Using Scenarios To Teach Multimedia Authoring and Production

Donald T. Payne and Paul David Henry

Educational Communication and Technology Program,

New York University, New York, USA

This curriculum project adopts the premise that multimedia authoring and production requires complex, problem-solving skills. We are developing a multimedia-based instructional system that incorporates several cognitive science approaches to teach these skills. The primary strategies employed are situated cognition, cognitive apprenticeship, and increasingly complex microworlds [Collins et al., 1989].

The instructional support system includes an increasingly complex sequence of projects that consists of scenarios, expert agents, activity-based tutorials, and sample media resources. The system is built using HyperCard and Director authoring environments.


Recognizing that scenarios can situate students in real-world tasks, we simulate the multiple roles typically associated with multimedia production. Using this multimedia software to simulate a working environment, students access software agents that represent project manager, client, programmer, and designer. These experts are available on request to offer advice about solving problems.

However, this information is sometimes incomplete, inconsistent, and inaccurate. Cognitive science research has acknowledged the need for strategic skills that translate general, abstract information into concrete, manageable procedures to solve complex problems [Schank, 1993].

Although the scenarios emphasize high-level skills, elements requiring low-level skills may be provided, especially in early projects, or introduced and supported in tutorials or demonstrations. These skills include designing learning environments, and effective selection and use of media, instructional strategies, and production. Software agents also interact with users in tutorials to facilitate learning about the system and in developing multimedia skills needed to complete projects.

When these materials are used in a group context, we encourage cooperative learning activities. As resources for development of student projects, we provide examples and samples of media, reading lists, and other references.

Future Directions

This is a work-in-progress. We are experimenting with the use of intelligent tutors to monitor the practice of skills and making the system more adaptable to individual differences. We are also interested in collaboration and exchange with others who have similar interests.


[Collins et al., 1989]. Collins, A., Brown, J.S., & Newman, S. (1989). Cognitive Apprenticeship: Teaching the Crafts of Reading, Writing, and Mathematics. In Lauren B. Resnick (Ed.), Knowing, Learning, and Instruction: Essays in Honor of Robert Glaser. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.


[Schank, 1993]. Schank, R. C., Fano, A., Bell, B., & Jona, M. (1993). The Design of Goal-Based Scenarios. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 3(4), 305-345.