HYPERMEDIA ENVIRONMENTS AND
MULTIMEDIA TOOLS IN THE TEACHING
AND LEARNING PROCESS
Educators in the past pioneered the use of media as a way of accepting the
challenge to improve methods of instruction, be they in the teaching of
languages or content subjects (Shih & Alessi, 1996:208). A need to make the
didactic activity interesting and effective has therefore become a common
phenomenon, which cannot be ignored. Historically, various factors have
made an appeal to educators to reflect on the classroom activity. Some were
provoked by the hostility and cruelty that pupils had to suffer at the hands of
their educators, while others were challenged by a need towards excellence
as well as a concern to improve achievement by the learners (Van Aswegen
et al., 1993:24).
Educators in the twentieth century are faced with an even greater challenge of
making the school both relevant and economically viable. There are three
parties involved, i.e. the parents, government and the business sector, that
have to provide for various needs of the school. In an attempt to face this
challenge, educators have done research in the teaching-learning activity to
identify the use of media as one of the factors, which must be considered if
teaching and learning are to be effective.
This chapter presents an overview of the use of hypermedia-based learning
environments and multimedia tools in the teaching and learning process. This
literature review is divided into four sections: the first section presents a
historical overview of the hypermedia environment in education. The second
section comprises the educational perspective use of media in the learning
process based on outcomes-based education. The third section covers the
theoretical perspective, including two subsections about the relationship
between hypermedia and learning theories, and the multimedia systems. The
fourth section is the summary.
4.2 HISTORICAL OVERVIEW OF HYPERMEDIA AND HYPERTEXT IN
THE LEARNING PROCESS
In 1945, the American computer scientist, Vannevar Bush, elaborated on the
vision which brought about the genesis of hypermedia — this was an almost
complete vision of a “memory extension” system (Cotton, 1993:22). Burton,
Moore and Holmes (1995:345) support Cotton’s view by indicating that the
theoretical roots of hypermedia can be traced to Bush's Memex, an essay
ahead of its time that lacked the technology it needed to become reality.
Memex described a kind of library device consisting of personalised and
private files; a sort of database that would house an individual's books,
records and communications in a mechanised, retrievable manner that could
be accessed with superior flexibility and speed.
Cotton (1993:24) explains that the Memex system was never implemented
using the technologies that Bush envisaged. However, the idea of an
interactive desktop “hypermedia” system was to resonate through 40 years,
inspiring several individuals who were to make important contributions to the
hypermedia revolution of the 1990s. It has been documented that the term
‘hypermedia’ is the merging of multimedia and hypertext (Borsook &
Higginbotham-Wheat, 1992:3). Nelson coined the expression “hypermedia” in
the 1970s to describe a new media form that utilised the power of the
computer to store, retrieve and display information in the form of pictures, text,
animations and sound (Woodhead, 1990:5).
Cotton (1993:24) agrees with Woodhead by highlighting that Nelson had
already used the prefix 'hyper' to describe a system of non-sequential writing:
“text that branches and allows choices to the reader”. In “hypertext” textual
material could be interlinked by providing a system, which would break down
traditional subject classifications and allow non-computer-literate users to
follow their own lines of enquiry across the whole field of knowledge.
Collins et al. (1997:6) echoed Cotton’s perception of hypertext by quoting
Nelson describing hypertext as follows:
“It seemed so clear to me right from the very beginning
that writing should not be sequential … the problems
that all of we have in writing sequential prose derive
from the fact that we are trying to make it all lie down in
one long string … if we could only break it up into
different chunks that readers could choose.”
In the view of supporting Nelson’s quotation in describing hypertext, the
summary of events outlined in the table below satisfy the emphasis.
1945 Vannevar Bush proposes Memex
1965 Ted Nelson coins the word 'hypermedia'
1967 The hypertext editing system and press, Brown University, Andy van Dam et al.
1978 Aspen Morie Map, first hypermedia video disk, Andy Lippma, MIT Structure
1984 File-vision from Telos, limited hypermedia database widely available for
1985 Intermedia, Brown University, Norman Megrowitz
1987 Apple introduces HyperCard Bill Atkison
1987 Hypertext ’87 workshop, North Carolina
TABLE 4.1: Summary of major events since the inception of Memex
prior to 1987
(Adapted from Nielsen, 1990:29)
Nielsen (1990:41) concludes by pointing out that hypertext was conceived in
1945, born in the 1960s, slowly nurtured in the 1970s, and finally entered the
real world in the 1980s with an especially rapid growth after 1985, culminating
in a fully established field during 1989.
