IIMS 96 contents
[ IIMS 96 contents ]

Multimedia on the net, on disk: Are university libraries ready for it?

Gulcin Cribb and Janine Schmidt
University of Queensland

New learning environments

In looking at how learning environments have changed within universities, several areas can be identified. These include the use of information technology in teaching and learning; an emphasis on customer orientation in the teaching and learning process, particularly with fee based programs; the increased use of problem based learning, and self directed learning; a student population whose experiences in school are vastly different from those of ten years ago, and whose composition is also changing; suggestions of common undergraduate/ first year curricular; emphases on quality in the delivery of educational programs; and a conceptual approach which refers to life long learning . Each of these factors is changing the delivery of educational programs, and the nature of the support services provided for educational programs within universities.

Use of information technology in teaching and learning

The growth of the use of personal computers and the introduction of the information superhighway, coupled with the width of the range of educational software available have changed for ever the face of education. Computers can revolutionise the delivery of education, and research evidence validates the usefulness of educational technology in the learning process. The revolution is predicated on a campus enriched by master classrooms equipped with multimedia technology, interactive classrooms or laboratories for collaborative learning, provision of computer laboratories on campus for individual student use, and widespread use of laptop or notebook computers. The "virtual university" is becoming a catchcry as communication networks transcend geographical boundaries and permit learners located remotely to access educational opportunities. There is significant change occurring in the production of information, with a steady movement away from print. There are full text databases, multimedia programs with text, animation, sound and video, electronic journals and other publications available on disc or at remote sites accessible via the World Wide Web, electronic discussion groups on any subject, video conferencing and email are becoming more widely used. The vision of what is possible with the information technology available features students working individually and in groups to take a more active role in the educational process, with teaching staff acting as facilitators of learning. The teachers and the taught communicate via email. Assignments are submitted electronically, and responses recorded electronically. Students enrol via the campus wide information network. Lectures are given via interactive television. Multimedia available via disk network enhances learning. Students access resources through local databases mounted within the Library, or find their way into databases located on remote sites to gain information for their assignments, and work collaboratively with each other.

Colin Steele's (Steele, 1995) recent article in The Australian identifies some of the advantages of the use of information technology in education:

Universities have spent millions of dollars on computer equipment over the last decade or more. Despite evidence of the effectiveness of use of educational technology and the vision of the possibilities of use, research shows that the use of computers for instructional purposes has been slow to penetrate the mainstream of university education. A research project was undertaken to document current use of information technology (IT) in teaching and learning at the University of Queensland in 1993 (Cribb et al 1994). An extensive survey of the use of IT across universities in Australia was undertaken as well as a survey of the use of IT at the University of Queensland. The use of IT at the University of Queensland varies greatly across disciplines. There is a strong bias in use towards engineering, mathematics, science and the health sciences which lend themselves more readily to algorithms and present many opportunities for simulations. IT is primarily used as a tool Applications such as statistics packages, word processing and spreadsheets were found to constitute the majority of IT use. Academic Staff were questioned as to their attitudes to the use of IT before and after its introduction into their subjects. They indicated that enthusiasm increases after IT is introduced. Student responses suggested increased efficiency of learning in courses involving IT, with 56% indicating that they learnt more quickly with IT and 55% claiming that they learnt with more understanding.

There has been encouragement of the use of information technology at the Federal level. Integration of information technologies is regarded as a high priority activity for universities. Open learning has been promoted as one of the solutions to the country's educational needs and information technology assigned a key role in effecting educational delivery in Open Learning. The Committee for the Advancement of University Teaching (CAUT) has been paying particular attention to the funding of projects which address the use of technology in teaching. During the 1994 Quality Review of universities, universities were assessed on the basis of their teaching and learning and innovative uses of information technology were highlighted. Many multimedia and computer based learning programs were developed or are in progress in many universities with the help of quality grants which resulted from allocations made.

Two of the findings of the Candy report (Candy, 1994) illustrate the importance of access to information and information technology coupled with emphasis on enhancement and facilitation of learning at universities:

Customer orientation in universities

The emphasis on the customer rather than the learning is a comparatively recent phenomenon, as business approaches in areas like total quality management become more widely known in universities. There is a growing awareness by the learners themselves that they are customer, and increase pressure on a need to deliver appropriate educational experiences.

Problem based learning

The trends to incorporate resource based, problem based or self directed and peer assisted learning into curricula coupled with the increased scrutiny of teaching practices in universities are making an impact on the strategies being employed in the design of courses. Traditionally, most undergraduate teaching has been delivered by lectures, tutorials and where appropriate with practical exercises or laboratory experiences. Problem based learning involves greater degree of learner control, recognition of students' prior knowledge and the active involvement of learners in identifying a problem and in evaluating their own outcomes of their learning. Teaching staff at universities are expected to be aware of these trends and to apply them in their teaching.

