IIMS 94 contents
[ IIMS 94 contents ]

To do or not to do? Should education be involved in interactive multimedia development?

Jackie Knott and William Newman
Centralian College, Northern Territory

Centralian College is a post compulsory institution which was formed in 1993 by the amalgamation of a Senior Secondary College (Year 11 and 12) and a TAFE institution. Located in the heart of Australian, some 1500 km from the nearest larger centre, the College has expanded to offer first and second year tertiary subjects under contract from the Northern Territory University and Swinburne University. The merger has resulted in a complete rethink of traditional educational structures within the institution.

As part of the restructure the College has attempted to take a more corporate approach to education. This has involved creating a strategic plan incorporating a mission statement and a number of goals. One of these goals has been for the College to establish a research and development profile. To achieve such a goal project teams have been established, the first of which being technology based. The project has responsibility for investigating potential development of Compact Disk Interactive material for both the distance education and commercial markets.

The College has shown the insight to establish this as a pilot project before committing large development funds. It is designed to provide the College with all the information required to make a decision on whether or not CDI and more generally interactive multimedia development, in any form, is an area the College should and/or could pursue. In defining the project brief it was important not to attempt too much. The project was commissioned for an 18 week period, in which time it had to not only identify and configure suitable hardware and software, but develop procedures involving all aspects of development. In doing this the project team dealt specifically with CDI but was conscious of other delivery medium.

The project was set up to investigate the viability in terms of physical resources and expertise for the production of CDI titles. As a result, one of the tasks was to develop a CDI title as a means of identifying technical problems and assisting in mapping out technical procedures. Despite the key criteria being the investigation of CDI production a fundamental part of the project was to look at interactive multimedia generally.

In completing its brief the project team and consequently the College has had to address a number of issues beyond the acquisition of hardware and appointing of staff. They are issues that relate not only to Centralian College but to any non tertiary educational institution looking at interactive multimedia development.

Purpose: You must have one

The first concern of the College was to decide the actual purpose of embarking on interactive multimedia development. In addressing this, consideration was given to determining what the actual use of the end product would be both within and beyond, the institution. There are a number of possible uses for interactive multimedia within any institution including presentations, preparation of learning materials and student use. Couple this with the issue of making money versus providing an educational service and a relatively simple question suddenly becomes more complex.

Presentations developed using interactive multimedia have a number of advantages. The final product not only catches the audiences attention but maintains it. (That's the theory at least). The flexibility and versatility of what can be included in the presentation gives the presenter an edge in being able to deliver an informative yet interesting and entertaining product. When used with students it increases the students potential to assimilate and learn the presented information.

Interactive multimedia has the potential to tie together a number of different subject areas including photography, traditional multimedia (ie, video production, etc), art, design, music, hairdressing, fashion, etc. It involves exposing students to a whole range of areas including those of graphic design, animation, sound recording etc. It is a future direction of learning that cannot be ignored.

Apart from the learning aspects, the issue of competing in the commercial market must be considered. It is a viable option if the institution adopts a commercial rather than educational attitude. Despite TAFE institutions claiming their staff have a wealth of industry experience, which is usually very true, they don't necessarily have it in the right areas. It has been found by the project team that true expertise rather than perceived expertise is required.

What is to be gained?

Another issue that needs to be considered is that of what is to be gained? Firstly there is the obvious professional development that would take place in order to complete the project. This would have a number of advantages in that it would ensure personnel within the institution do not become stagnant and left behind in the fast moving technological environment. It would allow them to keep abreast of changes in both available technology and developed software, not to mention the numerous other concepts involved in presenting information in the best possible way to maximise learning and retention of information.

The student or client should not be forgotten within the grand scheme of things. Being involved in development has direct consequences on the eventual quality of learning that will take place. It is important to remember that educational institutions will be serving students not only this year but in ten years time, and they must be prepared. It is often said that today's students are tomorrow's leaders, it is important that we invest in that future.

Education costs money, it rarely generates money. The production of material for commercial gain is not something that can be taken lightly nor is it something that should be dismissed. Whether it be the production of specific training packages for the private sector or the production of presentations for use in advertising or promoting Australian products overseas, there is great potential for producing a quality, money making product.

Attitude is the key element that differentiates between success and failure. Centralian College has adopted a progressive attitude in terms of looking at what can be done, how it can be done and with whom it can be done. What makes the College different is that it has not confined the possible solution set to any of these questions to the confines of the College.

Expertise required

Before any work can begin, it is necessary to identify the personnel who should have input into the development process. Due to the extensive number of issues and skills that are required to produce an end product, it is essential that a number of people with appropriate areas of expertise be selected to work as part of a team. Each person is then skilled in a particular area and can contribute valuable information rather than relying solely on what a single person may have picked up. Here is where education usually takes a wrong turn.

Since the final product has the potential to incorporate all facets of interactive multimedia, it is important to recruit expertise in a number of different areas including; graphics design, project management, photography, art/design, video production, sound production and so on. A typical educational institution may not have this type of expertise on staff. In this situation it would be necessary to look to the wider community in an effort to obtain the expertise required.