The Web typically represents a hypermedia environment and is perceived
differently based on its purpose by theorists and educationist. Yang and
Moore (1996:4) indicate that the World Wide Web (WWW) is an exciting new
medium for the development of classroom activities, and its arrival into
educational settings has been so fast that much of the design of Web-based
instruction (WBI) has been theoretical, focusing on the technology rather
theory. Rieber (1994:42) emphasises that the design of Web-based instruction
should not focus on the technology but on the goals of the lesson, the needs
of the learner and the nature of the task involved.
4.3 HYPERMEDIA AND MULTIMEDIA: A THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVE
Hypermedia offers a multimedia information environment, supports non-linear
access to information, provides interaction communication and integrates the
various information formats (Shu-Sheng, 2001:43). Hypermedia-based
learning is viewed differently in educational spheres by various authors and
writers. The views and beliefs of these professionals about the hypermedia
environment in education at secondary level are now discussed below:
4.3.1 A DEFINITION OF HYPERMEDIA-BASED LEARNING
Hypermedia is perceived, viewed and described differently by various
professionals, as previously stated. However, even though the wording might
differ, the essence remains the same. The definitions below outline those
various perceptions about the concept:
Hypermedia is an expansion of hypertext, applying a mixture of media, with
video clips using a range of media that allow demonstrations and description
that may employ multiple media with video clips to demonstrate a chemical
process, sound clips to illustrate a chord progression and text (Blakstad-
Cooke, 1996:9). However, Landow (1992:3) perceives hypermedia as
extending the notion of the text in hypertext by including visual information,
sounds, animation and other forms of data.
Furthermore, Landow (1992:23) quotes Nelson, saying, “by hypertext, I mean
non-sequential writing — text that branches and allows choices to the reader,
best read an interactive screen. As popularly conceived, this is a series of
text chunks connected by links which offer the reader different pathways”.
Hammond (1994:99) affirms Landow’s statement by describing the basic
hypertext philosophy as follows:
“Learners who forge their own paths through the richly
interconnected information-base in a self-directed
manner, assembling the course materials in accordance
with their educational goals, rather than having to
slavishly follow some form of linear tutorial.”
Jonassen (1991:91) describes hypertext systems as:
“a flexible information technology that provides a
powerful environment for designing, developing, and
displaying instruction, and providing sophisticated tools
that can advance the integration of cognitive learning
principles into practice in the Instructional Design and
However, Jonassen (1996:8) in his other edition argues that hypermedia is the
union of multimedia and hypertext by referring to multimedia as the integration
of media such as text, graphics, animation, sound and video, whereas
hypertext is a non-sequential, non-linear method for displaying text and has
the following features:
• nodes or chunks of information,
• links between nodes,
• organisational structures that describe networks of ideas,
• dynamic user control, and
• multi-user access.
In general terms, multimedia is the use of several media to present
information, animation, pictures, video and sound (Ivers & Barron, 1998:2).
Gayeski (1993:4) defines computer-based multimedia as being “a class of
computer-driven interactive communications systems which create, store,
transmit and retrieve textual, graphical and auditory networks of information”.
Hypermedia can be viewed as a learning environment that relies on user-
controlled choices to access information in the form of various media (Reed,
Ayersman & Liu, 1996:185). However, Jonassen and Grabowski (1993:79)
state that a properly designed and implemented hypermedia system can
provide an educational environment that:
• is computer-based,
• maximises learners' decision-making opportunities, and
• fully utilises multimodal approaches to learning from visual, auditory
and text-based information
Disorientation in hypermedia environments may lead to a information overload
that can decrease the amount of mental power available for learning. In other
words, learners get so involved in thinking about how to find information that
they get distracted from the subject of their search.
Ivers and Barron (1998:3) distinguish hypermedia from multimedia by
indicating that hypermedia facilitates interaction between readers and texts by
organising and linking information through text chunks. Both hypertext and
hypermedia can be considered subsets of multimedia. However, Maurer,
Scherbakov, Halin and Razak (1998:226) are quick to indicate that
hypermedia is viewed as an acronym which combines the words “hypertext”
and “multimedia”; hence it enables the user to selectively navigate through not
only text, but virtually any kind of information that can be electronically stored,
such as digital pictures, graphics, sound, animation and video.
Alessi and Trollip (2001:140) point out that hypermedia is seen as embodying
an approach to learning more in keeping with the constructivist philosophy
because it is learner-controlled, often learner-modifiable, supports multiple
perspectives and sensory modes, and multiple methods of searching and
navigation. It also represents the integration, extension and improvement of
books and other media in the electronic domain.
