Multiple Learning Environments
The potential problem with learning from animations, video clips and of course many events in the real world is their transient nature. For film clips and animations, one can offer the learner multiple exposures to the animations, perhaps within different learning environments. One of the modes we use in Physclips is what we call "didactic": film clips, animations and a voice-over comprise a multimedia tutorial. (A common comment from students is that this has two major advantages over live presentation by the same person: these are the 'pause' and the 'replay' controls!)
For a number of reasons, we have kept these brief, but rich in information. First, brevity means that there is more chance that a user will view a whole segment. Second, brief versions are more readily navigated. Third, they give a connected overview, without side-tracking onto details. The information richness can be overcome, should the user wish, using the scroll bar to replay the parts of greatest interest or relevance.
The details and side-tracks are often very important, however! As are the breadth and applications that are to be found on those side tracks. Our side tracks are separate 'support' pages, which are hyperlinked to the mulitmedia tutorials both during and after each segment. For instance, the use of calculus or vector operations will usually invite the user to revise calculus or vectors. Often some of the same film clips or animations are now available in an "interactive" mode, which may give the user greater interactivity and more detailed textual explanations aimed at a deeper understanding. Usually, there is both deeper and broader material: careful discussion of some of the more subtle points, references to applications and extension.
For an experimental science, the real world is the ultimate teacher. For that reason, our current project (the Waves volume of Physclips) includes a laboratory section in which all elements (except the computer) are either readily found or inexpensive. While the components themselves may not be expensive, the production of the these sections is! That's why they are a recent addition to our on-line projects.
This approach is in line with recent recommendations in the literature form Hegarty and Kriz (2008) who suggest:
1. the use of textual explanations to supplement animations seeking to explain “invisible” forces,