Eighty-six percent had lectures as part of their traditional courses. There are, in fact, a variety of ways to provide lecture content to your online students.
Some instructors choose to make their written lecture notes directly available to students. If you want to make the hard copies of your notes available, they can be scanned, then uploaded into the CMS and displayed as links. If your notes are already available as files on the computer (e.g., Microsoft Word files), they too can be uploaded into the CMS and displayed as links. In both cases, students will be able to click on a link to download the files they need. Alternatively, you may choose to copy and paste material directly into the CMS (length of the material can be an issue here—shorter is better); if you do this then students will not have to download the files to see the material.
Many instructors use Powerpoint to deliver their lectures (interestingly, even more students prefer that instructors use Powerpoint over a whiteboard/blackboard to deliver their lectures (Landrum, 2010)). This presentation method can be preferred for a variety of reasons: 1) it means that you have the bulk of your lecture material “ready-to-go” in the future, 2) your lecture material is easy to modify as needed, 3) your lecture material is easy to read, 4) Powerpoint files can be narrated (see below), and 5) video (e.g., Youtube) can be added into a Powerpoint presentation. If you do use Powerpoint, these slides can be made available to the online student, although note that Powerpoint files are sometimes too large to email or to house within the CMS, thus you may need to store them elsewhere and just provide a link to them within your CMS (check with your instructional technology department at your institution to determine if your CMS can handle Powerpoint files).
To record narration in PowerPoint files, use the “record narration” option on one of the PowerPoint pull-down menus. Once you record narration for a slide, a speaker icon will appear on the slide that contains the audio portion of that slide. It can be deleted and redone as necessary. Because PowerPoint files tend to be large (especially if you have recorded narration), you can use software such as iSpring (only available for PCs—go to website for free access to convert the PowerPoint file to a flash file (smaller than the regular PowerPoint with audio files—note that some Apple products (e.g., iPod) will no longer accept flash files) to convert the PowerPoint file to a flash file (smaller than the regular PowerPoint with audio files—note that some Apple products (e.g., iPod) will no longer accept flash files).
Another way to record your lectures is to import your PowerPoint slides into iMovie and then record your voice using your computer’s microphone. One advantage of working with iMovie is that you can also add in video clips that you can edit as desired.
Audio and/or Video
If you want to create lectures with audio and/or video, there are a variety of ways to do this. You can use a digital camera to record yourself while you’re giving a traditional lecture; you can then upload these files into the computer for future viewing. Alternatively, since many computers have a microphone, as mentioned above, and webcam, recording yourself while you are sitting in front of your computer does not require any additional equipment; you may choose to present in that manner. In addition, there is software available, sometimes embedded in your CMS, to aid in the creation of your audio and video files (e.g., Elluminate).
What did I decide to do? Well, I wanted an online course that kept the major components of my traditional course intact. In my traditional course’s lectures, I use Powerpoint slides to provide outlines, definitions, and major points as I verbally elaborate. I also pepper my lectures with video clips that serve to illustrate the points I wish to make. I wanted to be able to provide each of these components to my students in an online course. So here’s how I thought about my options:
- Present basic visual content (e.g., student sees Powerpoint slides on the screen).
- Present visual and audio content (e.g., student sees Powerpoint slides and hears narration).
- Present more elaborate visual and audio content (e.g., student sees and hears instructor as well as sees Powerpoint slides).
- Present most elaborate visual and audio content (e.g., student sees and hears instructor and classmates in real time (i.e., “synchronous”); this can include live discussion, instant polling, and words on the screen (e.g., Powerpoint slides and/or electronic whiteboard)).
The minimalist approach, that is, just showing the Powerpoint slides, did not seem sufficient for my purposes as it would be difficult to convey that passion I mentioned earlier, and the amount of content I wanted to provide would not be reasonably communicated given the oft-cited recommendation of “do not provide too many words on a slide” (Vik, 2004, p. 225).
I also evaluated the other end of the presentation continuum. I could use an application such as Wimba (recently purchased by Blackboard and now referred to as Blackboard Collaborate—it can be used with a variety of CMSs) which can provide audio and video of whomever is talking at any given time (i.e., instructor or students), instant polling, an electronic whiteboard, as well as the Powerpoint slides. This, in many ways, would be the closest experience to actually being in the classroom in front of students. However, I found that when I participated in this type of classroom, I became completely overloaded with the challenge of attending to so many channels of information, inevitably missing major components of the presentation (for more on cognitive load limitations and potential solutions to cognitive overload, see e.g., Mayer & Moreno, 2003). While others may not share my feeling of being overwhelmed with this type of experience (see Chen, Pedersen & Murphy, 2011), I decided to be more selective in my presentation offerings. I chose to provide my Powerpoint slides with narration, eliminating all video of the instructor, live classroom discussion, a live whiteboard presentation, and polling. So my students get to see my slides as they do in the traditional class, and hear me speak as they do in the traditional class; these are the essential parts of the presentation as I see it. Students still have the option to discuss issues, although not in real time.
This decision worked well for me; I was comfortable with this delivery method (frankly, the idea of lecturing in my pajamas was particularly appealing), but it was important to assess the views of the students. Thus, I asked my students over the course of 4 semesters to evaluate my course. While the research technique I used was not the gold-standard ideal of randomly assigning students to different presentation techniques, the responses obtained suggested that students were generally satisfied with the approach I chose. What follows is a summary of this investigation (McGee, Yang, & Heath, 2010).
Thirty-four students from four online classes of Psychology and Law anonymously completed the survey (approximately 77 percent of the total number of students completed the survey). Sixty-five percent had had a previous online course (most of the students have had one, two or three previous online courses). Thirty percent indicated that lecture material presented in their most recent online course was just words on a screen; 21 percent said that they could hear the instructor as he/she spoke; 6 percent said that they could see the instructor as he/she spoke, and 42 percent said that they did not have lectures in their previous classes. When asked to rank order their preferred method of online lecture presentation, 62 percent indicated that they preferred “words on the screen with audio,” while 29 percent wanted to see the instructor as well as see the words on the screen and hear audio. Seventy-four percent of this sample indicated that “just words on a screen” was their least preferred method of lecture delivery.
Students were asked various questions about the Powerpoint slides with narration method used in their Psychology and Law class. Below are their responses.
”How well was the instructor able to communicate the material presented in lecture?”
- Not Very Well at All (0 percent)
- Somewhat Well (15 percent)
- Extremely Well (85 percent)
”With regard to the lectures, how would you rate the instructor in terms of enthusiasm for the course content?”
- Not Very Enthusiastic at All (3 percent)
- Somewhat Enthusiastic (27 percent)
- Extremely Enthusiastic (71 percent)
”Do you think the current class’ lectures would have been more or less interesting if the audio was removed?”
- More Interesting (0 percent)
- Less Interesting (82 percent)
- Likely No Change in Interest For Me (18 percent)
”Do you think the current class’ lectures would have been more or less interesting if you could see the instructor as she lectures?”
- More Interesting (29 percent)
- Less Interesting (12 percent)
- Likely No Change in Interest For Me (59 percent)
Thus, these results suggest that my goals were generally accomplished. Most agreed that the information contained in the lectures was well communicated, and delivered in a manner that revealed my enthusiasm for the course content. Overall it appeared that my students were pleased with the PowerPoint slides plus narration delivery.
One of the potential benefits of an online course is that students can have the ability to view lectures more than once. In the current sample, 82 percent indicated that they had viewed the lecture more than once. When asked why, 67 percent said that they wanted to write something down and didn’t catch it all initially, while 33 percent said that they viewed the lecture again to study for an exam.