The sage on the stage is increasingly looking more and more like a potted plant as the classrooms of today are evolving and instructors are competing with the digital invasion. Are you still married to the idea of face-to-face lecturing as the only way to teach? Have you been seduced to consider recording your lectures and shoveling them online? After all, you’ve been told that the students of today live, eat and breathe with a device surgically extending their fingertips.
So you’re going to jump in. Plant a camera at the back of the classroom, hit the record button, save, upload, and they’ll magically get it! Even more, you don’t care if they get it, because you’ve done your job, you’re accessible anytime, from anywhere and you are the tech savvy prof because you are now in cyberspace for 50 continuous minutes or more of glorious professor-babble!
No!! Just say no!! Don’t do it!!
There is a lot of evidence that says this doesn’t end well for you online learners! Your online version of your lecture will get swallowed up by competing YouTube videos, multiple tabs opened, smaller video players, browser toolbars, open chat windows and your student’s cat walking on their keyboard and the sound of the student snoring will wake the neighbours!
But what to do instead! Oh the dilemma! We’ve only got a gazillion classroom hours gobbled up in mind-numbing lectures to draw upon as our model. Maybe those YouTube viral kids have something to offer academia? Maybe we can combine volumes of research on effective classroom and online learning with some tips from our media blogging gurus to pull us out of this abyss?
For starters, know your audience and your purpose. What are your learning outcomes for the course? There’s nothing worse than showing up at the wrong wedding reception to deliver a humorous speech about what indiscretions happened to the groom in Vegas, when in fact you stumbled into an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting two doors down from the real wedding! Context is everything!
Next, try to get every ounce of blood running through your veins to ooze improved student learning as your goal, not just coverage of your material! Well, I may be exaggerating just a bit, but if you believe that you sincerely want them to learn, not just be passive vessels where your job is to fill the vessel with content, it will transform your approach. Maybe focus on including other media such as an interactive whiteboard, or use close-up camera shots on you while you create nylon thread out of a beaker. Think about teaching differently using this medium! Talking heads from the back of a classroom is a surefire recipe for an insomnia treatment that could go viral.
Finally, aim for a maximum of 10-15 minute segments followed up by an online activity to apply the content. Attention spans rarely go beyond that. And that is if you are GOOD. Even better, make the video segments under 5 minutes. Squirrel!! See what I mean? (Those folks who have watched the movie Up will appreciate that comment – if not Google it).
So to sum up, know your audience and purpose, change your focus to improved student learning, include something beyond a talking head at a distance, and plan your segments to be short enough and followed up by an activity so you won’t put viewers to sleep.
Your students will thank you for it!