The researcher agrees with most of authors and theorists that hypermedia
has its roots in hypertext and it incorporates multimedia. Hypermedia is an
environment which enhances instructional programmes or systems and
processes that utilise the attributes of the resources of the World Wide Web to
create a meaningful environment, characterised by the interaction between
the learner and the tutor, among the learners and/or between learners and
Hypermedia has achieved widespread success in the field of tutoring systems
even though had problems in certain areas (Brusilovsky, 1996:289). This is
because the hypermedia paradigm is plagued by several problems, which will
be discussed in the sub-paragraph 4.4.2 under the limitations of hypermedia-
based learning. Even though success is attained in certain areas of the
hypermedia-learning environment, the limitations to be discussed are:
• being learners’ background discrepancy,
• over-rich information, and
• ineffective user-interface.
4.3.2 HYPERMEDIA LEARNING ENVIRONMENT
Hypermedia offers a multimedia information environment, supports non-linear
access to information, provides interaction communication and integrates the
various information formats (Shu-Sheng, 2001:43). Although hypermedia-
based learning can be described differently, the current popular notion about
hypermedia is formed and hybridised by two different fields, multimedia and
hypertext (Burton, Moore & Holmes, 1995:345). Figure 4.1 illustrates a
hypermedia-based learning environment as explained.
The following structure gives an overview of hypermedia-based learning
Hypermedia production team Main server
Web server Server
Raw Multimedia - HTML docs - Streaming
teaching document - Notice synchronised
material - Forum slides, video,
- Help images,
- FAQ sound.
Text and last-
• Online forum
• Online notice board
Figure 4.1: Hypermedia-based system model
(Adapted from Jones, Jo & Cranitch, 2000b)
126.96.36.199 The structure of hypermedia
Although many hypermedia systems today do use different types of links that
attempt to represent structure, the most common hypermedia systems, such
as the WWW and help facilities, do not (Lowe & Hall, 1999:26). In these
systems the links provided by the author offer no explicit meaning; instead the
two nodes that each link connects usually implies the link’s meaning.
Pereira, De Oliveira and Vaz (1991:207) maintain that a hypermedia system
should contain three significant components: a text database, a semantic
network that relates the database components, and tools that allow the user to
explore the database and semantic network. Furthermore, Pereira et al.
(1991:208) suggest that the authors of hypermedia domains should generate
only a few strongly related links instead of linking to anything the author thinks
may be related. Thus the user can navigate this “hierarchical structure”,
which is known as “cognitive scaffolding”.
Jonassen and Grabinger (1990:12) suggest that a hypermedia system is a
network of ideas. The structure linking the ideas together helps the user to
comprehend the node content better. Such a structure is seen as suitable for
learning because of the similarity between the associative structure of
hypermedia and the associative structures held in the human brain (Jonassen
& Wang, 1993:4).
Jonassen and Wang (1993:5) further argue that such knowledge structures
are transferable from the hypermedia to the learner; however, they also argue
that simply browsing through a hypermedia system is not enough to produce
any appreciable transferral of structural knowledge of the domain.
Hypermedia consists of information databases or nodes arranged non-linearly
and linked so that the learner may access information from any node at any
time. The information contained in these nodes may be presented in various
combinations of media formats, such as text, graphics, still pictures, motion
video and sound. In addition, the structure of hypermedia closely resembles
semantic network theory (Harmon, 1993:155).
Hypermedia possesses the following characteristics (Jonassen, 1994:34, and
• It offers a multimedia information environment — the information in
the hypermedia system can be simultaneously represented in any
combination of media format, such as text, image, graphics, sound
• Hypermedia supports non-linear access to information — hypermedia
is a loose term for presentations containing more complex arrangements
than the traditional linear text and is already widely acknowledged to
be a promising teaching and learning tool.
• Thirdly, hypermedia supports interactive communication — users have
full control over the learning situation, and this high level of interaction
gives them dynamic control of information.
• Hypermedia integrates the information format — the multiple mixed-
media nodes in a hypermedia system can be called up instantly in a
consistent manner, irrespective of the structure of the information or
Shu-Sheng (2001:45) explains that HyperCard, Hyper Studio and Toolbook
are popular educational hypermedia software used at application level by
educators to create learning environments. Furthermore, Shu-Sheng points
out that the explosive development of the Web has brought widespread
attention to various aspects of instructional hypermedia that can be associated
with both classroom learning and distance learning.
Although there is no consensus on a formal definition, certain characteristics
of hypermedia systems are prevalent in the literature (Dede & Palumbo, 1991;
Nelson & Palumbo, 1992, and Park, 1991):
• Essentially a database of information, information “nodes” are
connected by “links” to other nodes.
