Friday, January 26, 2007

Is Videotaping Your Entire Lecture the Best Option?

When deciding whether to videotape your lectures, consider the following:

  • Who is your audience? Do they have high speed or dialup internet connections?
  • What is the topic or content being discussed? Does it require a demonstration, experiment or simulation? Do you need to show facial expressions or body movements?
  • What is your lecture/presentation style? Do you typically lecture with slides? Do you present from a lectern or move around the classroom? Do you frequently write on the whiteboard?
Generally, there is not much benefit to putting entire lecture videos online. Besides the technical considerations of editing, file size, viewing quality and bandwidth, students may easily become distracted or bored watching a long lecture video and miss important concepts. On the positive side, they may be taking notes, but still not watching the video. You should use video only when it offers a clear benefit to the learning process.

Here are some suggestions for putting lecture video online:
  1. Use video for visually communicating actions that are difficult to explain verbally. Try to avoid the "talking head" video lectures.
  2. Break long videos into several short video clips by task or concept. Videos can be anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. Typically 8-10 minutes is an average attention span.
  3. Take the time to plan your recordings. Consider the environment, i.e., background, lighting, noise, etc. and your participants.
  4. Plan ways to show things instead of only telling about them.
  5. Be energetic and dynamic.
If your lecture does not require visual communication, you should consider recording audio only to accompany a slide presentation or lecture notes. To add narration to your slides, consider using Adobe Breeze, which publishes the presentation in the Flash format. Or, simply record your audio and post as an .mp3 file with your lecture notes.

Please help us learn by sharing your experiences using video lectures in your online classroom.

Friday, January 19, 2007

OpenCourseWare Grows Up

Since MIT launched OpenCourseWare in 2001, this project has grown not too fast but firmly. MIT plans to publish course materials of all its courses online, including syllabi, lecture notes, quizzes, and so on, for everyone to use freely, yes, freely. More than 900 of MIT’s 1800 courses have been published so far. If you would like to know more about OCW, you may read The Chronicle’s article ‘Open Courseware’ Idea Spreads.

Obviously the project needs money, and fortunately, it’s supported by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. With the foundation’s support, many other institutions join MIT now, although many of them plan to release selected courses instead of all, like MIT. In addition, some institutions have their own features. For example, Yale University announced last year to have the lecture videos of selected courses online.

The other institutions working on the OCW project are: Carnegie Mellon University, Foothill-DeAnza Community College District, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Open University of the UK, Tufts University, U. of California at Irvine, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and Utah State University.

OCW can be a great resource to UHV instructors and students who work on online courses.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Title V News

We’d like to take some time this week to give you a quick overview of the Title V Grant and its current status. If you have not yet heard, UHV is working in cooperation with Coastal Bend College on a grant designed to increase enrollment on both campuses and improve distance learning capacities through three components:

  • Component I—Coastal Bend Cougar Connections
  • Component II—Distance Learning Academies
  • Component III—UHV Connections

UHV will primarily be involved with Components II and III. We won’t go into the details of Component II at this point, but this component will consist of three academies designed to help faculty improve their online courses and save time in the process. A few ‘extras’ will be issued to faculty members who successfully complete the program.

Component III is the mentoring portion of the grant. UHV students who qualify to become mentors will be guiding and motivating CBC students in an effort to close the gap between the community college and university.

If you are a student interested in becoming a mentor, please contact Robert Cortez, Title V UHV Connections Coordinator:

In addition to updates through the LTD blog, a website devoted to Title V is nearing completion. Full details of each component will be available on the site, as well as bulletins and newsletters. We plan to implement a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ (FAQ) section on the site, so if you have any questions regarding Title V or any of its components please email, or stop by UW133.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Jumpstarting Your Course Discussion Board

Well, here it is…the start of another semester online. How do you get your students involved early? Discussions should be an integral part of your online course. But, don’t wait until you dive into content-related discussions to get students talking. Instead, have them jump in with non-threatening, introductory discussions that will 1) acclimate them to the technology and 2) start to build community among participants.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Create an introductions forum/topic for your students to get to know you and each other.
    • Introduce yourself and introduce the course
    • Ask students to introduce themselves—they will generally take their cue from your post, so if you include information like family, hobbies, study interests, etc., they will likely do the same
    • Create a fun or unusual icebreaker activity, i.e.:
      • One word—students post one word (or animal, city, piece of clothing, etc.) that describes them and why.
      • Unusual fact—students post an unusual fact about themselves
      • Unusual travel story—students post a brief story about a travel/vacation incident
      • Three things—students list their three favorite…websites, people, foods, jobs, etc.

  2. Create a casual forum/topic for your students to interact with each other on non-course-related topics, i.e., “Coffee House”, “Cyber Lounge”, etc.
  3. Create a technology help forum/topic for students to seek assistance on technology issues.
  4. Create a course help forum/topic for students to post course-related questions, i.e., where do I find…? when is the test again? etc.


  1. Define expectations. Create a rubric for graded discussions identifying your expectations for quality and frequency of posts.
  2. Define conduct rules. Provide netiquette resources.
  3. Clearly state the purpose of each topic/forum, including any social or help topics.

Building an active and engaging discussion board is critical to conducting a successful online course. Stay tuned for more tips and strategies to build and facilitate interactive online courses. Please share your ideas and experiences using the comments below.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Improve Your Syllabus for Better Planning and Communication

Welcome back to UHV! It must be very hard to say Goodbye to the holiday break, but the new semester is also exciting with all the plans. One of the most important plans is the syllabus—the plan of your course, which is also the basis of the students’ personal studying plans. In this post, I would like to offer some resources or suggestions that you might find helpful when developing or revising your syllabus.

Being Informative
As standard practice, a syllabus needs to include detailed information about course content, textbook, prerequisite, instructor contact information, grading policy, course schedule, university policies, and so on.
Syllabus Checklist A pretty clear checklist created by University of Minnesota.
Writing a Syllabus The author asks ten inspiring questions on developing online syllabus. Several resources are also recommended.
Creating an Effective Online Syllabus A good article with a sample syllabus.

Being Clear
A good online course syllabus should be easily understood, accessible, and reflecting current content ("The ABCs of online course syllabi: anticipate, build on objectives, and collaborate. " Online Cl@ssroom, May 2006). A good idea is to use various font styles, such as bold, italics, or different fonts, to highlight the important information. This is especially useful if your syllabus has long paragraphs. One tip is to ask a family member or friend to read the syllabus draft from a student’s perspective, and it’s easier for them to identify the points that are not clear enough.

Be Interactive
As part of an online course, the syllabus can be interactive by using hyperlinks to link to relevant resources. The advantages are: 1) it’s easy to keep the content current; 2) the students have the opportunities to find more information by themselves as needed. "The information that may be linked includes:
· Publisher website
· Information for organizations/affiliations to course or program information
· Reference materials for weekly discussion areas
· Classical research
· Graphics
· Sound bites
· Video clips
· Photographs or slides
· Instructor’s email address"
("Interactive syllabus improves course accessibility." Online Cl@ssroom, June 2005.)

Please share your ideas and comments on developing online course syllabus in the comments area below.