Avoiding Video as a Visual Gimmick in Courses

By Amy Pate
Manager, IPDS Thunderbird,
The Garvin School of International Management

Many times, as we begin to develop courses with our Thunderbird professors, it is easy to seek out the latest and greatest features from technology to give to our online students. The competitive spirit is high. Faculty want their content to be flashier, more exciting, and more entertaining than their colleagues'. My passion and involvement with technology also makes me want our students to have the latest technology gizmos and the latest "wingding" that invigorates online classes. Put those together, and you have a powerful new online course, right?.... Wrong!

It is really important in the age of information technology "leaps" to take a step back and be sure that you aren't creating "visual gimmicks" with your video-video-recorded content that looks great, but d'esn't add value to your course.

Adult online learners have one common goal: learn the information as efficiently as possible. They don't want to waste their time reviewing video that is put into an online course simply to add a "multimedia" aspect, or "liven up" dull content.

Before doing any video, think about:

1. What are the original objectives of the course, and is the video an important aspect of it? D'es it add value?
2. Can the material be found in other traditional sources? D'es it have to be a video? Remember, it's not about highlighting the professor's knowledge of the subject or their great presentation style-it's about helping the student understand it.
3. Can the content be easily covered and understood in a 10-15-minute video clip? Online learners will lose interest in a video over 15 minutes, and with anything under 5 minutes, the students would rather read a handout.
4. Are there graphics that can be added to the video to clarify the content? Professionally designed and animated flowcharts, graphs, and tables can help students easily identify content as it is being discussed by the professor.
5. Can materials be added to supplement the video? Handouts, transcripts, additional links, and readings all encourage students to go beyond what they watch in the video and seek to know more, thereby internalizing the knowledge.

At Thunderbird, we use the above guidelines for our video capture work. We also embrace the "inquiry-based method" of teaching. This method encourages students to look at a variety of materials and resources in order to collect information on a subject. The students then work through discussion groups to internalize that information into useful work-related applications.

The system we use for video capture is Tegrity. It allows faculty to record 24/7 and has a number of "flashy" features. However, we discourage professors from thinking of this as a way to do a traditional 90-minute lecture. Instead, we encourage our professors to think and plan before recording. We give suggestions about how to use some of the features, like writing on slides to draw the students' attention to a key point. Tegrity also has a "hot spot" feature that allows students to interact with the video. Faculty can ask a question in the middle of a recording, and the recording will pause until the student selects the correct answer. We encourage professors to integrate this feature with their regular PowerPoint slides whenever possible to keep the students from falling into "passive" viewers. We encourage the faculty to ask questions during the recording, and pause for a second to allow the students to think through the answer or pose questions at the end of a session that encourages students to discuss the topic further in discussion groups. We give professors suggestions on how to create shorter video clips that are more effective than the "lecture." These suggestions include:

· Work a problem in the software application
· Draw on a white board and explain a process
· Summarize a difficult concept
· Discuss a specific point from a case, and provide some directed in-depth questions and issues for students to discuss or think about
· Summarize the key points from a case, and then give some suggestions for finding additional information

Those of us who are a bit older than the current generation of students often fall into the common belief that these "kids" grew up on computers, MTV, and video games. To capture their attention, we have to always look for that latest video gimmick. I believe that to keep their attention, we need to go back to the traditional instructional design development: what d'es the audience need to learn, and what is the most effective and direct way to do it? It may include the latest video fad, but it might also just be making the content meaningful to them.

Amy Pate can be reached via email at patea@t-bird.edu
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