Students come to university with a variety of school experiences. Problem based learning approaches have been adopted in schools. While only a few schools currently make pc ownership mandatory, it is a growing trend, and the increasingly wider availability of multimedia for schools, particularly with programs like the Creative Nation, means that students now come to universities with a wide range of educational experiences.

Changes in student population

It is not possible to educate today's students for the twenty-first century without multimedia and the Internet. Students coming to universities today will have experienced multimedia instruction at school and multimedia interactions with computer games at home, at school and in recreational facilities. Today's graduates will be employed in jobs where high levels of computer literacy and ability to use information intelligently are often essential requirements. The Federal and State governments are providing resources to schools and public libraries to ensure access to the Internet by the wider community, in particular school children. The increased percentages of mature students, women, and postgraduate students are changing the nature of the educational experiences appropriate for learning.

Students and academic staff are faced with the need to be aware of the availability of continually increasing amount of information and the range of options and possibilities to access and manipulate it when and how it suits them. It is not sufficient for students to be aware of the existence of information, but also be able to evaluate it, respond to it and contribute to the creation of information to be used by scholars anywhere in the world. There is a significant change occurring in the production of information. There is steady movement away from print production. There are full text databases on the Internet and the WWW, multimedia programs with text, animation, sound, video, WWW sites with multimedia capability, electronic journals and other publications both on disk and on the WWW. In addition, electronic discussion groups on any subject, video conferencing and email are also prevalent. The volume of information, how it is communicated and the formats in which it is available are making significant impact on the delivery of education worldwide.

Such questions as "Why aren't computers widely used for teaching/learning at universities?". "What kind of lecturers use computers for teaching", "What are the major barriers to the use of IT in teaching and learning at universities" (Sammons, 1994), (Cribb, 1994), (Laurillard, 1993) have been pursued and discussed in the literature. In general universities have been slow to develop appropriate responses to the needs identified.

Critical success factors for the effective and efficient integration of IT into higher education have been identified as:

Hirschbuhl and Faseyitan conducted a study to determine the requirements for faculty adoption of computers for instruction. Their findings indicated that there is "no significant difference between computer adopters and non-adopters in their personal attributes of gender, rank and research commitment". They further postulate "The bottom line is faculty should be trained in the use of computers and demonstrate willingness to adopt computers for instructional purposes before the university launches a technology project. Instructor training should include a specific focus on how to design instructional content for the intended media; this is especially true for multimedia projects as the requirements for integrating video, audio, animations and graphics are fairly technical" (Hirschbuhl and Fasetiyan, 1994). One reason for failure to adopt new approaches to teaching and learning is that there is little incentive for staff to be innovative.

However, increasingly, criteria for the review and appraisal of academic staff include teaching, not just research and publishing. Many universities have introduced awards for excellent teachers in recent years. Other universities are providing grants to enhance teaching methods and to incorporate multimedia into the curriculum.

In examining the enhancement of instructional effectiveness, particularly with the use of IT, Short (Short, 1994) has identified an approach which will enable instructional technology to realise its potential. He suggests that core components of the curriculum should be targeted; differentiation be made between application tools and courseware; champions of the cause be solicited; incentives provided; all participants be educated in appropriate skills; projects be modular, incremental and "doable" and high priority be given to the production of generic modules.

University of Queensland responses to the new learning environment

The University of Queensland has completed a Teaching and Learning Enhancement Plan, (1995) which emphasises such areas as: This plan has been further enhanced by a Multimedia Policy for Teaching and Learning (1995) which states that "One of the greatest impediments to successful adoption of multimedia can be low awareness among academic staff of its potential. Staff development is widely seen as necessary to raise the awareness of the majority and restrain the unrealistic expectations of an over enthusiastic few." The policy outlines a number of initiatives, but in particular emphasises staff development.

Training of teaching staff to use IT in their teaching is a multidimensional undertaking. It is not something that can be carried out by the departments themselves or by those sections of universities alone whose responsibility it is to provide academic staff development. This is a responsibility which needs to be planned, organised and delivered by teams of experts from different sections of the university.

The issue of who should be responsible for the development of multimedia courseware has been debated in universities for some time. Many university administrators wish to encourage innovation in teaching and learning regardless of whether multimedia is integrated or not. The cost of higher education and improving quality of teaching probably occupy a relatively high place in most university administrators' agendas. The same administrators are also very conscious of the dollars spent in developing expensive multimedia products as the time academic staff may wish to put into developing such products are taken away from the time needed for teaching and research.

