There once was a select group of people who through hard work, dedication and years of schooling, knew almost everything there was to know about a particular topic. They were called experts. While elsewhere, another group of people, eager for information, drove long miles to fill uncomfortable chairs in classrooms and conferences. They were called learners.
This relationship remained for generations, encouraged by the production needs of the Industrial Revolution and two World Wars. Until one day, empowered by technology and a growing sense of independence, some of the learners found other ways to get the information they craved. They made videos of it, blogged it, tweeted it, and distributed millions of copies of it. The learning landscape was suddenly awash with self-proclaimed “experts”.
As stories go, ours is no doubt simplified. Certainly, posting information online does not an expert make, but to many learners the difference can be hard to discern. However, the truth remains- that experts, once sole gatekeepers of knowledge, now have to compete with myriad information sources. For better or worse, the proliferation of free web based content has changed the learning landscape and the learner.
But has it changed the expert?
No one is suggesting that the experts’ role in education is over. In fact, data suggests that learners prefer to work with an instructor, even in an online learning environment. Rather than replace the expert, I’d like to offer 4 ways inwhich the experts’ role in education can change to meet the modern online landscape as described briefly in Chapter 2 of Online Learning, Concepts, Strategies and Application by Nada Dabbagh and Brenda Bannan-Ritland.
Redefined Role of the Expert Educator
Traditional Role 1: Maintain a Singular Learning Channel
Role Redefined: Meet Learners Where They Are
I recently had a discussion with an Academic in which he questioned the effectiveness of his social media outreach efforts. A good question, but without the time or resources to invest in sophisticated tracking, it can be hard to give a definitive answer. My guess is that in his case, the older, rural audience probably wasn’t checking Facebook that often and, therefore, had minimal impact. However, for many younger learners, blogs, videos and tweets is where they expect to find information and expect it fast. My advice to that Academic: keep using online channels, if it doesn’t take too much of your time, because whether in two years or twenty, that’s where your audience is headed.
Tip: To the best of your ability, distribute content across multiple channels and track its use.
- Blog: Start your own ANR blog and post your latest research findings, articles or experience. The stats section allows you to see how many people have subscribed or have visited your blog.
- Website: Build a webpage using ANR’s Sitebuilder 3. Embed a Google Analytics code and track how many people visit your site.
- Video: Don’t just tell them; show them by posting a demonstration on a YouTube page. Tracking capabilities let you see just how many people have viewed it. Then post the video to your blog and website.
Traditional Role 2: Oracle and Lecturer
Role Redefined: Consultant, Guide and Resource Provider
In a recent interview with Salman Khan of the Kahn Academy, he described how their research had shown that learners often described the discussion portion of the traditional classroom experience as the most useful. Yet unfortunately, much of the classroom experience involves sitting through Power Points and lectures with often only the few last minutes reserved for questions.
Kahn’s approach is sometimes called “flipping the classroom’. It simply means that experts use the web to deliver online lectures and courses so that in-person classroom time can be used to do what it does best, allow for interaction and discussion.
Tip: Move your lecture or course online: ANR can help you turn your Power Point or lecture into an interactive e-course or video.
- Post your course to ANR's Learning Management System and track enrollment, completion and assessments
- Guide your learners towards the online material and use the classroom time to discuss reactions, pose meaningful questions and find answers.
Traditional Role 3: Provider of Answers
Role Redefined: Provider of Questions
What do you think?
1. Do experts really need to change, given the online learning environment?
2. As an expert, what topics would you like to learn more about? Adult learning principles? Building online courses? Using Facebook, Twitter and Blogs? Building a website?
**Use the comments feature at the bottom of the page to share your thoughts**
The point is that I’m not the only expert in the room. Many readers of this blog no doubt have opinions of their own based on their unique experiences. Rather than presume to know what your learners want, why not ask them to generate questions and problems of their own, then work together to find the answers through guided discussions. The web has unleashed an entirely new way for collaboration and what learning theorists call constructivist learning. The idea being that meaningful learning takes place through learner generated content and experiences.
Tip: Communicate with your learners and ask for active participation to guide content, whether online or in the classroom.
- Move the Q&A session to the beginning of your class, rather than the end. Take time to focus the discussion on the questions that generate the most interest.
- Create an online forum, such as ones used by Google Groups to post questions to your learners and ask for feedback
- Poll your learners to find out what content matters most to them. Sitebuilder 3 allows you to add a poll to your website.
Traditional Role 4: Content Researcher
Role Redefined: Content and Technical Researcher
It’s no surprise that many experts have trouble adapting to new roles in an online world. The traditional classroom model proved very successful for over a century in education. While traditionally instructors were required to maintain core mastery of content, the required technical skills changed very little, aside from perhaps a new slide projector. Flash forward to today and no doubt half of the technology I’ve described in this post will be obsolete in 5 years- or less.
