One of the advantages of an online classroom is that you have almost limitless possibilities for using rich media to instruct.
Can't I just record my lectures?
Videos of classroom lectures may be easy to capture, but they don't let you take advantage of the instructional possibilities of an online course. Opinions abound, of course, about the effectiveness of the classroom lecture as an instructional method, with many passionate arguments on all sides. In an online course, an 80-minute classroom video is less instructionally effective or accessible than a series of separate segments or resources that are tied to specific topics and tasks.
Because students access the course content on demand (one of the major reasons to take courses online), they're often most interested in materials and videos that are directly related to the tasks they need to do. Lecture-capture videos may suggest to your online students that the real course experience is taking place in the face-to-face classroom, while they're receiving only a secondhand copy.
When including content from your lectures, we recommend that you choose only the most instructionally significant moments and embed them in your course as separate items that students can access in context. You might provide your lecture notes or slides as text and images in Carmen that students can find on demand.
Your classroom is essentially a series of web pages, onto which you can place text, images, video, audio, and more.
You don't need to be a graphic designer to incorporate multimedia in a way that guides and engages your students. Simple, straightforward media objects will enrich your course and will come across to students as authentic and personal.
The Office of Distance Education and eLearning offers tools and expertise to help instructors create effective and innovative multimedia for their courses. For more information about these tools and our training and support opportunities, see the ODEE Resource Center.
The following are some best practices for using media in online courses. Because technology is always changing, the discussion is focused more on instructional approaches than tools and software.
Introducing the course or unit;
providing a cohesive course narrative
One worthwhile use of multimedia is to introduce the course and the weekly modules for students. This is an easy and effective way to establish your presence as instructor throughout the course. The following are some of the possiblities:
- Short (and personal) instructor videos
- Weekly podcasts
- Periodic studentainstructor interviews or question-and-answer sessions
- Image-rich, consistent weekly modules
The Office of Distance Education and eLearning supports Mediasite, a lecture and desktop recording platform. You can use the Mediasite Desktop Recorder application to record webcam videos.
See the ODEE Resource Center guide to Mediasite for more information.
To start, go to the Mediasite login page for faculty and staff
One widely used approach for guiding students through the (sometimes scattered) activities for the week is to include a sort of weekly roadmap. Give students an introduction and state the week's learning objectives and connected assignments.
An especially engaging way to introduce the objectives, concepts, and activities for the week is to include a short (one- or two-minute) intro video.
You don't necessarily need to create something polished and professional looking; it will be enough for students to see and hear you in a short webcam video.
Explaining difficult concepts
Multimedia allows people to learn better than with text alone. Some good ways to explain through multimedia:
- E-learning tutorials
- Worked examples (video or animation)
- Studentainstructor question-and-answer (video or audio)
- Information visualization
From Richard Meyer (2001), Multimedia Learning:
Coherence principle a People learn better when extraneous words, pictures and sounds are excluded rather than included.
Signaling principle a People learn better when cues that highlight the organization of the essential material are added.
Redundancy principle a People learn better from graphics and narration than from graphics, narration and on-screen text.
Spatial contiguity principle a 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 a People learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively.
Segmenting principle a People learn better from a multimedia lesson is presented in user-paced segments rather than as a continuous unit.
Pre-training principle a People learn better from a multimedia lesson when they know the names and characteristics of the main concepts.
Modality principle a People learn better from graphics and narrations than from animation and on-screen text.
Multimedia principle a People learn better from words and pictures than from words alone.
Personalization principle a People learn better from multimedia lessons when words are in conversational style rather than formal style.
Voice principle a People learn better when the narration in multimedia lessons is spoken in a friendly human voice rather than a machine voice.
Image principle a People do not necessarily learn better from a multimedia lesson when the speakeras image is added to the screen.
One common low-tech approach for creating online lessons is to record a PowerPoint presentation with voice narration and upload it as a streaming video.
The most important advice if you're using PowerPoint (or other slide presentations) in your online class is to
- keep your text minimal and use the slides for visual information (redundancy and modality principles)
- make separate lessons for each topic instead of one long video the length of a face-to-face lecture (segmentation principle)
- use your lecture notes to create a transcript for accessibility
Resources for creating better slide presentations
Presentation Zen Design, by Garr Reynolds, available as en e-book from the OSU library
Presentation Zen, by Garr Reynolds, available as an e-book from the OSU library
Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations, by Nancy Duarte, available as an e-book from the OSU library
Excellent examples of slide presentations that are engaging without any audio or video, from Zach Holman of GitHub.
Slide show "Simple Design" by Chiara Ojeda.
One way to present information in your online course is with web-based tutorials.
Many instructors at Ohio State are using a program called SoftChalk to create lessons that are accessible (no flash) and that integrate well into Carmen content modules and the Carmen gradebook.
SoftChalk allows you to lay out content with text, images, and embedded multimedia. You can then include quiz questions and other interactive elements throughout the lesson.
For subjects like math and engineering, walking students through problems may be an essential part of your teaching.
Even dry, low-tech videos (Khan Academy, for example) can be instructionally effective when the instructor narrates the steps clearly.
We recommend one problem (or problem type) per video, well labeled, so that students can find and watch videos when they need help with a particular situation.
Secondary-school teacher Dan Meyer's "three act" math instruction is an approach for instructing through story and real-life tasks. He's focused on basic K-12 math, but the approach and the problem it addresses (teaching math reasoning and not just computation) apply more broadly. This technique could be easily incorporated into an online course by releasing each "act" as the previous one is completed.
Act 1: Introduce the story, beginning with a real-life dilemma. Do this as visually as possible (images or video) and keep the explanation and commentary to a minimum. You want to give students a chance to get interested and to start thinking in broad terms about how to approach the problem.
Act 2: Let students discuss the problem and figure out what tools to use. You could facilitate this process with varying levels of involvement, depending on many factors. The important thing is that students call on course materials or previously learned skills voluntarily--with only as much scaffolding as necessary.
Act 3: Show the real-life results and compare to the students' solution. Show the real-life resolution as visually as possible (images or video) and give students a chance to decide for themselves if their solution worked. If it didn't, you have an opportunity to talk through what they did (educational for you). And if the real-life solution is slightly off or is messier than the calculations, all the better--a teachable moment about real life vs. class.
Meyer's blog has hundreds of examples, mostly adapted from less-than-compelling textbook math problems. He also has a TED talk about his approach.
Showing real-world application
One great use of multimedia in an online course is to take students out of the classroom, off the Internet. Some examples:
- Practitioner or alum interviews (video or audio)
- Multimedia dry lab simulations
- Field work documentation (video, audio, or photos)
- Rich data sets
- Case studies (video or audio)
Providing just-in-time resources and remediation
The web format of an online course allows you to link students to all sorts of resources. In the directions for an assignment, for example, you can include links to secondary sources, technical tutorials, style guidelines, and rubrics. You can also link to remediation resources that students can access without shame when they need them. Just a few examples of just-in-time resources:
- Screencast walkthrough of a technical task
- Text job aid for a complex task
- Links to library resources
- Short just-in-time e-learning tutorials
- Resources from previous courses in case students need to review