Multimedia learning is the process of learning, usually in a classroom or similarly structured environment, through the use of multimedia presentations and teaching methods. This can typically be applied to any subject and generally any sort of learning process can either be achieved or enhanced through a careful application of multimedia materials. Multimedia learning is often closely connected to the use of technology in the classroom, as advances in technology have often made incorporation of multimedia easier and more complete.
In general, the term “multimedia” is used to refer to any type of application or activity that utilizes different types of media or formats in the presentation of ideas. With regard to education, multimedia learning usually means the use of different types of media to teach a lesson or enhance a lesson with further examples or activities for students. This type of learning can be as simple as using film clips of footage shot during World War II while learning about the war in a history class, or as complicated as having students use computer software to create simulations in a physics class.
The connection between multimedia learning and technology is usually made because advances in technology often make the use of different media easier and less expensive for schools and teachers. This is demonstrated by the use of overhead projectors in the classroom. Initially these projectors allowed teachers to go beyond the limitations of the chalkboard and present ideas in writing in a way the entire class could see more easily. Technology has advanced beyond the older projectors, however, and modern smart boards and digital projectors allow a teacher to type at a computer and have it displayed for the entire room to see.
This type of multimedia learning can also include a teacher seamlessly incorporating video clips or interactive presentation software on the computer into a lesson as well. Multimedia learning goes beyond passive learning, however, and can also allow students to interact with computer software and video or audio presentations to further enhance their learning. Some students, for example, may be able to learn about the human body through lectures and images in books that demonstrate the various systems within the body.
For other students, however, the ability to use a computer program that provides a digital model of the human body and how each system is interrelated can be far more powerful. Especially as the students are able to interact with the model and see each system separately and together from various angles and points of view. This effort to give the tools of learning to students, then allow them to learn in the way that is most meaningful for them, is one of the cornerstones of multimedia learning.