Like it or not, in an online world, experts must also learn to keep pace with ever changing technology for the delivery of their content.
Tip: Assess new tools and consider how they can be used for learning.
- Search for other classes being taught on your subject.
- Participate in a class to see what technology others are using.
Easier Said than Done?
Already have enough on your plate? If you would like to learn more about how ANR Communication Services can help facilitate any of the suggestion outlined in this post, please contact me. I’d be happy to hear from you.
Steve Heindl, Instructional Designer, ANR's Digital Media Services
 Nada Dabbagh and Brenda Bannan Ritland, Online Learning : Concepts, Strategies, and Application. Columbus: Pearson Marrill Prentice Hall, 2005.
Based on Mayer, Richard E. & Moreno, Roxana (2003). “Nine Ways to Reduce Cognitive Load in Multimedia Learning.” Educational Psychologist, 38(1). http://chua2.fiu.edu/nursing/anesthesiology/courses/ngr%206715%20insttech/slides/reduce_cognitive_load_in_me_mayer_moreno2003.pdf
Based on previous research, Mayer and Moreno describe how the mind has separate channels for interpreting audio and visual information. When these two types of information are present, the learning task may exceed the processing capacity of the cognitive system. In other words, if you include visual or audio elements in your presentation, (which we all do) be wary of burdening the learner with "Information Overload".
In conducting dozens of controlled experiments, Mayer and Moreno offer five strategies to reduce overload when audio and visual information are present.
Consider your last presentation, training session, or outreach effort. Which strategies could you have used to help improve meaningful learning?
Strategy 1: Audio Off-loading
Give you learners a break from reading through pages of words, instructions, bullet points, charts and graphs. Instead, move some of the information from the visual to the auditory channel. This does not mean reading your slide presentation. That's not moving information, it's just annoying!
- Tip: Instead of words, include visual images in your presentation that support what you are talking about. For example, instead of bullet points about fire risks, show an image of a burning building. Use the auditory channel rather than on screen text to talk about the risks.
Strategy 2: Allow time to soak it in
If you are trying to cram a lot of new information into a short period of time, both the auditory and visual channels will get overloaded. In our information laden society, people need bite-sized chunks of information. How many phone numbers do you have memorized now vs. ten years ago?
- Tip: Offer learner centered self-paced lessons, websites or modules or spread out training sessions over a few days.
Strategy 3: Cut the weeds
Eliminate interesting but extraneous material. If a learner is giving you 20 minutes of their time these days, you should use it for ONLY the most important information. This is the one, two, or three things you want them to walk away with.
- Tip: Provide a link to additional resources and include everything that doesn't have to be memorized.
Strategy 4: Don't forget the C.R.A.P.
Most educators are not graphic designers so creating easy to understand visuals can be a challenge. When words are not aligned with corresponding images and/or words are duplicated in both print and audio, the learner gets easily confused. C.R.A.P. is an acronym which stands for Contrast, Repetition, Alignment and Proximity.
- Tip: Here's a blogpost explaining more about using these design principles
Strategy 5: Keep in Sync
No, not the boy band from the 90's, they needed to go, rather keep your narration in sync with your animations or visuals. Imagine watching a cooking show where the instructor told you how to prepare Baked Alaska by reading aloud from a cooking book for 5 minutes. Then they demonstrated preparing the dish for 15 minutes while remaining completely silent.
- Tip: Move your scenarios, quizzes, animations closer to the information that describes them. The learners want to see how a problem can be solved, not just told about it.
For more information about Media services at ANR, including Instructional System Development, visit our website : http://anrcs.ucanr.edu/Digital_Media_Services/
Communication Services and Information Technology
UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
For those of you who have never taken advantage of ANR’s free subscription to Lynda.com, I can’t recommend it enough. Lynda.com doesn’t just tell you how to do it, it shows you. What’s better than that?
Answer: Creating your own Lynda.com-like video tutorials!
There are several FREE tools out there that allow you to create your own video demonstrations. Post the videos to your own website and pesto! You're done.
This is what I use for basic screenshots and quick small videos. It limits videos to 5 minutes in length and has minimal editing capabilities. I like it because it always sits on my desktop as a little yellow icon right at the top of my screen. No hunting through my desktop to find it. It’s very easy to use.
- Tom: “Hey Steve, I know I asked you this a zillion times, but how do add a photo to my Sitebuilder page again?”
- Steve: “Tom, watch this video I made with Jing.