• These links are associative in nature and instantly accessible.
• Navigation through the database is accomplished with a browse tool,
menu bars, buttons or “hot” text.
• Information can be presented in a variety of media.
• The system offers a high degree of learner control of instructional
options, such as sequence, media, assessment, review and content.
• A high degree of interactivity is provided not only by learner control,
but also by annotation and the creation of new links.
From these features hypermedia can be considered to be a non-linear
database, with instant access to multimedia information. It not only presents
information, but it can represent, and actually assist in constructing knowledge
(Nelson & Palumbo, 1992:157).
Learner control is assumed to be a beneficial feature of hypermedia.
However, hypermedia has the potential to create even more cognitive and
meta-cognitive problems than other systems that use learner control. The
most often reported negative effects are “getting lost in hyperspace” and
cognitive overload through navigation decisions and trying to make sense of
the database (Chang & Reigeluth, 1992; Jonassen, 1991, and Park, 1991).
The use of hypermedia as a teaching and learning tool that uses the attributes
of the Web is now rapidly expanding into education; therefore, features and
components associated with Web-based instruction overlap with the features
of the hypermedia learning environment, as indicated in table 3.3. The
cross-cultural interaction, non-discriminatory, uniformity worldwide and
cost-effective as features and components of hypermedia learning
environment are not discussed in this study. The reason being that of the
learning context prevailed as stated in chapter one. Nevertheless they are
features of the Web being commonly used hypermedia in education.
Features Components Relationship to WBI — hypermedia
Interactive Internet tools, servers, WBI learners can interact with each
hyperlinks, browsers, other, instructors and online
design, etc. resources.
Multimedia Browsers, authoring WBI course can be designed to
programs, conferencing address learners’ learning styles
tools, etc. using multimedia elements, such as
text, graphics, audio and video.
Globally Computers, modems, The Web provides an easy
accessible Internet service provider, mechanism for electronic publishing.
Online Internet and World Wide These resources can be up-to-the-
resources Web minute and archival.
Cross-cultural Internet and World Wide Learners also serve as
interaction Web representatives of their own cultures.
They have the ability to explore and
learn about distant cultures.
Learner- Internet tools, hyperlinks, The Web facilitates a democratic
controlled instructional design, etc.
learning environment. WBI puts the
learner in control with regard to
feedback and time.
Non- E-mail, newsgroups, MUDs, It is important to note that WBI
discriminatory listservs, etc. courses offered in multilingual formats
will be helpful to learners.
Uniformity Internet and World Wide The open standard of the Web allows
world-wide Web creating and posting Web documents
using standardised Internet
Cost-effective Internet and WWW WBI can be cost-effective for learners,
instructors and institutions. Costs of
travelling, parking, textbooks, are
Table 3.3 Features and components of hypermedia learning
(Adapted from Khan, 1998:5)
188.8.131.52 Types of hyperlink nodes in the hypermedia environment
A hypermedia-learning environment usually contains a number of semiotic
nodes that are connected in a non-linear fashion (Tripp & Roby, 1990:106).
These nodes are linked to other related words or objects in the same or other
documents in an infinite number of combinations. The potential complexity of
the nodes and frequency with which they can appear throughout a document
can be distracting for learners.
The structure shown on the figure 4.2 gives an example of types of hyperlink
nodes to be navigated in the hypermedia-learning environment:
Linear narrative Non-linear, hyper- inked
Predictable structure Flexible, may be confusing
FIGURE 4.2: Types of hyperlink nodes in the hypermedia-learning
(Lynch & Horton, 1997)
The implication of figure 4.1 is that a linear sequence allows the user to page
backward and forward, whereas a hierarchy structure allows the user to
move between sections and subsections. A fully connected network allows
the user to follow links to relevant information. According to McDonald and
Stevenson (1996:58), the fully connected network allows the author and the
user more freedom and expressive power to more fully represent the
interconnections in the information. However, as the complexity of organisations
increases, the ability of the user to find the required information decreases.
Wild (1995:282) explains that the greater the availability and accessibility of
information within a given computer environment, the more likely users will
flounder as a result of excessive cognitive overload and will consequently fail
184.108.40.206 Hypermedia and learning theories
The concept of the hypermedia-based learning environment can be examined
from the perspectives of four different learning theories, which are Bruner’s
three-form theory, dual coding theory, the theory of multiple representations,
and cognitive flexibility theory (Shu-Sheng, 2001:45).
