A television, broken and abandoned in a grassy patch
01
Aug
2012

Broadcast Learning: A #digped Discussion

The conversation curated and archived in two parts via Storify: Pt. 1: We Interrupt This Broadcast… and Pt. 2: A Backchannel in the Backchannel.

This Friday, August 3 from 1:00 – 2:00pm Eastern (10:00 – 11:00am Pacific), Hybrid Pedagogy will host a Twitter discussion under hashtag #digped centered on the difference between content-delivery and learning in online education. We’ll use as focal point for the discussion the problems and advantages of, and future potential for, the video lecture as utilized in flipped classrooms, MOOCs, hybrid courses, and more. In “Broadcast Education: A Response to Coursera”, we suggested that video lectures used to create large-scale, “auditorium”-style learning environments may not be the very best application of technology. Our discussion on Friday will inspect how this technology is being used and abused, and how it might be used better.

“The delivery of course content is not the same as education,” Siva Vaidhyanathan writes in “What’s the Matter With MOOCs?”. He continues, “Education is an imprecise process, a dance, and a collaborative experience.” And yet, many online education endeavors — from classes within learning management systems to MOOCs — have created what many critics believe to be very static environments for learning. The video lecture may be both symbolic and symptomatic of what’s not quite right about most online education.

Many pedagogues and teachers openly criticize the use of pre-recorded video lectures. In his much-read New York Times op-ed pieceMark Edmundson maligns the use of this technology, saying that it makes education into “a monologue, and not a real dialogue.” He goes on to say that:

“The Internet teacher, even one who responds to students via e-mail, can never have the immediacy of contact that the teacher on the scene can, with his sensitivity to unspoken moods and enthusiasms. This is particularly true of online courses for which the lectures are already filmed and in the can. It doesn’t matter who is sitting out there on the Internet watching; the course is what it is.”

It’s hard to argue with Edmundson, especially after getting a look at Coursera’s video lectures, or those available through Khan Academy, and more.

Perhaps the biggest threat to education that the video lecture presents is one not often examined. While many are worried that pre-recorded lectures by the country’s top educators might create “celebrity scholars”, just the opposite is also likely; that, from students’ point of view, a talking head behind a screen represents the very lowest form of technology, and makes the instructor obsolete. He is a person without personality, and without any significant connection to you. If you don’t want to meet the person behind the curtain, why would you want to learn from him?

At the same time, someone who takes a moment to view the really lovely cinematography which opens Udacity’s new Intro to Physics class, or one of the delightful videos from RSA Animate, might decide that the video lecture as a form has an untapped potential. Similarly, a “canned” lecture delivered as part of a hybrid course or within a flipped classroom model, may prove more directly relevant than those offered within entirely online courses.

So, what’s the answer? Do we abandon the video lecture, cultivate it, reinvent it? Video lectures aren’t the finest technology has to offer. Televising education has been around since the ‘60s — just putting it on the internet doesn’t make it innovative. So, what can? Can anything?

Here are some questions to consider in advance of the #digped conversation:

  • What do you see as the difference between content-delivery and learning? Is there a use for content-delivery in a static classroom environment, or is this a misuse of educational technology?
  • What is the implicit pedagogical stance behind “canned” lecture? How does this stance differ depending on the use of that lecture — in flipped classrooms, MOOCs, hybrid learning environments, etc.?
  • Imagine you were to create a video lecture yourself, one that would be broadcast in a learning environment to an unknown number of students. What considerations would play a part in the creation of that video? How would you make your video lecture engaging?
  • We’ve mentioned Udacity and RSA Animate’s video work; but what examples of this technology have you seen, good and bad?
  • What do you see as the threats video lectures — and other forms of content-delivery pedagogy — pose; likewise, what do you see as their advantages and their potential?

If you are unable to join us on August 3 at 1:00pm EST (10:00am PST), we will continue the #digped conversation every other Friday for the rest of the Summer. If you have suggestions for future topics, feel free to add them to the comments on this entry or tweet them to @slamteacher.

[Photo by schmilblick]

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