Labyrinth-Forum | index | back | next |

-- the Labyrinth December 1993 --

Buried Cities, Lost Tribes, Human Origins
-- Multimedia Learning Environments

Richard Effland, MCC
Ken Costello, MCC


Mesa Community College Anthropology instruction has changed in the past year to include a diversity of teaching techniques that emphasize the use of multimedia learning environments. In 1990, the use of a commercial Hypermedia program, Mystery Fossil, served as an introductory stepping stone into our own development. A series of Macintosh hypermedia and NeXT applications were developed, augmented by access to an entire package of applications from the University of California at Santa Barbara. The accessibility of these programs, along with our own intensive development effort, provide us with the opportunity to explore how multimedia may be used within course-wide designs. This provides, therefore, a powerful vantage to explore how both teaching and learning can be effected by technology. We have found a dramatic change in the student's ability and interest to learn as computer applications have been combined with other multimedia resources such as videos and laser discs to create a learning environment. It is important to realize that the effectiveness of this multi-sensory approach rests in a total reorientation of teaching style or pedagogy.

Foundation for Effective Learning

We believe that the highly visual and interactive characteristics of multimedia help to facilitate learning. Information can be presented in a variety of formats - text, picture, video, simulation. Additionally, we have found that the use of multimedia stimulates critical thinking and problem solving. Students tend to recognize that to solve a challenging problem they must first learn and understand information before they can apply this information to solve the problems. This process improves learning by making information meaningful and applicable. Two benefits arise with critical thinking exercises:

Students seem to move through several stages in this learning process. First, students gain a knowledge foundation necessary for critical thinking and problem solving. Stage two involves the use and application of this new information through problem solving. Problem solving activities are designed to stimulate the formulation of new questions whose answers form the foundation for new insights and new knowledge. This learning process may be applied to new questions that are posed within the course design and can lead students to reflect and use what they have learned. This creates a sense that learning is important and has meaning. As we continue to work with students, we learn new elements that must be included within our course designs. For example, students are asking questions such as, "What does it mean to be human?" In response to the interest in this question, we have expanded our computer-assisted instruction by creating scientifically-based images of reconstructed fossil hominid faces that can be melted onto images of fossil crania with the use of slide bar controlled by students. The effects of this have been highly significant and have stimulated students even further with regards to issues of human origins and development. The depth of student thinking from assignments exceeded those from previous classes. This underscores the fact that a course does not have to be static, but rather can evolve through student learning and interest.

Implications for Learning

Significant changes in the teacher-student relationship resulted from this reorientation to the teaching and learning process. Our expectations of students have also changed dramatically. Classes that once were standard "lecture-text-test" formats were transformed into critical thinking and skill development learning experiences. The instructor and students formed a partnership in this new format. The instructor was the guide or "intellectual body- guard" responsible for leading students to a variety of information. Students were given the responsibility to learn from these sources. Much of this learning takes place outside the classroom in the MCC Library Information Commons where students can access computers, videotapes, and other library resources. Learning takes place on an individual or collaborative basis depending on individual learning modes. The classroom becomes the platform for critical thinking, class discussions, and collaborative working sessions. Class time is devoted to stimulating ideas and synthesizing information through active participation by the students. Communication skills, writing skills, and general research or thinking skills are developed by students. Journal writing and project reports are used as the primary ways to evaluate student learning during a semester. Students work with real information (e.g. fossil data from Koobi Fora or archaeological site data from the Valley of Mexico) and must complete reports that help them learn not only about the content of the course, but also how to critically evaluate information and solve a problem. They are also taught ways to present technical information in their reports. This is but one example of the dynamics created when the learning environment is designed to engage the student actively in the learning process. We continue to redesign our courses to meet the continually changing learning needs and interests of our students.

Student Comments

DIRECTION (Structure)







Maricopa Center for Learning & Instruction (MCLI)
The Internet Connection at MCLI is Alan Levine --}
Comments to