The Application of Sound and Auditory Responses in E-Learning

The Application of Sound and Auditory Responses in E-Learning

Terry T. Kidd (University of Texas School of Public Health, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-014-1.ch007
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Prior to computer technology, several studies have concluded that multiple senses engage the learner to the extent that a person remembers 20% of what they see, 40% of that they see and hear, and 70% of what they see, hear and do. In general, the participant engages what is seen and what is heard. With this implication, instructional designer or developers try to use design guidelines to identify the main uses of sound in elearning as multimedia agents to enhance and reinforce concepts and training from e-learning solutions. Even with such understanding, instructional designers often make little use of auditory information in developing effective multimedia agents for e-learning solutions and applications. Thus, in order to provide the learner with a realistic context for learning, the designer must strive to incorporate the use of sound for instructional transactions. By sharing knowledge on this issue, designer can create a more realistic vision of how sound technology can be used in e-learning to enhance instruction for quality teaching and participant learning.
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Prior to computer technology, many studies concluded that multiple senses engage the learner to the extent that a person remembers 20% of what they see, 40% of that they see and hear, and 70% of what they see, hear and do. “Human beings are programmed to use multiple senses for assimilating information” (Ives, 1992). Even with such understanding, instructional designers often make little use of auditory information in developing e-learning. “This neglect of the auditory sense appears to be less a matter of choice and more a matter of just not knowing how to ‘sonify’ instructional designers to enhance learning” (Bishop & Cates, 2001). The major obstacle in this development is that there is not a significant amount of quantitative study on the why, when, and where audio should or should not be used (Beccue & Vila, 2001).

In general, interface design guidelines identify three main uses of sound in multimedia agents in e-learning: (a) to alert learners to errors; (b) to provide stand-alone examples; or (c) to narrate text on the screen (Bishop & Cates, 2001). Review of research on sound in multimedia applied to effective e-learning solutions reveals a focus on the third use cited above. Barron and Atkins’s (1994) research found that there were few guidelines to follow when deciding whether audio should replace, enhance, or mirror the text-based version of a lesson. The results of her study showed equal achievement effectiveness with or without the addition of the audio channel. Perceptions were positive among all three groups. Shih and Alessi’s (1996) study investigated the relative effects of voice vs. text on learning spatial and temporal information and learners’ preferences. This study found no significant difference on learning. The findings of Beccue and Vila’s (2001) research supported these previous findings. Recent technological advances now make it possible for full integration of sound in multimedia agents to be employed in e-learning solutions. Sounds may enhance learning in multimedia agents, but without a strong theoretical cognitive foundation, the particular sounds used may not only fail to enhance learning, but they may actually detract from it (Bishop, 2001).

The three audio elements in multimedia production are speech (narration, dialogue, and direct address), sound effects (contextual or narrative function), and music (establishing locale or time; all of these identify characters and events, act as transition elements between contrasting scenes, and set the mood and pace of presentation (Kerr, 1999). Silence can be used to set a mood or to provide a moment for reflection.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Sound: The vibrations that travel through air that can be heard by humans. However, scientists and engineers use a wider definition of sound that includes low and high frequency vibrations in air that cannot be heard by humans, and vibrations that travel through all forms of matter, gases, liquids, and solids.

Cognitive Load Theory: A term (used in psychology and other fields of study) that refers to the level of effort associated with thinking and reasoning (including perception, memory, language, etc.). According to this theory people learn better when they can build on words and ideas they already understand. The more things a person has to learn at a single time, the more difficult it will be to retain the information in their long term memory.

Communication: Communication is the process of exchanging information and ideas. As an active process, it involves encoding, transmitting, and decoding intended messages.

Instructional Design: Instructional design is the analysis of learning needs and systematic development of instruction. Instructional designers often use Instructional technology as a method for developing instruction. Instructional design models typically specify a method, that if followed will facilitate the transfer of knowledge, skills, and attitude to the recipient or acquirer of the instruction.

Multimedia: The presentation of information by a combination of data, images, animation sounds, and video. This data can be delivered in a variety of ways, either on a computer disk, through modified televisions, or using a computer connected to a telecommunications channel.

Instructional Software: The computer programs that allow students to learn new content, practice using content already learned, or be evaluated on how much they know. These programs allow teachers and students to demonstrate concepts, do simulations, and record and analyze data.

Information Processing Theory: The information processing theory approach to the study of cognitive development evolved out of the American experimental tradition in psychology. Information processing theorists proposed that like the computer, the human mind is a system that processes information through the application of logical rules and strategies. Like the computer, the mind has a limited capacity for the amount and nature of the information it can process. Finally, just as the computer can be made into a better information processor by changes in its hardware (e.g., circuit boards and microchips) and its software (programming), so do children become more sophisticated thinkers through changes in their brains and sensory systems (hardware) and in the rules and strategies (software) that they learn.

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