum developers. These concerns are evidenced by the proliferation of professional conferences on training and teacher education which are incorporating sessions designed to familiarise participants with multimedia. A recent international conference sponsored by Northeastern Illinois University, "Developing University/Business Partnerships for Restructuring Teacher Education" brought together teams of leaders from major universities and businesses. The purpose of the conference was to explore current methods and practices in teacher training programs and to create new strategies for implementation. Implicit in most of the plans developed by the teams was the impact of technology on education and the incorporation into formal coursework and staff development.

Research in both business and education shows the need for a more effective means of presenting instruction. The increased number of participants attending international conferences demonstrates that as we move to a global economy, nations of the world share many common problems. An assessment of the educational system in the United States is documented in two reports: America 2000 and the Secretary's Commission on Necessary Skills (SCANS) report. The latter report ties together the importance of instructional design, multimedia and the need to change the way education is structured. The United States Department of Labor recently released the SCANS report in response to a request "to examine the needs of the workplace and to see whether our young people were capable of meeting these demands." According to the SCANS report "good jobs will increasingly depend upon people who can put knowledge to work." Findings documented that "more than half of our young people leave school without the knowledge or foundation required to find and hold a good job." Two conditions were identified that require a change in the role of education in the United States: (1) the globalisation of commerce and industry; and (2) the explosive growth of technology on the job. SCANS highlights two elements of "workplace know how" consisting of five competencies and a three part foundation that should provide the basis for instruction in the schools. Mastering these elements will foster effective job performance. The five competencies and a brief definition of each follow:

The three part foundation of skills and personal qualities are: The SCANS report shows that these eight ingredients are essential preparation for all students whether they are going into the world of work or planning to continue their education. Multimedia provides the capability of making unfamiliar situations realistic and relevant to even the most reluctant learner.

Central to the development of a national agenda for the use of technology is a systematic assessment of needs and goals. This requires the development of teams to ensure a comprehensive understanding of what technology and multimedia can bring to the educational process rather than being seduced by its impressive capabilities. The impact of technology on instruction cannot be denied. However, the message and not the media/delivery system is the central issue. The design model encourages a total integration of both the message and the media/delivery system.


America 2000. An Education Strategy (1991). Washington DC: US Department of Education.

Bigge, J. (1988). Curriculum Based Instruction for Special Education Students. Mountain View, California: Mayfield Publishing Company.

Bloom, B. S. (1968). Learning for mastery. Evaluation Comment, Vol 1, No 2. California: UCLA.

Dick, W. & Carey, L. (1990). The Systematic Design of Instruction, 3rd Ed. Glenview, Illinois: Scott Foresman & Company.

Dumaine, B. (1989). What the leaders of tomorrow see. Fortune Magazine, July 3, 48-62.

Kemp, L. E. (1985). The Instructional Design Process. New York: Harper & Row.

Kirkpatrick, D. (1975). Evaluating Training Programs. Madison, Wisconsin: American Society for Training and Development.

Landa, L. N. (1974). Algorithimization in Learning and Instruction. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Educational Technology Publications.

Romiszowski, A. J. (1974). Selection and Use of Instructional Media: A Systems Approach. London: Kogan Page.

Romiszowski, A. J. (1984). Producing Instructional Systems: Lesson Planning for Individualized and Group Learning Activities. New York: Nichols Publishing.

Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (1991). What Work Requires of School: A SCANS Report for America 2000. Washington DC: US Department of Labor.

Authors: Lynne Reynolds, PhD, is Associate Professor Special Education, and Diane Ehrlich, PhD, is Associate Professor Human Resource Development, at Northeastern Illinois University.

Please cite as: Reynolds, L. and Ehrlich, D. (1992). Multimedia in industry and education: A decision model for design. In Promaco Conventions (Ed.), Proceedings of the International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 117-126. Perth, Western Australia, 27-31 January. Promaco Conventions. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1992/reynolds.html

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