Multimedia educational materials
The aim of the multimedia content is a maximum simplification of the development of new material to students, to apply this illustration, diagrams, tables, videos, and 3D models.
When using multimedia training courses and other products should take into account their specific features: any multimedia content much more difficult to make changes after the creation than in text or simple drawings.
Let us consider the changes in different components of a multimedia course.
A simple illustration
An icon, a picture, a diagram with arrows and blocks can be called "simple". It is not difficult to make changes to a few pictures (although the scale of these changes is another question). However, in case the graphics is already developed and it is "suddenly" found out that you do not like the visual style or it is simply not suitable, this entails reworking of all images, which will delay the timing of the works and increase the cost of the project.
A complex illustration is a highly detailed image, around which the presentation of the material is built. These include characters, locations, the complex mechanisms, processes etc. Animated images may also be included into the list. Each of the above complex illustration is quite labor-intensive, and changes in it require time and resources. For example, changes in a character entails a reflection of this change from all angles for the character or in all situations in which it is involved. Changes in the location appearance may disrupt the overall composition and requires redrawing the entire drawing area for the new object not to be seemed alien.
If we are talking about a small change in a segment of the animated movie, the situation is not so bad. The video designer makes the required changes to the cut and re-publish the video, replacing it in the course. Larger changes will take up more time since they need to be identified and corrected in all segments of the video, or other videos that use the modified character. The scope of such work could easily get out of control.
About shooting video with live actors may better not even be mentioned as the changes will require, in the best case, re-installation or re-sounding (both are time consuming processes and may degrade the final product). In the worst case it will involve re-rent of the Studio and new recording by the actors. It will require the same cost and time as the first version of the video.
Amendments to the material voice recording may be made strictly in one way i.e. to re-record a new version. In the most desperate cases it is possible to rewire the sound and to correct the chronology of the play, but these joints can be evident to the user and spoil the impression of the product. So the only option is to overwrite the audio feedback by the same or another actor in the Studio. That of course involves additional time and money.
The three-dimensional model itself can be changed as it is just a model. The specialist will make changes and the computer during few hours or tens of hours will trend the modified version. However, frequent use of 3D models is a feature of video and interactive elements. Any changes in the source model will lead to updating of the e-course material derived from it. It will also lead to additional work, time and cost.
Complex interactive elements
If changes in "simple" interactive elements, such as pop-ups, charts with buttons, "carousel", etc. usually are limited to replacement of the text or illustrations, then in the "complex" elements any significant changes can disrupt the interaction of variables and would involve long-time bugs elimination. For example, if at any stage in a multi-step case dialog we remove one of the answer choices, this change will need to be reflected throughout the element program logic as the deleted element is associated with subsequent decisions and influences the outcome of the case. Its elimination will "break" the existing logic. Similarly, when you add the reply it will need to be integrated into the system of the results calculation and test performance. In both cases, it is the painstaking work that ideally should be avoided at the planning stage.
Especially it concerns the game mechanics and multistage simulations. They are based on a mathematical model which calculates the situation from the player's actions and the previously saved data. Obviously, if any stage is changed, the model gets distorted. In this case, the programmers need to re-configure game’s math and to test it in all possible scenarios. It is a very time-consuming task. The only change that can be relatively "painless" for a finished game is the change of the mathematical coefficients, without touching the model itself. That means that the numbers will be changed, but the principle of their calculation remains the same.
How to avoid mistakes, rework and delays
The best way to eliminate the risks associated with corrections and additions to multimedia content regardless of its technology is to fully reconcile it before sending to production.
What does it mean?
- Agree on the style for simple graphics
To avoid rework, pre-develop and agree with the client a single style of "simple" images: icons, arrows, flowcharts and etc.
- Coordinate complex illustrations in the form of
sketches and storyboards
Before the artist starts his/her work on a complex image, it is necessary to agree on the future picture at the stage of sketch. A sketch is a preliminary pencil drawing of a picture, comic strip, or series of screens which allows to see the design "in the flesh" in advance and make the necessary changes. Similarly, when planning an animated video, first check the storyboard - a series of sketches with a textual description of events in a frame. This will permit to get the future material right and to avoid the "divergence of views" upon delivery of the finished item.
- Agree on the mechanics of complex interactive elements
If the course has multi-step exercises with multiple variables, simulations, dialog cases with branches or other complex interactive elements, then before beginning the work, get their content, the wording of the responses and mathematical logic approved by the client. Moreover, if you know that material is not final or there is significant risk of imminent changes, it is better to postpone the development of this element. Development of an interactive element based on not final material is a waste of time and efforts that could be spent more efficiently.
- Shoot video and record audio only on finished script
Shooting video is the most difficult and costly process in the development of multimedia content to make changes in. Storyboard, texts, dialogues and other parts of the script need to be developed and approved in advance. This is of course also true for the announcer’s voice recording. Everything should be agreed, even the right accents.
- When developing complex games turn your attention to
the game logic
The logic (or mechanics) of the game is its "high order scenario". It is not always happened that all specific values are discussed at this stage (that will be the stage of creating game math). But it is necessary to describe what actions of the player have practical sense: what affects what and in what volume, which behavior brings success, and vice versa. All these basic interactions need to be pre-planned and agreed in advance. To change the logic of the game after its development is either to make a new game or to destroy the old one. In both cases, the result is more expensive, longer or even worse. It is better to avoid that before the prototype is developed.
It is easy to see that "the advice" for all cases is the same: it is required to reconcile the material prior to its development. Begin to create complex components of the e-learning courses only after planning and negotiation stage is completed. For the purpose various instruments are used: from the script reference chapter, the sketches and storyboards, detailed descriptions of the exercises and case studies.
Don't neglect the opportunities to reduce the risks and avoid unnecessary mistakes and expenses. Remember that only people who failed to cope with the planning of complex projects mostly speak about the "expensive" technologies of e-learning.