• Three-form theory
Bruner (1995:152) indicates that there are three ways in which individuals
represent the real world; through means of actions, icons and symbols,
people can convert reality into their own unique portrayal of reality. Action
includes enactment and demonstration, icons include images and
pictures, and symbols include words and numbers. Presno (1997:112)
argues that the three forms of representation are based on a theory of
development, which must be connected to a theory of knowledge and to
an effective theory of instruction.
Furthermore, Bruner (1995:154) points out that it is possible to modify
instruction according to the nature of the subject and the learner when
instructors lean more heavily toward the abstract, and that hypertext and
hyperlinks are too complex unless the three forms of representation are
used in instruction. Indeed, the hypermedia tool can create an integrating
environment that combines enactment, icons and symbols.
• Dual coding theory
This theory emphasises that two separate systems can work
independently or together for verbal and imagery processing (Butler &
Mautz, 1996:259). Shu-Sheng (2001:46) claims that dual coding theory
suggests that pictures are easier to remember than words. Secondly, it
was reported that text materials devoid of pictures are more difficult to
understand and recall than the same text materials presented after the
presentation of an organising image (Burton, Moore & Holmes, 1995:345).
Shu-Sheng (2001:46) claims that iconic representation cannot replace the
symbolic; however, it is sufficiently shown that words and images together
are a powerful team.
Burton et al. (1995:345) add that this theory includes verbal codes for
concrete objects and events, such as books or computers; it also includes
representation for abstract, non-concrete information, such as ethical
matters. Burton et al. conclude by indicating that the dual coding theory
describes memory and cognition in terms of a highly networked series of
nodes that an individual uses to represent information.
Dual coding theory could also assist in explaining the value of the
construction or design process as learners process information through
one of two independent channels. One channel stores the verbal
information: text and audio. Borsook (1997:23) further indicates that the
other channel stores non-verbal images such as illustrations and sounds.
Information processed through both channels could facilitate improvised
understanding and recall in contrast to information processed through one
channel only, and using both the verbal and non-verbal channels enhance
the recall of information (Paivio, 1996:134).
• Theory of multiple representation
This theory lends support to hypermedia-based learning as per the
knowledge processing approach from learning and cognitive theories; a
monolithic depiction of subject matter from one perspective may not be
adequate for ill-structured domains (Spiro, Feltovich, Jaconson &
Coulson, 1991:25). Tergan (1997:5) states that there are five different
conception views in multiple representation theory. The assumption is
that cognitive processing of multiple external representations may:
− enhance the likelihood that a particular mental representation may be
adequate for solving a particular problem,
− support the construction of context-indexed mental representations,
− enable situated learning experiences for enhancing memory
performance and usability of knowledge,
− improve the construction of mental representations of different views
of subject matters with multiple representational modes, and
− enhance cognitive flexibility and knowledge transfer
• Cognitive flexibility theory
This emphasises the real world complexity and ill-structuredness of many
knowledge domains (Spiro et al., 1991:26). Furthermore, Spiro et al.,
(1991:24) argue that there is a tendency towards over simplification of
complex entities or concepts which in turn leads to misconceptions and
hence, to failure of transfer or application of knowledge to new cases.
Over-simplification or ill-structuredness can be remedied, as “ill-structured
aspects of knowledge pose problems for advanced knowledge acquisition”.
Since continued errors of oversimplification can compound each other,
leading to incorrect knowledge structures and non-comprehension or
incorrect building blocks.
Learners are prone to use linear media to explain complex ill-structured
and advanced knowledge domains (Spiro et al., 1991:27). Liaw (2001:5)
agrees with Spiro et al., by stating that the linear or sequential techniques
of traditional instructional design tools such as textbooks, computers-drill
software and teacher-talk lectures are not assisting in solving problems
experienced within ill-structured domains. Thus linearity leads to over-
simplification of the subject matter and hence results in misconceptions
within learners (Spiro et al., 1991:28).
However, computers, with specific reference to hypertext systems, are
ideally suited to overcome this problem with their non-linear capabilities
(Spiro et al., 1991:24). Nielsen (1995:2) argued that this is possible as
several paths have been set up for exploration by the hypermedia author.
With this in mind, Spiro et al., (1991:26) advocate the use of a non-linear
medium such as hypertext, as it assists in landscape criss-crossing;
hence it became a more flexible approach.
