Advantages & Disadvantages of Schools Using Multimedia

Multimedia learning enriches student interest, but may not be cost-effective.
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As technology and visual images become more integral to society, schools have reflected this change by incorporating multimedia technology like sound, video and slideshows into classrooms. Whether teachers assign projects that require audiovisual content or use music or Internet videos as teaching tools, multimedia is able to engage student interest and present many topics in a more vivid, effective way. Nonetheless, these methods also introduce a number of challenges.

1 Student Engagement

Using multimedia tools in the classroom engages students through familiar media and increases enthusiasm for learning. According to the educational assessment firm SEG Research, today's students are "digital natives" who have grown up with and adapted to technology. Therefore, bringing audiovisual elements into the classroom can stimulate and excite the class environment. For example, rather than simply read aloud or watch clips from the movie, English students can watch actual performances of Shakespeare's plays online. This can immerse them in the visual and cultural elements of the plays.

2 Brain Activity and Memory

Multimedia lessons are also better suited to how the brain naturally interprets and remembers information. Richard Mayer's theory of multimedia learning states that people learn better with lessons that activate their senses rather than simply reading words. Because students use a variety of sensory channels while viewing multimedia presentations, they are more likely to store the information in their long-term memory. For example, animated films activate the verbal channel through audio narration, integrating the words students hear with the moving images on the screen.

3 Cost Effectiveness and Training

According to Asia's Commonwealth Education Media Center, a disadvantage of multimedia tools is that they require copious financial and human resources. Because audiovisual files take up more data space than text files, schools need up-to-date computers capable of handling not only the large files, but the multimedia programs themselves. Along with the computers' high installation costs, the technology needs continuous expert maintenance. Schools need to have trained staff on hand in case of malfunctions or technical difficulties. These factors may challenge multimedia learning's implementation.

4 Student Focus

Another disadvantage is that too much reliance on it can cause social loafing, a phenomenon where a lack of contact between the teacher and students can result in a loss of effort and focus. According to the Social Policy Research Associates white paper "Technology-Based Learning Strategies," technology-driven classrooms may make students feel like they aren't being supervised, causing them to zone out or get distracted. Mayer suggests personalizing technology-based lessons by making them communication-based, creating an exchange of ideas between students and the teacher in spite of a less personal atmosphere.

Kori Morgan holds a Bachelor of Arts in professional writing and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and has been crafting online and print educational materials since 2006. She taught creative writing and composition at West Virginia University and the University of Akron and her fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals.