Individual Learning Strategies and Choice in Student-Generated Multimedia

Individual Learning Strategies and Choice in Student-Generated Multimedia

William T. McGahan, Hardy Ernst, Laurel Evelyn Dyson
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/IJMBL.2016070101
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There has been an increasing focus on student-generated multimedia assessment as a way of introducing the benefits of both visual literacy and peer-mediated learning into university courses. One such assessment was offered to first-year health science students but, contrary to expectations, led to poorer performance in their end-of-semester examinations. Following an analysis, the assignment was redesigned to offer students a choice of either a group-based animation task or an individual written task. Results showed improved performance on the assignment when students were offered a choice of assignments over when they were offered only the multimedia assignment. Student feedback indicated that students adopt deliberate individual learning strategies when offered choices in assessment. The study suggests that assumptions regarding the superiority of student-generated multimedia over more traditional assessments are not always correct, but that students' agency and individual preferences need to be recognized.
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In recent years there has been a growing interest in student-generated multimedia. This has its parallel in the phenomenal rise of user-generated content, fuelled largely by the near ubiquitous uptake of mobile devices and the inception of free file-hosting websites (Dyson, 2012). As the ultimate examples of convergence, the smartphone and tablet PC support student-generated multimedia by providing note-taking, photography, sound and video recording functionality. As networked devices they present opportunities for students to share the media they have created. This has resulted in a shift from students as consumers to students as creators of knowledge, as well as an ongoing integration of online, hybrid and collaborative learning tools into education (Johnson, Adams, Becker, Estrada & Freeman, 2014). Together these factors afford considerable potential for visual literacy as well as for peer-mediated learning to be incorporated into the learning process (Brandon & Hollingshead, 1999; McDonald & Hoban, 2009).

Visual literacy has been utilized in the university environment with documented success. The term refers to students’ proficiency in interpreting images, digital or otherwise, as well as producing material with a visual component to convey meaning (Avgerinou, 2009; Hattwig, Burgess & Medaille, 2011; Metros, 2008). The theory behind its use in a teaching environment is based on the idea that students undergo deeper learning of subject matter if they are encouraged to think and communicate about it in terms of images (Chanlin, 1998; Rossetto & Chiera-Macchia, 2011; Wakefield, Frawley, Dyson, Tyler & Litchfield, 2011; Wilson, Niehaus, White, Rasmussen & Kuchel, 2009). Whitley (2013), for example, set tasks involving image selection, image post critiquing and personal meaning maps, and found this to improve student comprehension and alter interpretations of key topics. Rossetto and Chiera-Macchia (2011) also found that Italian language students undergo deeper learning when they construct images that accompany their written language.

Similarly, peer-mediated learning has been shown to facilitate heightened learning at tertiary level. Peer-mediated learning, in the context that we refer to it here, involves the process of students sharing their acquired knowledge and is thought to reinforce learning of a particular topic (Ernst, McGahan & Harrison, 2015). Trautman (2009) showed that undergraduate science students who reviewed each other’s toxicology reports were more attentive at critiquing their own work; and Hanson (2011) found that, when students collaborated with each other online over problems of community oral health, the depth of critical discussion improved.

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