2. Camtasia Relay
Not every project can get away with the flash file that is produced by Jing. Camtasia Relay supports a wide variety of video formats allowing any lecture or presentation to be viewed by your audience on multiple playback devices. In other words, it will play on desktops and portable media devices like the iPhone and iPad.
- Camtasia Relay is a resource that ANR has purchased for use by all ANR employees.
- Once installed, it sits on your desktop and recording your screen is as simple pushing a button.
- Unlike Jing, you also have the added benefit of editing the beginning and ending of your video screen capture but not the content in-between.
- Unlike Jing, you are not limited to a 5 minute maximum video.
You can learn more about Camtasia Relay and how to download it on the Camtasia Relay FAQ Page.
3. Camtasia Studio
If you’ve never done a screen recording video, it can take some practice. Sometimes, I have to record 3 or 4 versions for a short 15 second clip. The phone rings, an e-mail pop ups, and if you are using audio, it’s easy to trip over your words.
For those who need a more polished recording, ANR Instructional System Development team can take a choppy Camtasia Relay recording and edit it to look more professional using Camtasia Studio. Other features include:
- Professional sounding audio
- Zoom-in and out to highlight important content
- Add additional instructional text
- Add an assessment quiz or survey
While this service is only available on a recharge basis, it’s well worth it if you’re recording is going to be seen by a lot of people or a few very important people.
Example: A few months ago, the Budget Department wanted to do some training on how to develop a recharge rate. One element included filling out a somewhat lengthy form. Instead of just telling the learner what to do, we decided it would be useful to show them. The subject matter experts recorded themselves filling in the form and I used Camtasia Studio to spruce it up.
The result was their own video library of how to complete the Rate Calculation Worsksheet.
If you need help creating your own video training library using any of these resources, please contact me.
- Author: Michael L. Poe
Mediasite by Sonic Foundry is a new tool for ANR to capture, share and distribute information knowledge. Our video production staff uses this technology to capture your presentations with a video camera, the Mediasite recorder, and whatever you display on a computer. With an Internet connection, your presentation can be streamed live. If your presentation originates at a site without an Internet connection, it can be recorded and later uploaded when a connection is available. A link can be provided to your audience for viewing using any computer type with a browser and an Internet connection.
This system replaces what typically cost $700 for the day of recording and another week of editing time that brought the project cost to $3,000-$4,000 for the capture of a one-day event.
To schedule CSIT lecture capture services, contact Sr. Producer-Director Ray Lucas.
- Author: Michael L. Poe
Microsoft Powerpoint works great until it doesn't. A common problem I'm hearing about is font substitution.
Pros know that it is a bad idea to mix fonts. Ideally, you stick to the same font throughout your flyer, poster, powerpoint file or whatever you are producing. You can bold, highlight, italicize the same font for emphasis as needed, but it is still same font. The common fonts between computers are usually Arial, Times New Roman, Tahoma, and Verdana. When there are substitutions of these basic fonts, they are hardly detected. That's a good thing.
Powerpoint doesn’t embed fonts by default, which means that you may have a font on your computer that someone else does not. When they open your Powerpoint presentation it will look very different from what you created, because when Windows can not find the font you specified it will substitute another font, with results that can be unsettling. Switching between Mac and PC can result in small empty boxes instead of letters and that's even worse. Your letter font was probably substituted for a symbol font. So it is best to stick with the common fonts.
The second way to avoid the problem is to tell PowerPoint to embed your fonts. This means that the fonts you use will travel with your presentation, and should eliminate the missing font problem.
These steps guarantee you will have the fonts you want when you move your file to any other PC, and you won't need to load custom fonts onto the presentation machine when you arrive at your speaking destination.
Note that font embedding will increase your file's size. To keep the file size a bit smaller, you can embed only the characters that are used in your presentation (rather than a full font set); or, you can embed all font characters, which can result in a much larger file. Unless you are sure you or others won't make any changes to the file, embedding all characters is recommended.
To embed fonts in your PowerPoint 2010 or 2007 presentation:
1. Install on your computer any custom fonts that you want to use. You can't embed fonts into your presentation unless the fonts have already been installed.
2. Open the PowerPoint presentation.
3. Do one of the following:
- In PowerPoint 2010, click the File tab, and then click Options in the left pane.
- In PowerPoint 2007, click the Office button in the upper left corner, and then click PowerPoint Options.
4. In the PowerPoint Options dialog box, in the left pane, click Save.
5. Under Preserve fidelity when sharing this presentation, select the Embed fonts in the file check box.
6. We recommend also selecting the second option, Embed all characters (best for editing by other people).
7. Click OK.
To turn off embedding, follow the same steps above, but deselect the Embed fonts in the file check box in step 5.
If you have questions about this, remember the Help in your version of Powerpoint will let you search for "embed fonts."