This week's reflections for #wweopen13 are coming a little early. The activity asks for us to create a two minute video on some content for a MOOC. One of the big benefits of the hyped MOOC has been the encouragement to innovate in online classrooms. For me personally, MOOCs have encouraged me to try the use of short video clips in my online classes. They have shown that videos don’t need to have high quality production values to be effective teaching tools.
Now, I have used screencasts in online learning for several years. I used to teach an Advanced Microsoft Word course online, and I found that quick how-to screencasts were really effective for demonstrating how to do things. The huge advantage to this approach, was the second year I taught the course, most of the learners questions were already answered in the videos I had created the year before. An example of the most popular videos is available here: complex document layout in MS Word (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdDDCCLm0as) (note, all my screencasts are on YouTube).
In an upcoming course, I’m going to experiment with video – however, I know that research has shown that learners prefer conceptual issues to be presented using text and images, as it allows them to better control the pace of the presentation. Video is better used for demonstrations and sharing of stories – things that are not communicated as well in flat text. So I will probably choose to use a rapid eLearning tool (Articulate Storyline) to create re-usable learning modules containing conceptual content (e.g. a basic mobile technology) and save the video for my introduction and other activities where personal stories are useful.
One area that I have yet to see value is in the synchronous activities. I don’t have the patience for the synchronous sessions, as in my experience they have not proven to be an efficient use of my time. In the context of the online course, I find that they remove the advantage of “anytime/anywhere” education. I’d love to hear from those of you who participate in synchronous activities – what value do you get from them? What draws you to attend? Why should I consider adding a synchronous activity (e.g. Google Hangout) to my course? Note that my students may use synchronous tools for collaboration during group assignments – it is just that I don't provide sychronous "office hours" or do synchronous presentations.