Cathy Moore has created a (partially) narrated presentation highlighting some of the points that Kulhmann has made in regard to the use of Audio enhanced presentations for online learners.

They both make valuable points; I know that I am definitely someone who reads ahead of the presenter. I think there are infact two things that we have to consider.

  1. Effective use of presentational tools when there is a face to face audience.
  2. Effective use of presentational tools when the audience is at a distance.

There are some overlaps – the points that both raise about the fact that most audience members read ahead, while the presenter is discussing particular points. So, Kulhmann’s example of the way cells work for mobile phones is good. That’s something that it’s quite hard to get over in text – an animation makes it much easier to understand. I know that I’m guilty of poor powerpoint usage. I often use the bullet points – and then expand on them. Finding relevant images / animations isn’t easy. There is also the thought that students want to have the notes [aka key points] of the lecture for reference/ to catch up etc. (Indeed, I have just requested a set of slides for a lecture that I missed). Should the Powerpoint slides really serve as a summary of the lecture, or should they be something else – to trigger the imagination – to get students to start to create ideas or whatever.

The point, however, that both raise about the fact that most people read faster than they can listen doesn’t apply in the same way in a face to face setting. You can’t fast forward the lecturer though you can, in most cases, press the “pause” button to request further clarification – something that isn’t as easy in an online (asynchronous) lecture.

Online students have slightly different needs. They can’t use the “pause” feature of a live lecture – but they also have (assuming it’s given to them) the option to fast forward. Both Moore and Kulhmann point out the difficulties of not allowing that option.

Equally, as several of their commenters have noted, there are accessibility requirements that mean that just audio with out the transcript isn’t appropriate (nor, for that matter, should text without audio be appropriate. Not everyone finds reading easy).

I’m not sure that I know what the answer is, I do know, however, that they have given some really good examples of using audio effectively, and it’s something that I need to really look at.

Via: Stephen Downes

4 thoughts on “Audio and Online Learning.

  1. I have given this very subject a great deal of thought before. I have found that both audio and video are like spice in a recipe: a little goes a long way. In my experience, a long audio or video allows the student to drift as you are losing interactivity. We developed a free online learning system at where anyone can teach on any subject they are passionate about. We encourage course creators to emphasize interactivity. Text predominates, but generously sprinkle the entire course with images, short audio when it really helps, short video when it illustrates something that requires motion, links to other sites for later reference, downloading notes, etc. In short, keep the student working with the material and engaged. I invite you and your reads to come by www, and use our platform.

  2. Thanks for the plug. One of the points I make when I present in person is that there’s a lot of latitude in creating courses. For example, your point about students wanting the slides for notes is a good reason to consider more text.

    I also get a lot of feedback from people who don’t like the “cognitive load” stuff and prefer the bullet points. I think they think that the screens lack info for them to digest.


  3. @Steve
    Thanks for the link, I’ll have a look. Much of the online learning that we do tends to use computers for the communication side of things, and we try to have as much content as possible in text books, so in some ways online presentations are a pretty small part of what we do. But it’s something I worry about when I do use them!

    Do you think that the feedback who don’t like the cognitive load stuff is because they really prefer bullet points – or it’s because that’s what they’ve grown used to powerpoint being?

  4. Emma, thanks for your thoughtful contribution to this discussion. I wanted to fast-forward several lecturers in school, and I think that’s one reason why I like (well-designed) elearning.

    I agree that it’s hard to find visuals to replace bullet points on PowerPoint slides. One possibility is to use fewer slides that have the visuals that you were able to find, then to provide a detailed handout or PDF with the presentation notes. That way your presentation can be more visually or possibly emotionally appealing, and the students get more detailed notes than bullet points would have provided.

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