Making the Most of Multimedia
With a click of the computer mouse, the Web site for the “Black in the Arts” survey course began playing a segment from the all-Black cast film “Stormy Weather.” The film clip, being projected onto a large screen in a high technology classroom at Howard University in Washington, featured a depiction of the highly regarded all-Black World War I Army regiment, the 369th Infantry with whom acclaimed bandleader and jazz composer James Reese Europe was affiliated.
“We used to have this kind of presentation in classes with a video projection system. With the Internet, students can go back to their computers and view the movie clip as many times as they want to. The old system limited students to seeing such presentations just once,” says Joe Selmon, associate professor of theater technology at Howard and a co-professor of the Black in the Arts course.
As American colleges and universities continue the push to enhance academic courses with Web courseware sites and Internet-based presentations in the classroom, multimedia components in the form of video and audio clips are increasingly becoming a highly visible part of Web-based education content, according to higher education experts.
The integration of multimedia content and the Internet signals one of the newest chapters in the evolution of information technology in higher education. For instructional purposes, the presence of video and audio files that can be viewed and heard while accessing a course Web site by computer has the potential to dramatically heighten the appeal of that particular site.
“There’s the saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Well, it’s possible to say that a video may be worth a million words,” says Dr. Charles Moore, the chief information officer of Howard University.
According to Moore, the historically Black campus has some 28 “smart classrooms,” which can facilitate large screen displays of an Internet Web site and any multimedia component a site may have attached to it. The campus will eventually have a total of 34 such classrooms, he adds.
At Howard and hundreds of campuses that have been wiring their dormitories, faculty offices and classrooms for high-speed Internet connectivity, students, faculty and staff have a quality of Internet access that makes multimedia content an integral and expected part of that access.
“It’s highly valuable for faculty to have options to present academic material in different ways to the student,” says Dr. Brian Nielsen, manager of learning support systems at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.
With high-speed connectivity able to deliver academic lectures and to facilitate videoconferencing over the Internet, many academic institutions are eagerly exploring multimedia as a way to transform teaching and learning at their schools. In recent years, schools such as Harvard, Emory and Vanderbilt universities have established multimedia laboratories and research centers. Such centers are putting their schools a step ahead of current efforts at many institutions of motivating their faculty to enhance their courses with a Web site presence or a courseware posting.
Higher education experts also note that having the capacity to deploy multimedia content over a campus network benefits academic research. The Internet 2 consortium of American colleges and universities has devoted considerable efforts toward creating research applications that allow researchers in scattered locations to work collaboratively on highly advanced projects. For example, Northwestern, which is an Internet 2 school, reports having Internet access over the campus network that now offers undergraduates multimedia connections to advanced scientific instrumentation, such as astronomy equipment.
“We’re getting students access to scientific instrumentation they would not get unless they were in graduate school,” Nielsen says.
At schools which are still in the early stages of adopting conventional courseware platforms, IT departments are exploring multimedia to enhance campus Web presence by creating virtual reality tours and other sophisticated presentations on the institution’s home Web page.
Gordy Pace, director of multimedia applications at the University of Montana-Missoula, says that while a few professors are seeking assistance to create multimedia content on their course Web sites many more are just beginning to create conventional Web sites for their classes. His department, however, is largely at work on a project to create a multimedia, virtual reality campus tour on the school’s main Web site.
Virtual reality tours enable a computer user to simulate the experience of walking through a campus with the presentation of photographic and video images. Some schools have begun to place special message video clips from their presidents and other top leaders on the institution’s home Web page.
“We’re going to see continued demand for multimedia content from all segments of the university,” Pace says.
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