First forays into distance education

September 24, 2012 at 3:27 pm 2 comments

I’ve long been intrigued by the potential of distance education on any levels.  From a sustainability standpoint, I see huge potential to reduce the single biggest impact on the campus carbon footprint: commuting.  Not to say that all courses should be delivered via the internet (I would sorely miss the personal interaction), but I can be persuaded that some portion of a degree program delivered digitally might have benefits.

For my own part, I’m taking the online course (see previous posts) in an effort to see what the student experience is like. So far, so good.
On the other side of the classroom, I’ve been experimenting with technology to help me deliver my in-person class this semester (Renewable Energy Systems).

Last week, I found I had a difficult conflict and was faced with the prospect of cancelling class. So, I recorded two lectures using the new desktop capture software that’s recently been made available to all Boise State faculty, Camtasia Relay.

The two lectures were done it two different styles. First, I just talked over power point slides:

Then, after reading the documentation a bit (RTFM!), I found that I could include a web cam inset, giving an interesting “talking head” view that goes along with the slides:

I found the results very interesting.  If you had asked me last week whether or not the web cam image added anything to the video, I would have rolled my eyes. “Of course not!”, the video image conveys no additional information.  However, two things were distinctly different. I found that when I did the narration, I felt more animated and engaged knowing that the image was going up at the same time. I was talking to the camera, not the computer monitor.  I would not have guessed I would have felt any different, but I did!

Second, the students said that they liked the talking head video better.  Not sure why.
What do you think?


Entry filed under: Campus Operations, Higher Education.

My Online Course: The Halfway Point On-Line Education Experience, The Home Stretch

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jason Mock  |  September 28, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    Hi John. As the instructional designer for the Intro to Sustainability course, I’ve enjoyed watching your thoughts about the course unfold and hope to hear more from you.

    While we’ve used a production studio to record and edit Jonathan’s videos, we also guide faculty toward using Camtasia. We’ve had good success with it, too. For the longest time I was opposed to the “talking head” option, but someone on this campus in Chemistry did an experiment along the lines of yours (one version with the talking head and one without) and found students much preferred the talking head version. I think it comes down to making that personal connection. Just as you felt you were talking to a camera/audience rather than monitor, the students felt they were listening to a human talking to them, rather than some personification of “the course”. So, it seems that the talking head benefits everyone (assuming you’re not shy about being on camera, which some faculty I’ve worked with have been!).

    And you might enjoy/appreciate this: one “side benefit” that some of the faculty I’ve worked with have reported about making a fully-online version of their courses is that they can use the online lecture materials to give them some flexibility in their face-to-face courses when they are ill or need to be away, just like you’ve done. That’s always fun for me to see how the online world can in some way help the face-to-face classroom.

    • 2. boisestategreenguy  |  September 30, 2012 at 10:19 pm

      Thanks for your comments Jason! I’m really enjoying the course and appreciate how much time and effort it takes for the instructional designer to put it all together.

      Thanks also for you comments on the ‘talking head effect’. Fascinating….


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