Linked to hypermedia’s non-linear or non-sequential capabilities, it would
seem to mean that authoring in hypermedia offers possibilities, as two or
more learners could construct the same complex information in different
ways. The possibility of offering several perspectives to view issues,
concepts (Borsook, 1997) could then assist with the restructuring of the
complex subject matter or ill-structured domains, as suggested by Spiro et
al., (1991). Restructuring is important, as mere linking of nodes does not
necessarily equate with understanding, or as Yang (1996:48) asserts that
linking is not merely the linking together of two nodes; a mechanical
association dealing only with surface meaning, merely having learners
connect ideas and concepts does not guarantee true understanding, as
what is needed is discrepancy and restructuring of the knowledge
structure (Chan, 1999:[Online]).
Furthermore, Shu-Sheng (2001:47) claims that this theory is systematically
applied to an instructional theory. According to Maddux et al. (1997:214),
cognitive flexibility theory has the following three characteristics:
− random access,
− the major learning activity is a non-linear exploration of the learning
− multiple representations of the content.
Shu-Sheng (2001:47) supports his claim by indicating that cognitive
flexibility theory reveals that traditional instructional designs, such as
textbooks, lecturers and computer-based drills, are adequate for
implementation within ill-structured domains because they depend on
organised and linear techniques. For the learner to fully comprehend the
complexity and erratic variability of information, the information must be
accessible to the learner in a manner that more closely mimics the non-
linear nature of the domain (Brown, 1997:245).
4.4 LEARNING ADVANTAGES AND LIMITATIONS OF HYPERMEDIA-
BASED LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS
The potential of hypermedia as a learning tool is derived from the nature of
the learning that it supports, and facilitates learner-centred approaches,
creating a motivating and active learning environment (Backer & Dwyer,
1994:155). However, Hammond and Allinson (1993:114) indicate that
hypermedia has also been associated with a number of potential problems for
learning. The advantages and limitations of hypermedia in a learning
environment are discussed below.
4.4.1 ADVANTAGES OF HYPERMEDIA-BASED LEARNING
Four advantages of a hypermedia-learning environment have emerged as
multiple perspectives, collaborative learning, learner-orientation and
Multiple perspectives — hypermedia provides an environment that goes
beyond the traditional instructional approach rather than settling for a single
dimension. Lacy and Wood (1993:207) argue that in learning activities,
knowledge is based on individual constructions that are not tied to any
external reality, but rather to learners’ interactions with the external world.
This implies that hypermedia-based learning is in a non-linear media form,
which allows learners to explore abundant and diverse bits of information in
their own ways. From the constructivist approach, multiple perspectives lead
learners to reflect more on their own knowledge construction.
Collaborative learning — hypermedia learning offers interactive
communication and creates a potentially collaborative learning environment
(Slavin, 1993:235). It also provides a means to create more engaging and
dynamic instructional settings. Tuner and Dipinto (1997:394) claim that in
hypermedia collaborative learning, learners have opportunities to develop
complex cognitive skills, such as breaking a topic down into subtopics,
organising diverse information and formulating a point of view. Moreover, this
feature of the networking process for collaborative learning is a democratic
environment in which all learners have an equal opportunity to share their
Learner-orientation — hypermedia provides a “high learner control”
environment where learners are enabled to make decisions about which paths
to follow through instructional materials and about the extent of enquiry into
different domains. Steinberg (Shu-Sheng, 2001:48) explains that increasing
learner control can aid learning by individualising the instruction and making it
more motivating. The Web system, based on hypermedia and hypertext
linking, facilitates learner-centred instructional settings and creates a
motivating and active learning environment (Backer & Dwyer, 1994:157). The
implication is that the learner control system is an interactive computer-
mediated learning environment.
Interdisciplinary learning — hypermedia facilitates interdisciplinary learning
through its massive information database, multiple linkages, multiple mixed
media and responsive interactive navigation tools (Yang, 1996:45). Gilbert
and Moore (1998:31) bring awareness that, when hypermedia is integrated
with the Internet, this Web-based hypermedia system allows all individuals
with a browser to transfer files and information from thousands of possible
real-life sources to themselves. However, Ellis and Fouts (1997:140-141)
indicate that interdisciplinary instruction, advocated by constructivists,
represents a philosophy of integrated subject matters, learner-centring, local
issues, real-life and group activities.
4.4.2 LIMITATIONS OF HYPERMEDIA–BASED LEARNING
The limitations of hypermedia-based learning are learners’ background
discrepancy, disorientation, over-rich information and ineffective user-
• Learners’ background discrepancy — Oliver et al. (1998:126)
explain that many users of hypermedia systems have found that they
could not take advantage of this medium if they lacked the required
computer skills. Unlike structural computer-assisted instruction,
hypermedia provides a loose structure and more interactive learning
circumstances. Reed and Giessler (1995:581) point out that when
learners have more computer-related experiences with hypermedia,
database software and word processors, this typically results in the
selection of more non-linear educational software. Shu-Sheng
(2001:47) indicates that the following questions should be considered
before using a hypermedia system:
− What do teachers think of hypermedia?
