Lectures? We Should Talk… Or Not

What Does the Research Say about Lectures?

It is well-established in the lore of online instructors and those who support them that lecture-centered teaching is not as effective as almost any other kind. Who wants to share the road with young drivers who only ever heard about how to steer but never got to try it yet? Who wants to be the first patient of a surgeon who got a solid B on all the quizzes but has not yet seen blood? Proper learning must include lots of opportunity for students to put their hands (and minds) to work. People learn by doing not listening. Humans can only pay attention to lectures for 10 minutes before losing attention, less online. (What is the longest cat video you ever watched? And cat videos are intrinsically awesome.)

It makes intuitive sense. But this is a university; we do evidence, not intuition. (And use semi-colons is obscure but technically acceptable ways.) As I was reminded recently by a colleague during a consultation, it’s not enough to be correct in academia. One must also share one’s bibliography.

So what is the evidence for the lecture lore?

The list below is intended to begin to answer that question by listing a few of the broadest, clearest, most influential, and most evidentiary write-ups on the subject. Thus, I will also include a request: if you have a bibliography you like to use — or even just a compelling research publication or persuasive presentation not included here — please add it in the comments below.

Learning more about Accessibility

ODEE recently had a great post on web accessibility (find it here) and it addressed many of the key points that are integral to developing courses with all learners in mind. Although a very important topic, it generally does not seem to be the first thing people think about when it comes to course design. However, if we try making accessibility a priority instead of an afterthought, you’ll save yourself time and aggravation by planning ahead.

There are a few places you can go for help. First off, reach out to your friendly folks in the Web Accessibility Center. You can find them here. They also have a wonderful resource wiki that covers a myriad of topics. Here’s the link:


There is a lot of constantly evolving information in the wiki listed above, so I’d like to point out a few key concepts from it that should help you take some small steps towards incorporating accessibility into everyday content creation.

Please consider the quality of the source material. Badly or improperly scanned documents often cannot be read by screen reading technology. Quite often, the library may have the same article in a higher quality format, so if you have your doubts about the quality of the scan, it would behoove you to look for a better one.

Try to use the PDF format for your documents. Myriad types of software can read them, and Microsoft Word and PowerPoint can natively export PDF files. The Web Accessibility Center has some great information on creating PDF’s on their wiki, which can be found here: https://carmenwiki.osu.edu/display/10292/PDF%2C+Word%2C+and+PowerPoint

If you decide you want to start to incorporate video into your courses, that’s great! However, in order to accommodate all learners, we’ll need to make sure we have captions. YouTube can actually automatically caption videos for you, but good audio is a must. Concise and clear speech help this process. The good thing is that you can fix the captions afterwards, but just like anything else, it’s best to start with a solid foundation. If you want some help and more information on the best practices of captions, check out this link.

In the end, please know that you are not on this journey alone, and that there are staff out there that would love to help you make your materials and courses more accessible.