Qualitative Research Methods

In the discussion forum, we will discuss the readings about the theory, use, and research on e-learning using multimedia. How have they been studied? How should they be studied in the future? Where are the gaps to explore?

Formative theories about the way multimedia impacts learning include cognitive load theory and the picture superiority effect; these theories have received much attention, including thousands of citing publications for Allan Paivio’s book Imagery and Verbal Processes (1971). Likewise, most of the best practice multimedia theories driven by Mayer and his collaborators (such as Mayer & Moreno, 2003), or work by Tabbers, Martens, and van Merrienboer (2010) have been highly cited. Yet there are opportunities to test these theories beyond the original studies and small-scale quantitative studies run over a short amount of time with small numbers of K-12 and higher education students. For instance, from the vantage point of medical education, Mayer’s best practices have been codified into several high-profile reports, such as a white paper published by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), which has great influence over undergraduate (i.e. 1st-4th year medical student) education. Yet these proven principles have not been adopted widely or tested with this unique population, despite a study showing its efficacy (Issa, Schuller, Santacaterina, Shapiro, Wang, Mayer & DaRosa, 2011).

Overall, multimedia has often been studied in a lopsided way: for instance, the flipped classroom has also received much attention as a learning strategy, and has been tested in short-term (usually semester) classes, but the lack of formalized best practices for instructional design of flipped classroom media is a significant gap, especially because design of this media is a major challenge for instructors (Lo & Hew, 2017). Despite its popularity in K-12 classrooms, there was no major literature review as of late 2016, when Lo & Hew (2017) finalized their critical review.

There is still a large gap regarding audio modality, and additional aspects of sound including best practices and implementation. To study the impact of sound, a researcher must piece together existing evidence from a variety of fields – radio studies, advertising, cognitive psychology, music, and vocabulary learning. Booth (2007) argued that an evaluation bypass had occurred with podcasting and several other formats such as blogs, and that articles were not about evaluating the media or technology for use as much as they were fairly personal descriptions announcing a new tool’s availability. Podcasting first became available in the 1990s but Fernandez, Sallan & Simo (2015) report that the study of its use in higher education is still in an early phase, and almost a decade after Heileson’s 2010 report describing the lack of longitudinal studies, most podcast studies still only take place over a single semester.

YouTube and other large scale corporate media management tools – arguably being used in greater numbers and seen by more students than listen to “podcasts” in brief studies – also have not received full study; for instance, Kaltura has one of the largest market shares in higher education media and offers a robust tool set enabling faculty and staff to analyze data for numerous videos and views; yet only a handful of case studies (such as Gkamas, Koutoumanos, Alexandris, Megalou, Paraskevas, & Kaklamanis, 2016) seem to exist.

I have also been writing a scoped review about lecture capture, as that is an area where definite gaps in the literature could be seen: whatever the subject matter of these lectures, or whether they are “microlectures,” “video podcasts” or recordings of a classroom lecture, there are no “best practices” that have been thoroughly evaluated, and few studies that actually confirm whether the use of these videos depresses attendance.

Arguably, only the underlying cognitive work by Mayer, Paivio, etc has received thorough testing over the decades. Virtually every type of media could receive more evaluative study, whether it appears in qualitative or quantitative format, especially when the researcher is approaching the topic from a non-educational technology perspective (such as a K-12 teacher or digital humanist discussing a new tool to teach existing fields of study).


Booth, A. (2007). Blogs, wikis and podcasts: the ‘evaluation bypass’ in action?. Health Information & Libraries Journal, 24(4), 298-302.
Crutcher, R. J., & Beer, J. M. (2011). An auditory analog of the picture superiority effect. Memory & Cognition, 39(1), 63-74.
Fernandez, V., Sallan, J. M., & Simo, P. (2015). Past, present, and future of podcasting in higher education. In Exploring learning & teaching in higher education (pp. 305-330). Springer: Berlin.
Issa, N., Schuller, M., Santacaterina, S., Shapiro, M., Wang, E., Mayer, R. E., & DaRosa, D. A. (2011). Applying multimedia design principles enhances learning in medical education. Medical Education, 45(8), 818-26.
Gkamas, V., Koutoumanos, A., Alexandris, K., Megalou, E., Paraskevas, M., & Kaklamanis, C. (2016, August). Integrating the Kaltura video platform with the Photodentro video repository: A case study. In 2016 IEEE Intl Conference on Computational Science and Engineering (CSE) and IEEE Intl Conference on Embedded and Ubiquitous Computing (EUC) and 15th Intl Symposium on Distributed Computing and Applications for Business Engineering (DCABES) (pp. 173-176). IEEE.
Heilesen, S. B. (2010). What is the academic efficacy of podcasting?. Computers & Education, 55(3), 1063-1068.
Lo, C. K., & Hew, K. F. (2017). A critical review of flipped classroom challenges in K-12 education: possible solutions and recommendations for future research. Research and Practice in Technology Enhanced Learning, 12, article 1.
Mayer, R. E., & Moreno, R. (2003). Nine ways to reduce cognitive load in multimedia learning. Educational Psychologist, 38(1), 43-52.
Tabbers, H. K., Martens, R. L., & van Merrienboer, J. J. G. (2010). Multimedia instructions and cognitive load theory: Effects of modality and cueing. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 74,1, 71-81.

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