December 1997 // Featured Products
Using Multimedia Learning Courseware to Supplement Instruction
by James L. Morrison
Note: This article was originally published in The Technology Source ( as: James L. Morrison "Using Multimedia Learning Courseware to Supplement Instruction" The Technology Source, December 1997. Available online at The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

I frequently give lectures at conferences and while consulting on college campuses titled, "Higher Education in the 21st Century" and "Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century." In the question and answer period, some faculty members almost always express concern that multimedia learning packages developed by commercial learning providers will "put professors out of business."

My response to such concerns is that professors can take advantage of these courseware packages just as they use textbooks, for multimedia learning packages can enhance student learning and can enable faculty members to have more time to do what they can do best—provide critique and guidance to their students as they struggle to develop their knowledge and skills.

I elaborate this statement by describing how I teach "Using Technology in Educational Organizations," a one-and-a-half credit-hour module designed for students in the internship year of our Master of School Administration program. The purposes of the course are (1) to expand students' knowledge about information technologies that can be used to improve teaching, learning, and administration in schools and (2) to provide students with hands-on experience in using technologically-based productivity tools that they can use to improve their effectiveness in their work. By the end of the course, students are expected to be able to use the Internet and the World Wide Web as an information database, use e-mail and Internet listservs effectively, and use Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel in their work as educational leaders. The requirements of this course include gaining competency in Word and PowerPoint to the intermediate level and competency in Excel past the beginning level.

To assist me in accomplishing these objectives, I use courseware developed by CBT Systems, which, through a site license agreement, is available to all UNC students, staff, and faculty. CBT Systems is a leading developer worldwide of interactive courseware with a content focus on information technology. The company has a library of over 450 education titles suitable for use primarily by current and aspiring technical professionals in areas such as programming languages, network operating systems, database technologies, internets/intranets and networking technologies/protocols. (Complete descriptions of all courses can be obtained from the CBT website at

There are several advantages to using the CBT Systems courseware. First, it saves me the trouble of attempting to teach these productivity tools since the interactive aspect provides students both with a description of various functions and with an opportunity to test themselves as they proceed through the modules. Second, students can load the courseware on their home computers, so they can work their way through the courseware at their own speed and at a time and place convenient to them. Class time during the initial part of the course can thus be used primarily to take the tests.

The courseware has a databank of some 70 to 90 test questions. A random test generator creates a subset of about a third of those questions. This subset is presented to the student as a self-test at the end of the courseware module. Scores are a percentage of the questions answered correctly, thereby ensuring that students do not memorize the exact test questions when taking a proctored exam.

For the first purpose of the course (to expand students' knowledge of information technologies that can be used to improve teaching, learning, and administration in schools), I base 40% of the total grade on these test scores. Students must achieve a proficiency of 70% on each test for a "P" and a proficiency of 96% for an "H" (Pass and High Pass, respectively, on UNC's graduate grading scale). They may retake the test as often as they wish as long as it is not on the same day (the courseware is structured so that test questions are randomly selected on a daily basis).

To accomplish the second purpose (to provide students with hands-on experience in using technology-based productivity tools that they can use to improve their effectiveness in their work), I require that students demonstrate proficiency in using Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. For Word, they must format a manuscript that either they have written in a previous course or use an article written by someone else that focuses on using technology in educational organizations. For example, they could use one of the articles in Technology Tools for Today's Campuses or Integrating Technology Productivity Tools in Primary and Secondary Education, two collections of articles on my Web site ( Students are required to format the paper with headers and footers, two columns, one or more tables, a table of contents, and an index; they must also integrate graphs or charts into the text. Students are to use an Internet search engine to find information to enhance the manuscript by developing a relevant table and graphic. They use Excel to develop the graphic. I base ten percent of their grade on this requirement.

To demonstrate their competency in PowerPoint, students must prepare and deliver a 15 minute PowerPoint multimedia presentation on the topic of integrating technology in educational organizations. The presentation may be derived from the manuscript they chose for the formatting exercise above. They may wish to go beyond the manuscript per se and address the general topic of the manuscript. If they choose to develop an original presentation, it must contain at least one chart developed in Microsoft Excel. The syllabus contains links to materials that discuss developing effective oral presentations. Half of their grade is based upon this requirement.

Using the CBT software has been a godsend for me and for my students. CBT frees me from standing in front of the class with a projector describing how to use the features of various programs and allows me more time to work with students on applying productivity tools and in preparing their presentations. Although we are only in the middle of the course (as of this writing), students have remarked on how much they have learned using the courseware packages. Far from finding commercially-designed multimedia learning packages to be a threat that might take my job away from me, I have found them to be useful tools in assisting students to learn skills that will prove valuable to them in the future.

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