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F. Cordoba, R. Torronteras, A. Canalejo

Department of Environmental Biology and Public Health, UNIVERSITY OF HUELVA (SPAIN)
University students receive a variety of learning materials but always composed of photocopied paper collections. However, current teaching in Biology disciplines, including classroom and online activities, must reflects the dynamic of a Science ever growing, thus needing static colour images, new scientific papers, animated moving, etc. Photocopied paper collections are also too expensive for students, not easy to order and transport and indirectly generate an important environmental impact since papers are obtained from eucalyptus trees substituting traditional trees and by industrial processes that frequently render toxic pollutants.

In the last years we have developed multimedia CDs as learning tools to replace paper collections. Multimedia CD properties may be summarized as followed:
- Interaction possibilities
- Individual and particular use of their contents
- High capability to store a variety of contents in a minimal volume
- Easy to transport, utilize, copy, renew and update
- Grouped and arranged contents
- User-friendly, since contents are organized and easily located via interactive menus
- Multimedia: many digital formats are allowed as text (pdf, doc), colour images, interactive flash movie and audio sequences, evaluation skills, etc.
- Direct access to selected links in Internet
- Restricted contents to be printed
- Low cost
- Low environmental impact

Multimedia CDs are freely distributed in the first weeks of a normal Biology course, thus students possess all the materials from the beginning. Then, students may use multimedia CDs at home, in the Campus spaces designed to include computers rooms, or directly in the classroom in modern little personal laptops.

Our experience in making multimedia CDs showed that teachers do not need special instructions since learning materials may be obtained from Internet sources (scientific digital banks, free video resources, free teaching software) or easily adapted from current presentations or own documents. Free and open source software is frequently used to produce learning materials. Although the best multimedia CDs making software are of commercial sources, they are low expensive and easy to learn and use.

Current multimedia CDs may included up to 700 Mb of learning materials, thus they may a substitute of Internet digital platforms when subjects need movie sequences or other materials not easy to used and store in web pages because of their high Mb size. Moreover, Internet connection is not needed to see and use learning materials. However, multimedia CDs can not substitute for online procedures when real time teacher-students or students-students interactions are the main objective.

Student's perceptions of multimedia CDs are very positive since they appreciate having all learning materials in a single, free CD. Multimedia CDs are a very good tool to be used to store and look up learning materials, but materials not designed to be printed must be restricted by a password to prevent inadequate use and distribution by students. Anyway, some materials may be protected by author's copyright, freely to use in learning activities or after submitting permissions.

In conclusion, multimedia CDs are useful, low environmental impact, low cost, system to store and look up a high collection of learning materials, including texts, presentations, audio, video and other interactive resources. Thus, they represent an alternative procedure to online learning techniques.