“If You Can Dodge A Wrench, You Can Dodge a Ball”: Effective Use of Multimedia in Online Modalities

Concurrent Session 5

Brief Abstract

Media is often a critical component of online courses, but how do you model the practice of incorporating media to support engagement?  In this playful game-supported session, you will explore multimedia principles and have a little fun seeing how right (or wrong) things can go with your choices.


Daniel Whitaker is an Instructional Designer for the Office of Digital Learning at the University of Arizona, specializing in online and flipped classrooms. He has a background as a Digital Media Developer and Animator, focused on developing engaging and meaningful digital media content for educational purposes. Dan has worked in Instructional Design and Multimedia Design capacities since 2006. He enjoys creating things and seeing improvements in students success and engagement, and the variety with new challenges and technology that constantly come up in his field.
Adam Davi is a Senior Instructional Designer at the University of Arizona who works with faculty to design engaging online courses. Adam has a Master of Science in Educational Technology as well as a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership. He has experience working directly with students as a teacher and learning specialist before transitioning to his role as an Instructional Designer. He is passionate about developing innovative courses that foster student success and promote ownership over one’s learning. He loves working in a field that encourages collaboration and creativity. When not working, he spends time volunteering for Arizona Camp Sunrise and Sidekicks, a children’s oncology camp, and enjoys playing games, watching baseball, and talking Star Wars with anyone who is willing to listen.

Extended Abstract

In online classes, multimedia is often seen as the magic bullet for generating student engagement and interaction, while at the same time proves to be incredibly tricky to create and implement correctly.  When faced with time, budget, and resource constraints, we often see the push for “good enough” instead of the thoughtful design we know good multimedia needs (Hackathorn, Garczynski, Blankmeyer, Tennial, & Solomon, 2011) in its production.  In this game-supported session, we will have a little fun with multimedia-enhanced course design while we help faculty, instructional designers, and administrators use best practices to make those hard decisions about what multimedia to use, and how, when, and where to use it (Brame, 2016; Clark & Mayer, 2011).

This session is structured to provide participants an opportunity to see how the choices they make surrounding multimedia can impact course design and student outcomes.  

  • First, participants will be separated into three groups to “compete” against each other in a game to finish an online course design before the semester starts. 
  • During the design process each group will be presented with choices regarding multimedia use.  Within the game, each choice the groups make will lead to different outcomes.  Some of these outcomes are good for the course design process and student outcomes and model the best practices of multimedia and current findings within cognitive science (Hackathorn, Garczynski, Blankmeyer, Tennial, & Solomon, 2011; Brame, 2016; Clark & Mayer, 2011).  Other choices will be less than great, resulting in some interesting outcomes as the deadline of the semester looms. 
  • Every choice made will have rewards and consequences, which will affect the design process, “finish date,” and student experience. Participants will be trying to “dodge” the choices with negative consequences, when possible. 
  • Along the way, participants will have an opportunity to share their real-world experience and learn best practices from the presenters and their peers.    

This session’s goal is to help faculty, administrators, and instructional designers think about multimedia in ways that is meaningful, engaging, and useful (Brame, 2016; Clark & Mayer, 2011).  Specifically, our stakeholder-based objectives are that participants will be able to:

For IDs and Training Professionals

  • Recommend appropriate multimedia for effective instruction
  • Integrate engaging multimedia activities for effective course design

For Faculty

  • Implement basic multimedia principles based on cognitive science findings
  • Identify key engagement strategies using multimedia

For Administrators

  • Evaluate multimedia needs for effective instruction
  • Encourage thoughtful multimedia use in various contexts

This session is highly-collaborative, and ideas will be crowd-sourced and curated into an artifact that people can continue to expand upon past the session.  Participants will be taken through the process of designing and choosing multimedia for an upcoming online class.  They will be given the choice of several ideas and will work to make the best choice for their situation.  Choices the groups make may result in a “wrench” in their plans with some less than favorable outcomes.  In the end of the session, the participants will be able to take home a “road map” of the best ideas for encouraging effective multimedia use, as well as a set of pitfalls that they should steer their colleagues and faculty to avoid.