Interactive or multimedia activities can be a great way to illustrate concepts or provide opportunities for students to apply knowledge. Multimedia can be effectively used in a classroom demonstration or can be provided to students via a web link for use as support material or as the basis for an assignment. The downside to such activities is the time and skill it can take to create them. The tools and technologies used to create interactive activities include Java Applets, Macromedia Flash or Director with Shockwave, and DHTML. However, many multimedia resources already exist; some come with textbooks, some must be purchased, and some are available for use for free. Examples of each type are described below.
Multimedia Produced by Textbook Publishers
Your textbook publisher’s website is a good place to start your search for multimedia. Some publishers produce “cartridges” of digital content that can be loaded directly into your Blackboard site. Others provide web sites of interactive support material, digital quiz banks, and images. Typically, students get a coee to access the materials when they purchase a new text book, or they can puchase access separately.
In some subject areas, you may find a commercial product that provides online interactive content, not associated with a specific textbook. These products are typically available for a subscription fee.
- WebAssign, an online homework delivery service that includes a large database of homework problems based on multiple textbooks in many math, science, and engineering subject areas. This product enables faculty teaching largest lecture classes to assign and track homework that is automatically graded. Students are presented with customized problems sets and receive feedback on their responses. This product is used by Northeastern’s Physics Department.
- Aplia, Inc. provides online interactive exercises for teaching economics. This commercial web site offers a comprehensive curriculum including problem sets and interactive simulations, as well as a course management tool. It is available on a subscription basis, with the fee based on which features of the courseware are used.
Multimedia Available for Free or Low Cost
Multimedia materials are continually being developed by faculty, students, and educational technology centers at other universities. Many of these can be linked to for free, or for a nominal cost. The question is how to find them.
- MERLOT(Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching) is a good place to search for existing online content, specifically designed for teaching.MERLOT is a free and open resource of online learning materials designed primarily for faculty and students of higher education.
The MERLOT Web site is searchable by subject area. It includes links to online learning materials, along with annotations such as peer reviews and assignments describing how the materials might be used in a course. Materials in MERLOT are submitted either by their authors or by MERLOT members who found them useful.
Anyone is free to search MERLOT and link to the materials it describes. Becoming a member of MERLOT, which is also free, gives one the ability to add materials and to comment on them.
- The Online Auscultation Assistant (heart sounds)
This is a site designed by a UCLA medical student for use by other students.
- The Eye Simulation Page
This simulator was designed at the UC Davis Medical School for medical students and doctors.
A site that includes a series of Java applets demonstrating calculus, pre-calculus, and basic calculator and graphic concepts.
MIT’s OpenCourseWare initiative created a model for providing free and open access to a universities course materials. Materials may include syllabi, assignments with or without solutions, assessment instructions, lecture notes, and multimedia elements. Following are links to several sites providing course materials, some of which follow the MIT model.
- MIT OpenCourseWare
MIT’s site providing access to course materials from upwards of 1400 courses in a large variety of disciplines.
- Tufts OpenCourseWare
Tufts University’s OpenCourseWare site follows the MIT model and offers course materials from six Tuft’s schools.
- OCW Finder
The OCW Finder allows users to search six open courseware sites simultaneously.
- Iberry.com: The Academic Porthole
Annotated links to information and resources for educators, researchers, graduates and others in higher education. “Resources and Courseware” section is categorized by disciplinary concentration.