Multimedia educational products are gaining widespread consumer acceptance. At the same time, many of these products lack a sound theoretical background or instructional quality, and empirical data supporting their educational value are frequently missing. The present experiment with N = 64 participants examined the usefulness of multimedia applications in art education by constructing four different presentations of 12 representational paintings. Various visual effects, such as motion, fading, zooming, and dissolving, as well as spoken text were used to modify the viewers' mode of understanding. The experimental conditions were varied on two dimensions: (a) The adequacy of the visual effects and (b) the additional presentation of verbal information. The findings support the notion that sophisticated multimedia applications assist the viewer in adopting a more elaborate mode of understanding. Few effects on viewers' aesthetic interest in art or quality of aesthetic experience were found. In contrast to the so phisticated use of multimedia, the use of "flashy" multimedia elements did not have any instructional value.
Educators and researchers alike are always looking for more efficient ways of teaching and learning. Among the possible contributions to improved teaching, the potential role of instructional media has been of major interest ever since instructional illustrations, films, video applications, and computer programs became widely available (Clark & Salomon, 1986; Hasebrook, 1998). With the onset of the age of multimedia, it was claimed that this educational tool could contribute to make education more efficient and interesting (Stoney & Oliver, 1998; Clark & Salomon, 1986). Multimedia applications are currently being used in a variety of areas, for instance in second language acquisition (Cardillo, 1997; Plass, Chun, Mayer, & Leutner, 1998), math and science education (Crosby & Stelovsky, 1995; Keyvan, Pickard, & Song, 1997; Zech, Vye, Bransford, Goldman, Barron, Schwartz, Kisst-Hackett, & Mayfield-Stewart, 1998), and instruction for future medical doctors (Kolasa, Jobe, Miller, & Clay, 1999; McGee, Neill, Goldman, & Casey, 1998). While there are psychological theories describing the positive effects of multimedia (Mayer, 1997; Hasebrook, 1998), the educational value of current applications is often questioned. For instance, in his critical review, Lookatch (1997) stated that "today's instructional designer vitas highlight multimedia experience and quasi-experiences and little, if any, instructional design accomplishments" (p. 112). Not surprisingly, perhaps, psychological research indicates that multimedia products sometimes fail to show any advantage over classical learning environments and that they may even prevent students from learning (Hailey & Hailey, 1998; Schnotz, Boeckheler, Grzondziel, Gartner, & Wachter, 1998).
In the authors' view, the sometimes disappointing results found in studies of multimedia applications can in part be attributed to the weak theoretical underpinning of multimedia programs. The theoretical basis should consist of a flexible interplay of two aspects: On the one hand, clear educational strategies in a given domain are necessary for the development of successful learning environments (Lookatch, 1997). Domain-specific instructional goals have to be considered. For instance, while the desired outcome in some domains is an increase of knowledge or enhanced problem solving capacities (Plass, Chun, Mayer, & Leutner, 1998; Mayer, 1997), educational goals in other domains might be the changing of attitudes or fostering of interest. While there is a multitude of possible goals, mere "acceptance" of a multimedia application by users (Teichman & Richards, 1999) does not seem to be a particularly ambitious goal in most instances.
Second, having identified a suitable instructional goal, educational strategies which may or may not include the use of multimedia should be developed. When the use of multimedia is considered or opted for, a general educational or psychological theory concerning the use of multimedia as an educational tool is required. This theory should, for instance, address the influence of multimedia presentations on the allocation of attention, the integration of information and student's motivation to interact with a domain. However, different instructional strategies are necessary for different goals. Thus, if multimedia applications are to be used, they have to be designed to fit the specific characteristics of a given domain.
In the present article, we concentrate on multimedia effects in a specific educational domain, namely art education. The use of multimedia effects in museums and art education materials such as CD-ROMs has become widespread over recent years (Cason, 1998; Infogrames Deutschland, 1996; Krick Fachmedien, 1999). However, there have been few theoretical considerations of this approach and even fewer empirical attempts to evaluate the quality of such programs. Therefore, in accordance with the research agenda outlined, we identified domain-specific goals and developed an instructional strategy which drew on the general framework of multimedia effects proposed by authors such as Mayer (1997), Salomon (1994), and Hasebrook (1998). We then designed and evaluated an experimental educational multimedia application which directly addressed domain-specific educational goals within art education.
Goals in Art Education
Several different goals of art education, such as joy, understanding, knowledge, capacity to judge, and so forth, have been discussed in the available literature (Csikszentmihalyi & Robinson, 1990; Stone, 1996; Williams, 1996). In our research we concentrated on two important goals: increasing the level of understanding and providing viewers with a pleasant aesthetic experience, which should enhance the learner's interest in art.
Level of understanding. The level of understanding is the core variable in Parsons' (1987) developmental account of aesthetic development. In his empirical studies, Parsons found a typical developmental sequence in participants' reactions toward paintings, which led him to propose five stages of aesthetic development. Young children judge a painting according to their own subjective experience; whether they like or dislike it largely depends on their favorite colors (stage one). Children in elementary school look for subject matter, beauty, and realism; a painting is "good" if it is a good and beautiful representation of reality (stage two). For art viewers at stage three, subject matter is the most important factor--they look for an idea that is expressed in the painting: anger, love, or beauty, for example. As soon as they find an idea, they are happy with it; they do not double-check. Basically, people at stage three are regular, "naive" art consumers. Without special education in the arts, most people rea ch this stage. In contrast, viewers at stage four do not rely on their first impression. They distinguish between the literary appeal of the subject and what is achieved in the work itself. Thus, formal elements such the medium, form, and style of a work of art only become significant at this stage. Finally, stage five is characterized by a reconciliation of the …