Creation of multimedia is analogous to the creation of textbooks. There are occasions when the teaching staff do write their own textbooks but more frequently other people's books are used as well for additional readings. So it is with multimedia. The skills and talents necessary to make a multimedia program successful are possible only within a team of experts consisting of instructional designers, graphic artists, programmers, content advisers. It is the academic staff who are the content experts. Some products used will be commercially available; others accessed via the Web, and still others created.

Involvement of libraries in use and development of multimedia

The University of Queensland Library's mission statement is to link people with information. Many other libraries have similar wording in their mission statements eg bringing people and information together. The information may be in any format. The act of linking involves helping the clients access efficiently the information needed. In the new learning environment, the Library

The increasing number of multimedia products available on the market has already been mentioned. Most of the early ones were suitable for high schools and general consumer market, but many universities are beginning to market their multimedia products designed specially for university courses, for example language teaching, statistics, microbiology, biochemistry, anatomy, medicine etc. Clearing houses and coordinating centres such as CTI (Computers in Teaching Initiative in the UK) and Uniserve in Australia are aiming to coordinate these productions and advise academic staff of the availability and suitability of course related multimedia programs. Libraries are purchasing such products and making them available for use as well as providing access to resources on the Web.

It is not uncommon to find academic staff from different disciplines or within the same department being interested in the same multimedia products and using them in different ways in their curriculum. This is particularly true for interdisciplinary subjects. Librarians are in an ideal position to make the connections and provide the materials and services required. The materials are available for loan to staff and students for use on individual workstations in the library, on the library's or university's network or on the Web. Training and guidance in assisting academic staff, identify, locate and use the resources and provide the services and facilities required to deliver it to their students is the area where libraries and librarians have a major role to play.

The multimedia facility at the University of Queensland: A case study

The planning, establishment and management of the multimedia facility at the University of Queensland will be used to illustrate some of the issues already mentioned. Planning for the facility began soon after the completion of a report (Cribb et al, 1994) on the use of information technology for teaching and learning at the University of Queensland which was the outcome of an action learning project undertaken by a team of people from the Library, computer centre, TESOL program and the Tertiary Education Institute in 1993. The report pointed out that lack of centralised facilities, lack of information and advice, lack of time, inadequate training, lack of support personnel, cost of hardware and software were some of the major barriers to the use or increased use of information technology for teaching and learning. The University administrators were working on a draft information technology strategic plan at the time. At the same time, quality funds were becoming available to encourage use of information technology in teaching and learning. The three academic service departments, the Library, Prentice Centre (responsible for the computing and audiovisual facilities and services) and Tertiary Education Institute (responsible for academic and general staff development and improvement of teaching and learning ) successfully applied for grants to establish a Multimedia Facility in the Library.

The role and functions of the Facility are to:

The Facility has been operating since April 1995. It consists of two large rooms with over 40 workstations, 30 of which are PowerMacs. One of the rooms is a training room with 19 PowerMacs including the trainer's machine connected to a video projector. The second room has PowerMacs, PCs, Macs, printers and a scanner. Students use this room for independent study. The Training Room is used for a variety of purposes including: The variety of uses for the student workstation area seems to expand continuously. It can be summarised as follows: From the day it opened, the Multimedia Facility in particular the Training Room has been heavily booked for courses by lecturers and library staff who teach information skills and Internet use. Bookings for 1996 started coming soon after the opening. Feedback has been actively sought from the users of the Facility in order to make it as suitable as possible for their use. Services are adjusted according to needs and requirements of the users on an ongoing basis. Constant change and learning new skills were not easy for staff who were used to dealing with audiovisual materials and services prior to the opening. The section has been providing a small computer assisted learning facility in the Library for many years and the staff had some familiarity with use of computers for learning. Computers have always been part of library staff s daily work life. Moving from 386 or 486 PCs to PowerMacs and MPCs required some adjustment and learning. Most of the staff training was done in house by allowing staff time to practise with the software and hardware. Two members of staff who have more expertise and skills than others acted as resource people to teach the rest of the staff. Staff were encouraged to attend various courses run by other library staff on Internet, Windows etc. Hardware and network connections were set up by the Computer Centre, partners in the project. Library staff learnt a great deal during the implementation by liaising with the Computer Centre staff on a daily basis and helping them as well.

Other library initiatives in the use and development of multimedia

The issue of digitising fragile and rare materials to preserve them as well as improving access to those materials by a larger number of people has been close to the hearts and minds of many librarians. It is not just the fragile manuscripts or photographs, pictures and drawings, but also sound recordings, films, videos, slides, theses and heavily used materials like text books, journal articles, past exam papers required by large numbers of students that would suit digitising and being made available on networks for easy access. There are many initiatives libraries are undertaking in order to provide access to materials digitally, either via networks, CD-ROM production or hard disc storage in libraries. One obstacle in digitising projects is the issue of copyright and intellectual property. The high cost of digitising and the provision of appropriate indexing of content also have to be addressed.

