The History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education MOOC from Duke’s Cathy Davidson is confirming in my mind that long video lectures aren’t a great medium for instructing or learning.
Lecture videos (talking heads) and screencasts (usually of PowerPoints) are becoming synonymous with online education in people’s minds, mostly because of MOOCs. They’re easy to make, especially because most instructors already teach in the classroom with a backdrop of PowerPoint slides. This works better in person for a host of reasons, not least of which is an instructor’s personality and human touch, most of which gets lost in the translation.
Lecture videos are secondary artifacts of a face-to-face class experience. For transformative, engaging online education, what we need is content that successfully uses the media of the Internet. We need to look at the best ways people learn and share online—and then we should experiment and innovate in those media.
We also need to consider (and probably update) the multimedia principles of instructional design. The principles I’m thinking most about are (1) coherence , (3) redundancy, (6) segmenting, (8) modality, and (9) multimedia.
From Richard Meyer (2001), Multimedia Learning:
- Coherence principle – People learn better when extraneous words, pictures and sounds are excluded rather than included.
- Signaling principle – People learn better when cues that highlight the organization of the essential material are added.
- Redundancy principle – People learn better from graphics and narration than from graphics, narration and on-screen text.
- Spatial contiguity principle – People learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented near rather than far from each other on the page or screen.
- Temporal contiguity principle – People learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively.
- Segmenting principle – People learn better from a multimedia lesson is presented in user-paced segments rather than as a continuous unit.
- Pre-training principle – People learn better from a multimedia lesson when they know the names and characteristics of the main concepts.
- Modality principle – People learn better from graphics and narrations than from animation and on-screen text.
- Multimedia principle – People learn better from words and pictures than from words alone.
- Personalization principle – People learn better from multimedia lessons when words are in conversational style rather than formal style.
- Voice principle – People learn better when the narration in multimedia lessons is spoken in a friendly human voice rather than a machine voice.
- Image principle – People do not necessarily learn better from a multimedia lesson when the speaker’s image is added to the screen.
I’ve been spending time exploring how to improve lecture videos and how to substitute with less flashy alternatives. I’ll be sharing what I learn here!
However we choose to present content, though, I believe the important thing is to build our online courses around stuff students do and not just stuff they watch/read/osmose. If the course content—whether lecture, textbook, web page, podcast, or whatever—is supplemental to engaging activities, students will take it in more willingly and enthusiastically.