So often in discussions around higher ed learning, and in particular distance learning, we hear about facilitated learning and the end to the Sage on the Stage
. I do not, however, believe that in order to have facilitated learning experiences, one needs to eliminate the "sage on the stage".
One of the best professors I had was a history professor who told history in the form of mostly anecdotal information that he often acted out. His passion and his years of research were clearly evident in his lectures, and made my learning memorable. What is often missing in the online environment is that anecdotal information, the often contagious passion of the professor, and the years of research she/he has spent learning about the subject matter that is often conveyed in the form of a lecture--not the powerpoint slides, but the audio portion of a lecture. In deed, if powerpoint is used properly it only serves to support a presentation, not become the presentation--but that's another topic for another day.
In the previous posting, I spoke about the collection of research on education published by the National Academies Press: How People Learn
. What we have learned about How People Learn is in order "to develop competence in an area of inquiry, students must: a. have a deep foundation of factual knowledge, b. understand facts and ideas in the context of a conceptual framework, and c. organize knowledge in way that facilitate retrieval and application." The manner in which an instructor presents information, can effect the deeper understanding of factual knowledge by helping students place it into a conceptual framework, something that is often facilitated by the stories and connections instructors share in their "lectures".
When encouraging instructors to put their courses online, it is important to provide ways for them to add their voice to their online classrooms. The easiest way, is for them to record a presentation that they may be giving in a similar f2f course, and put that online. PowerPoint
's "record narration" feature makes that extremely easy to do. A simple, inexpensive mic works fine and background noise can make the online experience even richer, lessed canned.
Research in effective multimedia for learning, done by Richard Mayer
, would support the addition of audio, as well some animation. When I speak of animation, however, I'm not referring to the often distracting type, but animation that helps students to focus: examples would be bullets coming in one at a time, circles drawing around important items, or arrows indicating an item in a picture the instructor is referring to.
"But the file size is so large when you include the audio portion!" you might say. In addition, to adding the voice to their powerpoint presentations, an application like Impatica for PowerPoint
, which will easily compress the powerpoint to a much smaller file (in some cases 1% of the original size!) Impatica has some additional features: like changing the powerpoint to an applet (which prevents students from downloading the slideshow).
A free way to include audio, is to use the free program Audacity
to record audio and save the file as an mp3.
The faculty do, in fact, bring a passion for their subject matter. Encouraging all learning to be facilitated learning only, can deny access to what is often the richest part of the classroom experience--the interactions and mentoring that can occur between the professor and the students. All of this is most easily done when their is a common focus, or "anchor". That anchor can be a video, a reading, or some other tool of learning, but don't forget the lecture. The old idea that is so spurned these days: Sage on the Stage, can be tweeked and the real reason professors are needed for true education kept in tact. The trends in online learning toward the development of community between students, and facilitated learning rather than directed learning, can exist on that stage as well.