One of the projects the University of Queensland Library has undertaken in conjunction with the Architecture Department at the University is called "DigiLib". The project involved digitising about 800 slides belonging to the Head of the Architecture Department. These are slides of Queensland country towns taken in the 70s and 80s with the intention of being used for teaching and research. Preservation, storage and access were significant issues in the planning and implementation of the project. Assistance of librarians, historians, art historians and architects was sought. The first stage of the project is now complete and available on the Library's network. The next stage will involve making it available on the WWW.

A program is being developed in conjunction with the Computer Science Department to teach use of the Internet. It is a kit aimed to assist participants to identify, access, exploit and evaluate Internet tools, resources and services. The kit includes modules on for example WWW subject pages and search engines and how to write hypertext documents, introduction to HTML. It will be particularly useful for students in remote areas and/or those with modem access. This is another example of provision of information literacy training outside the walls of the library and using multimedia tools.

The University of Queensland Library is involved in a project coordinating a staff development program raising the awareness of academic staff of the use and development of multimedia for teaching and learning. The project has been funded for one year and will then be incorporated into the mainstream academic staff development program on an ongoing basis. The main aim of the program is to provide information and advice on multimedia by bringing together a group of experts amongst the teaching staff and other experts such as instructional designers and curriculum advisers to present the content with plenty of hands on demonstrations. The activities include:

Where to from here?

It is no longer feasible to allocate just a few staff in universities or libraries to be responsible for developments in information technology. All involved in teaching, learning and research, whether directly or through supporting services must take responsibility for keeping up with changes in education and information technology and for participating in implementing effective and efficient delivery of education. The changing needs of students will force universities to transform and to adapt, or competition will force them out. The "virtual university" and "virtual library" have become reality.


Candy, P. C., Crebert, G. and O'Leary, J. (1994). Developing lifelong learners through undergraduate education. NBEET Commissioned Report No. 28, Canberra, AGPS.

Cribb, G., Holzl, A., McCarthy, M., McPherson, K., Williams, W. and Andrew, D. (1994). The use of information technology (IT) for teaching and learning at the University of Queensland: Final report. Brisbane, the University of Queensland.

Hirschbuhl, J. J. and Fasetiyan, S. O. (1994). Faculty uses of computers: Fears, facts and perceptions. T.H.E. Journal, 21(9), 64-65.

Laurillard, D. (1993). Rethinking university teaching. London, Routledge.

A multimedia policy for teaching and learning (1995). St Lucia, Brisbane, The University of Queensland. (unpublished policy document).

NBEET (1994). Costs and quality in resource based learning on and off campus. Commissioned report No. 33, Canberra, AGPS.

O'Brien, L. (1995). Information technology strategies for the University of Queensland Library: A report. Brisbane, University of Queensland Library.

Sammons, M. C. (1994). Motivating faculty to use multimedia as a lecture tool. T.H.E. Journal, 21(7), 88-90.

Short, Douglas D. (1994). Enhancing instructional effectiveness: A strategic approach. White Plains, NY: IBM.

Steele, C. (1995). The evolving virtual university. The Australian, 8.11.1995, 15-16.

Teaching and learning enhancement plan (1995). St Lucia, Brisbane, The University of Queensland. (unpublished policy document).

Authors: Gulcin Cribb
Manager, Multimedia Service
Janine Schmidt
University Librarian
University of Queensland Library
St Lucia, Brisbane 4072
Ph: 07 3365 3828 (G.Cribb), 07 3365 6342 (J.Schmidt)
Fax: 07 3365 6888
Email: J.Schmidt@library.uq.oz.au, G.Cribb@library.uq.oz.au

Please cite as: Cribb, G. and Schmidt, J. (1996). Multimedia on the net, on disk: Are university libraries ready for it?. In C. McBeath and R. Atkinson (Eds), Proceedings of the Third International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 80-86. Perth, Western Australia, 21-25 January. Promaco Conventions. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1996/ad/cribb.html

[ IIMS 96 contents ] [ IIMS Main ] [ ASET home ]
This URL: http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1996/ad/cribb.html
© 1996 Promaco Conventions. Reproduced by permission. Last revision: 14 Jan 2004. Editor: Roger Atkinson
Previous URL 3 Dec 2000 to 30 Sep 2002: http://cleo.murdoch.edu.au/gen/aset/confs/iims/96/ad/cribb.html