Human Resource Development
The Role of Media in the Instructional Process


Teaching Tools
Resources for Evaluation & Performance
ITE 335 International Development and Technology
CIMT 610 Research in Education
ITE 670 Systematic Instructional Design
HRD Internship
CIMT 543 Production of Instructional Materials
ITE 675 Leadership of HR
ITE 695

Proficiency # 3: The Roles of Media in the Instructional Process



For partial fulfillment in

CIMT 543 Production of Instructional Materials

Joseph I. Williams

April 23, 2003

The Roles of Media in the Instructional Process



        Instruction - The arrangement of information and the environment to facilitate learning.

        Learning - The development of new knowledge, skills, or attitudes.

        Media (singular - medium) - 1. A channel of communication. 2. A means of communicating information or ideas. Referred to as "instructional media" when it carries information or messages with an instructional purpose.

        Methods - The procedures of instruction that are selected to help learners achieve the objectives or to internalize the content or message.

Types of Instructional Media


        Non Projected Media Photographs, diagrams, displays, and models

        Projected Media Filmstrips, overhead transparencies, and computer projection

        Audio Media Cassettes, CDs, live lectures, broadcast lectures, class discussion, tapes, digital audio, musical instruments, and audio signals.

        Motion Media Videos, DVDs,

        Computer Mediated Instruction

        Computer Based Multimedia and Hypermedia - Networks


Media can serve many roles in the instructional process.  Understanding the purpose of media, effective planning of instruction, and systematic evaluation of media will enable the teachers to make a careful selection of media to use for instruction.  A media format is the physical form in which a message is incorporated and displayed.  Media formats include, flip charts, slides, audio, video, and computer multimedia.  Each has different strengths and limitations in terms of the types of messages that can be recorded and displayed.

The purpose of the media selection process is to determine the best media for a given instructional situation.  To determine the most appropriate media for their needs, instructors must evaluate the objectives, the content, and the learner.  Many instructional programs may be combinations of the methods of communicating messages to learners. Since, media is only a distribution system for delivering various messages and representations to learners, each strategy mentioned below places the learner and teacher in a different role.

Instructor-Directed Instruction


The role of media for instructor-directed instructional situations is for supplemental support of the live instructor in the classroom.  In other words, media is used to enhance the live instruction.  It is most effective when the instructor explains the media and relates them to instructional objectives.  In this method an instructor relates and disseminates information to learners. This takes shape in the lecture format, educational television, and various computer formats.

The concept of advanced organizers, has developed and is intended to create a mindset for reception of instruction.  Advance organizers can help ensure that media play an appropriate role as a supplemental supporter of instruction.  However, media effectiveness still depends on the instructor competencies.

Instructor-Independent Instruction

In this method of instruction, objectives and guidance for achieving the objectives, materials, and self-evaluation are provided through packaged media, which is supposed to be self-sufficient. This type of media contains instructions, explanations, and/or guidance and should be well designed for a target audience.  In informal educational settings, trainees at the worksite or at home can use media such as videocassettes and computer courseware.  In some instances an instructor may be available for consultation via telephone.

Media Portfolios
A portfolio is a collection of student work that illustrates growth over a period of time. Portfolios often include such media as student produced illustrated books, videos, and audiovisual presentations.  Many educators who feel that standardized assessments and conventional paper and pencil assessments are frustrating are having students demonstrate their achievements by compiling portfolios of their work. The idea of portfolio assessment is to measure students achievements by their ability to create tangible products exemplifying their accomplishments in terms of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.  The rationale of many educators is that assessment of portfolios gives a truer, more rounded view of a learners strengths and weaknesses.

Thematic Instruction

Thematic instruction is the organization of a curriculum around themes or anchors. Thematic instruction integrates basic disciplines like reading, math, and science with the exploration of a broad subject, such as communities, rain forests, river basins, the use of energy, and so on.  Thematic instruction is based on the idea that people acquire knowledge best when learning in the context of a coherent "whole," and when they can connect what they're learning to the real world.

Thematic instruction seeks to put the teaching of cognitive skills such as reading, mathematics, science, and writing in the context of a real-world subject that is both specific enough to be practical, and broad enough to allow creative exploration.

1.      Choosing a theme - Themes often involve a large, integrated system (such as a city, an ecosystem, and so on) or a broad concept (such as democracy, weather, and so on). Instructors often strive to connect the theme to the students' everyday life. In some cases, students participate in choosing the theme or themes.

2.      Designing the integrated curriculum - The teachers involved must organize the learning objectives of their core curriculum (both process skills and content knowledge) around the theme. In the study of a river basin, for instance, math might involve calculating water flow and volume; social studies could look at the nature of river communities; science might study phenomena like weather and floods; and literature could study books and novels that focus on rivers, such as the works of Mark Twain. The initial design requires considerable work on the part of teachers. Again, sometimes students help design the curriculum.

3.      Designing the instruction - This usually involves making changes to the class schedule, combining hours normally devoted to specific topics, organizing field trips, teaching in teams, bringing in outside experts, etc.

4.      Encouraging presentation and celebration - Because thematic instruction is often project-oriented, it frequently involves students giving collective presentations to the rest of the school or the community. Plus, students commonly create extensive visual displays. 

Distance Education


The distinguishing characteristic of distance education is the separation of teacher and student during the learning process. The media may be primarily print, as in traditional courses, however it covers a wide set of applications and processes such as web-based learning, computer-based learning, virtual classrooms, and digital collaboration. It includes the delivery of content via Internet, intranet/extranet, audio and videotape, satellite, and CD-ROM. 

Education for Exceptional Students


Media play an important role in the education of students with exceptionalities. Adapted and specially designed media can contribute enormously to effective instruction of all students and can help achieve at their highest potential regardless of their innate abilities.

Individuals with disabilities such as mental retardation need highly structured learning situations because their prior knowledge and ability to incorporate messages into mental constructs is limited.  Students who are hearing impaired, blind, or visually impaired require different kinds of learning materials.

Gifted and talented students can use videotape and other media to explore topics beyond or in addition to that covered by other students in the class. They can also use the Internet to search for information related to topics being covered in class or for their own personal interests and hobbies.




Heinich, R., Modenda, M., Russell, J. D., & Smaldino, S. E. (2002).  Instructional media and technologies for learning (7th ed.).  Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

Threlkeld, R. & Brzoska, K. (1994). Research in distance education. In B. Willis (Ed.), Distance education: Strategies and tools, (pp. 41-66). New Jersey: Educational Technology Publications.