As technology advances, and expectations of media content continue to rise, a multimedia computing course represents an ideal way to pursue an interest or career in this ever-evolving industry. Multimedia computing can be loosely defined as any programming or software designed to create digital content, and it encompasses such diverse media as animated films, console games, interactive websites and audio podcasts. These are all growth industries throughout the world, with burgeoning demand for media-rich content and applications in turn underpinning an explosion in jobs and careers within this branch of computing.
Another defining characteristic of multimedia content is that it can either be linear or non-linear. The former comprises standalone objects or presentations, like a cartoon or a pre-programmed light show, while the latter typically involve some degree of interactivity with the audience. In recent times, there has been a marked shift away from consumers passively observing content towards greater involvement and expectations of interactivity – such as choosing which elements of a website they want to know more about, while skipping past those of lesser interest.
Leaders not followers
Multimedia computing has expanded into numerous industries in recent times, including commerce, medicine, leisure, engineering, education and scientific research. Because the subject matter is often challenging (typically involving programming languages or high levels of technical knowledge), multimedia experts are highly sought after, using their technical and software development skills to help realise a concept or vision. A blend of technical abilities, problem-solving savvy and imagination will serve anyone well when studying a multimedia computing course.
Indeed, multimedia can be found in fairly unexpected places – a PowerPoint presentation in a boardroom can be classed as multimedia if it is accompanied by hand-outs and video clips, while a theatre show might incorporate multimedia in the form of background video sequences, light displays or sound effects.
One of the great benefits of a multimedia computing course is that it can cover a spectrum of topics, from Internet infrastructure and HTML5 programming through to database creation and video coding. Students may choose to specialise in designing and developing mobile sites, or games programming, or numerous other course modules that allow them to hone their skills in a particular area. However, many of these modules and subjects are complementary to each other – the ability to program in Java can serve as a springboard for studying on a C++ course, for instance.
Work, rest and play
Industries where a multimedia computing course may prove beneficial are as diverse as the topics students may cover, but a few examples would include media companies, web design firms, broadcasters and e-retailers. Any company with a significant online presence will need elements of multimedia in their content and marketing materials, with an attendant need for e-commerce experts, web programmers and designers, and people who are able to take a concept from the drawing board to the web page. Because these skills are critically important, multimedia computing courses tend to focus on practical tests and real-world knowledge, in turn appealing to people who prefer putting skills into practice rather than simply learning about theory.
Teaching and learning
One area where the benefits of a multimedia computing course may be particularly relevant is in the education sector. The age when teachers monotonously recited facts and figures by rote has thankfully been supplanted by the prevalence of computers and bespoke educational apps/programs. Nowadays, lecturers can call upon CBTs (computer-based training courses) and interactive encyclopaedias, not to mention educational websites and presentations – the hazard perception driving test is a fine example of multimedia technology in action.
For anyone with ambitions to be a teacher or lecturer, an understanding and appreciation of these new content delivery platforms is invaluable, both in terms of CV embellishment and on a practical day-to-day level. A multimedia computing course may be well worth considering as a complementary skill alongside a teaching qualification, particularly as technology is becoming more important to the education system with every passing year.
What makes good multimedia content?
Students on a multimedia computing course will regularly need to differentiate between good and bad multimedia materials. To some extent, this can be viewed as a subjective matter, but certain parameters should always be attached to good-quality multimedia content:
1. It should serve a purpose. Art for art’s sake is never appealing, but if different media are combined to positive effect, then the use of multimedia can easily be justified.
2. It should be attractive. Ugly or bland designs or interfaces represent a missed opportunity, especially in such a highly visual environment.
3. It must be easy to use. Many websites fall foul of this, by placing form over function, or not providing important information easily enough.
4. It must be brief. Attention spans are low when it comes to digital content, so being concise is a vital component of any successful multimedia production.
By Neil Cumins