I’ve been working with videolectures for four and a half years now, so maybe a bit of reflection is a good thing! Below is a list of the good, the bad and the ugly regarding speakers on screen.
I spent my 7th of February hanging out with my brothers in arms in the weblecture scene. The day started with Werner Degger giving a general overview of the state of weblectures at the University of Amsterdam. He stated that the main reasons for using weblectures are to make studying easier and to raise the image of the university. Weblecture policy focuses on three workmodes: “Do it yourself”, “Do it together” and “we do it for you”. For each of these approaches to facilitating weblectures, the university aims to have the necessary infrastructure to support the staff and the teachers.
Southern New Hampshire’s president, Paul J. LeBlanc, writes in his thinking paper “The Next Big Thing”:
“The vision is that students could sign up for self-paced online programs with no conventional instructors. They could work at their own speeds through engaging online content that offers built-in assessments, allowing them to determine when they are ready to move on. They could get help through networks of peers who are working on the same courses; online discussions could be monitored by subject experts. When they’re ready, students could complete a proctored assessment, perhaps at a local high school, or perhaps online. The university’s staff could then grade the assessment and assign credit.”
The team at the Network University had pretty much the same delivery model in mind, back when I worked there in the 1990’s. There is a lot of appeal to this model, from the institutions side as well as from the learners perspective. It cuts out a lot of costs and you reap the benefits without having to invest too much in the process. And as a slow or fast learner, or in between jobs or juggling three kids, you no longer have to adapt to the rest but can determine your own pace. But when I think of the online initiatives which have worked and been extremely successful, and what their success factors were, I think we might be missing the point if we choose for this delivery model.
Prezi is slowly making its way into academia from the bottom up. This innovative presentation service is being used by many students (myself included) in small scale group presentations. The question of course is whether this is just another fad, or if it genuinely contributes something to the way we present knowledge, and if so, if it then lends itself to the specific setting of a lecture hall commanded by a university teacher.
I would like to make the case that Prezi is indeed something that is qualitatively different from the classic Microsoft Powerpoint – not so much in its slick movements or its embeddedness in an online environment, but more because of the spatial arrangement of knowledge. What powerpoint fails to do is to facilitate is the creation of mindmaps, and this is where Prezi shines. Mindmaps can be very useful and powerful to structure and present knowledge, and Prezi’s graphical tools – the frames, lines, highlights, arrows – all support this function very well.