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Will Video Reinvent Higher Education for Adults and Professionals?

Video is changing higher education, but what remains to be seen is whether it can be effectively used for the classroom. After all, a book is a more reliable source of random-access information. Photo by Victoria.

Pick one: Video is hot. Video is cool.  Video will change education. Video is the next wave. Those are the kinds of things you hear people saying and blogging about.

As Lee Corso says on ESPN Gameday, “Not so fast, my friend!”

Like most things in life, video isn’t as good as you hope, nor as bad as you fear. It’s something most faculty members don’t understand, but most students are comfortable with. It’s something we’re all going to have to deal with and embrace… but we have to find ways to use it for good, not for evil.

Let’s start with a basic but critical question: WHAT are we “videoing”? Lectures? That’s likely, because lecture capture (camera, audio and computer screen) is gaining popularity by the month. This article assumes that lecture capture is the most likely form of video for students to encounter.

A lecture is not a dynamic thing to record; most of them are as exciting (as Dave Barry once wrote) as watching transmission repair. Students like to put a face with a name, but video of the instructor adds no content. This approach is not a game-changer, and it’s typical of most of the video being captured today. Further, it has its own dangers.

Beware the faculty member who thinks that when they’ve recorded their lectures, they have created a distance or online course!  They may not understand the need for students to have a well-designed, comprehensive online course of which the video is just one portion.  Each course should have a well-developed syllabus, directed readings, an active online discussion, pertinent links, and online content which contributes to the course. Lecture capture makes it easy for faculty to ignore those important aspects of a class.

Video isn’t the only solution, or even the best solution, for many of the student needs in higher education.  Like any medium, it does some things better than others. For example, print is a great medium for details, is infinitely portable, requires no batteries, and is random-access; you can open a book to any page and use the content.  Video is great for showing processes, events or actions, and it has real emotional impact. However it does a lousy job of conveying details and graphics. It also requires batteries and electronic playback devices, requires viewing time, consumes bandwidth, and takes up digital storage room. There are no logins required with books, but students get locked out of online content fairly often.

Students like video and they’re going to get more of it, and students can succeed even when the instructional tools aren’t designed perfectly for them. But unless higher education comes to grips with the need for faculty to be actively involved in designing complete, well-balanced online/distance courses that show real classroom activity and maybe even use graphics and video produced outside the classroom, it’s not a game-changer. It’s simply going to be an increasingly common but not especially thrilling tool used in an increasing number of campus and distance courses.

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