ON THE PRACTICE AND THEORY OF INSTRUCTIONAL ANIMATIONS: A CASE STUDY APPROACH
Practitioners in the field of instructional animations and film clips often design and develop their educational resources on the basis of intuition and experience. Educational psychologists, on the other hand, are often at pains to point out that good instructional design requires adherence to research-based guidelines that have been formulated to inform and instruct the practitioner. The poor uptake of these multimedia principles by instructional designers is unsurprising considering that there are various theoretical frameworks from which a multitude of principles have been analysed and developed, often with conflicting findings. The authors take a practitioners perspective in considering the value and applicability of evidence-based guidelines to a complex multimedia platform, in this case utilising one of their own projects: an award-winning online resource entitled Physclips.
Physclips is an ongoing collaboration between a physics professor acting as the knowledge expert and a webmaster undertaking graduate research in the field of multimedia learning. An analysis of the development process undertaken in the production of Physclips suggests that the nexus between the theory and practice of instructional animations is best approached from a practitioners' viewpoint. The multitude of seemingly diverse and unrelated principles and effect are, in general, amenable to being categorised and understood in terms of the roles undertaken by the multimedia designer, the educator and perhaps most importantly, the learner. Animations, educational principles and learner-control mechanisms utilised in the Physclips platform serve as examples to clearly identify the manner in which multimedia learning principles and related research can inform the design process. Further to this the development of instructional animations to teach complex scientific information has occasionally led the authors to designing creative and, at times, innovative solutions that go beyond the current state of theoretically-driven multimedia principles. The juxtaposition of animations and film clips, the blurring of boundaries between static images and dynamic animations and also introducing innovative enhancements to high levels of learner control are indicative of the directions taken by practitioners which in turn could serve to inform and guide the research community.
Educators and designers delving into the increasingly popular realm of online multimedia learning can benefit from examining case studies of successful projects and considering how they align with research-based principles. The current paper provides a guide to the novice that suggests where complex information is being presented, that the bottom-up theory-to-practice model of developing multimedia learning can be re-conceptualised as a top-down model that is easily understood by practitioners and more applicable to the design process.