AT A RECENT TED session, Salman Kahn gave a forceful presentation on the effectiveness of using video in education and training.
Not all styles of video hosting, however, are equally effective.
Video needs to follow the rules of computer interaction. It’s a one-to-one conversation. It’s not a group viewing activity such as TV. When we use the computer, we sit close to the screen and it’s very personal, intimate. Thus the form of the video address needs to follow these rules.
This is easier said than done. It means the teacher has to be familiar with and practiced at the art of this form of address. Most teachers are used to a classroom or lecture theatre. Online presenting needs a different style of address, and classroom / lecture theatre styles are not the modes of address that are always appropriate. It’s too impersonal, too distant. It’s not engaging when viewed on a computer. It’s intimacy we’re seeking here. It’s the idea that it’s just a conversation between the teacher and me, irrespective of whether there are 10, 100 or 40,000 doing the course at the same time.
Here’s three examples:
AIRAH energy auditing. This was filmed in an intimate space. The teacher was assisted in his delivery by prompting questions.This meant his eye focus was slightly off screen, which is not ideal. But the conversation is nevertheless personalised. Thus the viewer / student feels engaged and included.
In this case, the presenter was too conscious of making mistakes with delivery. There is an interesting case of a teacher making audio podcasts who thoroughly edited his material before making them live. One day he did not have time to do this, but all his students commented how better this episode was – he sounded more relaxed, more real.
Charles Severance, who presented the Internet course on Coursera, has an exemplary style. It’s so relaxed even to the point of him sipping a coffee or soft drinks whilst delivering. It is direct to camera eye focus, soft voice tone and thus, it’s only him and me together in the conversation. It’s a powerful and engaging address. He speaks through the camera, not at it. It comes with years of experience presenting a TV program. But it is the level to which we need to aspire.
This is from another Coursera course – Organisational Analysis. The video presentation in is modeled on a lecture theatre discourse, and consequently loses its intimacy. It’s stylized so the presenter is small on screen at the lower right hand side, as if what he is showing on the screen is more important. It’s like being at a live presentation where the speaker makes the PowerPoint presentation more important than themselves.
This style of video presentation is clearly not as effective as the other two. It’s probably cost effective though, as the presentation the lecturer gives is recorded live and then simply edited for online purposes. But it’s a bit lazy and loses its personal training impact.
So although video is a powerful tool in online learning, it is not all effective. It depends on the style of presentation. The teacher who uses a one-to-one style is certainly most engaging.