The Human Element #edcmooc

This article on our list, Perspectives on Education, encourages the use of video in online courses, but specifically video of the teachers themselves in order to retain higher numbers of students. One of the main reasons stated is:

But communicating solely via text is also alienating, says Hersh. Weighing the theoretical advantages of purely textual discourse against the demonstrated engagement benefits of presence-oriented teaching, the latter wins, he says.

On the whole I agree with the article and indeed professionally we incorporate video of the instructor for the first slide of a recorded lecture to provide the student with a ‘human’ to connect with and then let the remaining slides flow with audio only to keep the file size to a minimum. However, I disagree with the premise that ‘communicating solely via text is also alienating’ in that I believe it is how you use text that can be engaging or alienating.

If I were to enroll today on an online course only to find that the entire teaching content consisted of Word or PowerPoint documents I would not even make it through to tomorrow. If on the other hand I discovered that the content was provided around blogs, tweets, discussion threads in addition to the Word and PowerPoint files I would be much more likely to stick it out to the end. For me, the method of the textual communication is the important element, if a human is speaking to me directly as in a blog I will engage with that content but if it is a lengthy article written in the third person then I am much more likely to drift off.

I want the instructor to speak to me as a fellow human, whether that is via video, text, image, discussion, podcast or a mixture of these I honestly don’t mind.

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