− What are learners’ attitudes toward hypermedia?
− What is the relationship between hypermedia-based attitudes and
computer use attitudes?
According to Yang (1996:48), the hypermedia environment provides a
transformable relationship among the learners themselves, their
collaborators, their teachers and the information base. Learners’ self-
regulated skills are still a crucial factor to build successful implementation
and integration of hypermedia learning instruction into the curriculum.
• Disorientation — hypermedia provides a non-linear and learner-
controlled instructional environment, these being characteristics that
match human meta-cognitive skills, and assist users to understand
what needs to be done in particular situation, and to navigate and
process information (Reed & Giessler, 1995:584). Heller (1990:438)
claims that the drawback of this structure is the potential for users to
become disoriented or “lost” in hyperspace. Therefore it is crucial to
analyse learners’ attitude before designing hypermedia instruction.
• Over-rich information — Shu-Sheng (2001:48) indicates the problem
of over-rich information as one of the typical issues with hypermedia
instruction in the Internet system, and it presents users with cognitive
overload. Ayersman and Reed (1998:222) point out that users are no
longer merely consumers of information; moreover, they are also
expected to create and add their own knowledge to this instructional
system. Berge (1999:7) points out that, when information overload
occurs, the learning time will increase and learning motivation will
• Ineffective user-interface — user-interface refers to how information
is organised and the interface through which the users have access to
the information (Shu-Sheng, 2001:48). Maddux et al. (1997:206)
argue that the quality of user interfaces has a great deal to do with
whether a new media program is easy to use or frustrating and
irritating. Berge (1999:10) explains that hypermedia, unlike conventional
instructional technology, provides an interactive and learner-controlled
environment. The mismatch of the use of interaction can lead to loss
of learners’ attention, boredom, information overload and frustration.
Effective user-interface is a key factor to providing users with the
ability to arrange the information in non-linear ways.
4.5 MULTIMEDIA AND HYPERMEDIA APPLICATIONS IN EDUCATION
The term ‘multimedia systems’ is defined as systems where information is
presented through two or more media, for example animations, graphics,
slides and sound may be regarded as multimedia, which therefore implies the
involvement of more than one sensory perception (Dwyer, 1993:193).
Multimedia systems are also multi-sensory and thus stimulate learning as it
takes place in the world outside the classroom. Learning in the real world is
indeed multimedia and multi-sensory, as it occurs via all our senses and via a
multitude of stimuli, that is press, books, radio, television, pictures, electronic
media, etc. (Heinich, Molenda & Russel, 1989:184).
4.5.1 MULTIMEDIA IN EDUCATION
Multimedia systems do not only refer to a multitude of media, but are also
concerned with how each medium within the multimedia system complements
the other, so that the whole system functions better than its parts individually
(cf Kaam, 1990:17, and Van Aswegen et al., 1993:105). Each individual
medium has certain unique characteristics and user potential which determine
its suitability for application in a specific teaching and learning situation.
Consequently, more than one medium needs to be used in the teaching and
learning situation to transmit correct information (Blignaut, 1994:78).
Furthermore, Blignaut (1994:78) explains that media are used effectively
when they are employed in combination with a variety of other media or
instructional material, so as to nullify the limitations of an individual medium by
an outstanding characteristic of another medium.
Galbreath (1994:17) concurs with this idea when he states that multimedia is
a system designed to impart information and knowledge through the intelligent
integration of two or more communications media under manipulation or
control of the user.
Multimedia systems are divided into two categories: instructional media and
learner tools or individual media.
Instructional media are media used by the teacher to enhance lessons and
teaching, and learners to complete assignments use learner tools. These
categories overlap because sometimes tools used by teachers are often used
by learners and vice versa (Dwyer, 1993:193). These categories are
discussed below in more detail.
220.127.116.11 Instructional multimedia tools
These are packages intended to assist the teacher in presenting lessons
effectively and efficiently. The method and procedure as well as the media to
be integrated are prescribed in the package. These types of packages are
used with small or large groups, medium permitting (Maddux, 1994:23, and
Blignaut, 1994:79). The packages may vary but integrate items such as
pictures, videos, films, slides, transparencies and sound cassettes (Ambron &
Hooper, 1990:115). By implication, any lesson presentation employing more
than one medium is a multimedia lesson presentation (Blignaut, 1994:79).