At Centralian College the project team was keen to investigate not only the technical aspects but these human elements as well. This involved identifying the type of expertise required then identifying whether such expertise existed within the College. It must be stressed that the team looked closely at genuine expertise rather than perceived expertise by individuals. This necessitated identifying services and expertise in the broader community which were initially supplied free of charge.


When preparing the various components of a interactive multimedia project it is important not to become locked into a specific format early in the development life cycle. Much of the work can be kept in a general format that can be "dropped" onto a range of delivery medium. In saying this however, at some point the decision has to be made on what the final delivery medium will be.

There are a number of alternatives available at the moment including CD-ROM, CDI and 3DO. Each have advantages and disadvantages depending on the perceived use for the developed package/product. CDI and 3DO for instance, are extremely easy to use and do not require an expensive computer. A CDI unit can be used to play audio CDs, Kodak photo CDs, the interactive video CDs (which are currently being developed) and of course, CDIs. One of the advantages of CDI is that it is non threatening to the 'computer shy' population and does not require any specific expertise. It is very similar technology to the already widely accepted video players which are now found in a large percentage of Australian homes and require no computer knowledge to operate. CDI use is simply a matter of inserting a CD and using a remote control with a single joystick and a couple of buttons to navigate the screen. As a result, this form of interactive multimedia has great potential not only in the home but for education in general.

Distance education

One of the difficulties associated with education in remote areas has been the lack of expertise associated with computing hardware. Often a computer will sit idle for months or be out of commission being sent into town for repairs for much of its life. The outback is a harsh environment requiring technology which is robust and easy to use. CDI offers a low cost means of supplying students with a robust technology.

The distance education referred to here ranges from junior secondary through to Year 12. It is not concerning itself with competency based training nor the delivery of TAFE sector courses.

Development in any area of technology is an expensive undertaking. Given the College is investigating interactive multimedia at its own expense it is imperative that the costs, where possible, be offset. It is the commercial environment where this can be achieved.


It is very difficult if not impossible for any educational institution to be involved in the mass development and production of interactive multimedia titles. It is therefore important to investigate niche markets and to tap into these markets. The College has found it important to differentiate between CD-ROM and CDI in terms of their relevant positioning in the market place. It is of note that they are for the greater part not competing technologies and can, and will, co-exist.

It would be foolish for the College to attempt to penetrate existing markets. As a result its CDI development work is aimed at identifying and penetrating niche markets.


It is very important for any development team to have an established, clearly identified methodology in order to achieve its goals. It is paramount to break from the traditional ways of doing things within an educational institution. Two very important approaches to development, not usually adopted in education, are those of commercialisation and networking.

Commercialisation is based on the use of designers, consultants, suppliers, manufacturing specialists, test engineers, sales, marketing, financial experts and customers who all work together from the very beginning of the project until its successful launch into the market place and even beyond. Centralian College has recognised the need for such a process and has actively sought cooperation with outside organisations and individuals.

Networked development teams is one of the perceived solutions to interactive multimedia development. It is almost impossible to have one organisation holding sufficient expertise in the wide areas required to produce a quality title. It is cleat that organisations must, and will, enter into partnerships with others to provide not only products in the traditional physical sense but expertise. The College is well placed in this regard as it has already established a core of expertise that can be exported or traded with other organisations to develop material in the interactive multimedia area. The importance of this point cannot be overlooked. All institutions must place themselves in a position whereby they can trade services rather than having to pay for them.


The project at Centralian College has worked under extremely difficult circumstances ranging from hardware problems in all stages of the production process to not having the required software. Despite such problems the project has shown that development in the area of interactive multimedia is not only possible but essential. The opportunity is there to make use of the tools at our disposal to start providing students (at all levels of education), with innovative and interesting programs, and to fill a clearly identified market slot.

Education is free, but who pays for it? Ultimately all educational institutions must address this question. Centralian College has embarked on a project that will not only provide a better learning environment for its clientele but removed some of the doubt regarding who pays. It is attempting to generate its own forms of income by making use of interactive multimedia - educationally different, economically sound!

Authors: Mrs Jackie Knott, Technical Officer
Mr William Newman, Project Leader
Centralian College, PO Box 795, Alice Springs NT 0871
Tel: 089 59 5211 Fax: 089 52 9856

Please cite as: Knott, J. and Newman, W. (1994). To do or not to do? Should education be involved in interactive multimedia development?. In C. McBeath and R. Atkinson (Eds), Proceedings of the Second International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 251-253. Perth, Western Australia, 23-28 January. Promaco Conventions. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1994/km/knott.html

[ IIMS 94 contents ] [ IIMS Main ] [ ASET home ]
This URL: http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1994/km/knott.html
© 1994 Promaco Conventions. Reproduced by permission. Last revision: 8 Feb 2004. Editor: Roger Atkinson
Previous URL 5 June 2000 to 30 Sep 2002: http://cleo.murdoch.edu.au/gen/aset/confs/iims/94/km/knott.html