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. …