18.104.22.168 The self-study packages or learner tools
Self-study packages are compiled exclusively for individual learners. They
are programmed for independent self-study (Brown, 1997:222). The
packages contain a variety of self-instruction and self-testing material and
methods for undertaking the self-study. Multimedia packages are successfully
applied in individual learning.
The use of multimedia systems in education has the following implications, as
stated by Heinich et al. (1989:186):
• Multimedia systems stimulate interest, are exciting to use and make
learning enjoyable. They provide multi-sensory learning and active
participation on the part of the learner. Multimedia promotes
individualised instruction and instruction of a small group of learners
who have the same educational needs.
• Multimedia materials enhance the principle of motivation. These
materials are structured in such a way that they appeal to the
learners’ interest. Self-activity is automatically reinforcing and thus it
is also motivating (Toth, Megyesi & Molnar, 1995:15).
• Research findings on multimedia usage in education report that
learners who learn via multimedia experience changes in their
learning process. Learners may participate in simulated life experiences,
make decisions and learn at the same time. Learning styles became
more individualised (Dwyer, 1993:233).
• Habowsky et al. (1990:234) explain that multimedia implementations
have revealed that media technologies improve hands-on skills,
problem-solving abilities and overall performance of learners, when
compared to conventional laboratory approaches.
• Multimedia systems enhance acquisition of knowledge and skills.
From the above discussion it can be noted that multimedia provides the
learner with the opportunity to learn through discovery and a critical mind, to
acquire scientific attitudes and develop a positive self-concept. The attributes
of various media serve as the guidelines for the selection of media in teaching
and learning Life Orientation. Media should be used to fulfil a particular
purpose or function, as directed by their attributes (Maddux, 1994:23).
4.5.2 HYPERMEDIA IN EDUCATION
Hypermedia has been cited as being of potential benefit in any educational
system. Tait (1998:410) suggests that, according to constructivist principles,
a problem should be authentic and meaningful to learners and that
“hypermedia can provide an optimal platform for the design of problems and
their enrichment with authentic pictures, video-material, animations or
simulations”. However, Jonassen and Grabinger (1990:7) indicate that the
potential for using hypermedia in educational systems is largely unrealised,
although it has achieved a high degree of success when applied to online help
and documentation. Jonassen and Grabinger (1990:9) further state that a
hypermedia learning system will shift the responsibility for accessing and
sequencing information from the teacher to the learner, which will entail a
According to Reeves and Reeves (1996:63), the hypermedia cannot guarantee
learning because of the rich media and linkages, which are not unique to WBI.
What is unique is the pedagogical dimensions that it can be designed to
deliver. The design of WBI must be based on sound pedagogical dimensions;
these learning dimensions determine the hypermedia’s ultimate effectiveness
and worth (Reeves & Reeves, 1996:64). Furthermore, Goldberg (1996:307)
asserts that factors in the hypermedia environment, such as goal orientation,
interactivity and learner control, multiple media, motivation and structure, must
be taken into account so the design of WBI enhances the educational
opportunities of the learners.
Hypermedia provides information about a given domain in two ways. Firstly,
the content of each node provides a chunk of information about a discrete
topic. Secondly, the links that give hypermedia its structure provide additional
information about how the current node fits in with the rest of the domain.
Each node of information is not stored in isolation, but is linked to other nodes
that may provide examples and illustrations, which help to place the current
node in context.
The literature review focused on two concepts: hypermedia and multimedia.
The conceptual framework of this research was created through a theoretical
perspective on the hypermedia-learning environment and multimedia system
tools. The theoretical perspective is aimed at contemporary development in
the use of hypermedia in education as a learning tool, and explains what
hypermedia is and how it differs from multimedia.
A through analysis and synthesis of the literature on hypermedia in education
was undertaken. The reason for this was to identify characteristics, the
principles, the potential and limitations of a hypermedia-based learning
environment, and the relationship between hypermedia and learning theories
as a basis.
The chapter also explored the multimedia system tools both for instructors
and learners, i.e. instructional packages and individual packages. It has been
found that hypermedia tools are capable of presenting information on the Web
in a non-linear format. The non-linearity of hypermedia structure accommodates
individual learning at own pace, and could also lead to getting lost in
hyperspace through cognitive overload of information available on the Internet.
The next chapter will focus on information overload and fostering meaningful
learning. The pedagogical perspectives focus on the strategies to limit
information overload by creating a design framework for the study. The
strategies involved will focus on the use of interactive multimedia to facilitate
interaction and navigation between various links of the hypermedia