Still pictures, animations or interactivity – What is more effective for elearning?


  • Alexandra Yeung
  • Siegbert Schmid
  • Adrian George
  • Michael King


Over recent years information and communications technology has increasingly been incorporated into teaching activities in higher education. As a consequence best practices for design of multimedia instructional materials and for establishing effective e-learning environments have been investigated. It has been shown that concurrent presentation of text with either animations or pictures can enhance learning (Mayer and Moreno, 1998) and that multimedia materials which include interactive elements may lead to enhanced student engagement (Craincross and Mannion 2001; Littlejohn, Suckling, Campbell and McNicol 2002). Higher quality learning occurs when students are actively and cognitively involved with the learning process, and engagement promotes such involvement (Scott 2001). Design must be based on the needs and interests of the user and the limitations and capabilities of multimedia need to be understood well, before the potential benefits can be realised (Craincross and Mannion 2001). What we believe, as academics, will assist students in their learning, may not necessarily do that. However, evidence addressing the effectiveness of different approaches for promoting engagement with multimedia technology remains limited. In this context we have started to develop online learning materials for use as pre-laboratory instruction or stand-alone learning modules for first year chemistry students. To inform development at an early stage a study was undertaken to investigate the most effective design of online chemistry modules for enhancing student learning and addressing misconceptions. Initially we have developed three different versions of an online chemistry module: • one that used still pictures and text only (Static version); • one that used animations/simulations and text (Animated version); and • one that used animations/simulations, text and interactivity (Interactive version). The outcomes of this study are of significant interest for this institution and beyond, since students often use online learning as a supplement to lectures. If one particular method of delivery is more effective than another, then such information is likely to have a significant impact on the design of online materials in the future. Not only can this information help enhance student performance, it can allow the process to be more efficient and cost effective. The results reported in the following draw on student surveys and participants’ assessment results.