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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Musings on Lecture Notes

Main auditorium of Regent Theatre, Melbourne, 1929Where do you post your lectures in your online class?  

Are they something you write up or recorded a long time ago that are in the content area of your course?

 Or do you write something more or less new once a week or so and pop them into the announcements? 

 Or maybe they are part of your discussion pages now?  Email? 

 There are clearly many places to put what we might have considered lecture notes back in the face-to-face world.  But what is right? And what are the implications of each choice?

I see a lot of faculty putting a weekly "Introduction to the Week's Material" in the announcement area of the course.  In Blackboard that can be emailed automatically to each student's email account.  That gives it two benefits. First, a well-written, exciting post may generate some enthusiasm on the part of the student to look at the material.  It's a place to add some immediacy to the content and to explain to students why they are spending their limited time with it. An introduction should help them understand what they have in common with the material (application even) and help them begin to interact with it.  Second, of course it's a reminder that they are in a class and that they might want to do some reading, homework, etc.   

Those are different goals that the lecture notes or videos you might have placed in a content area of a course back when you first developed the course.  Those notes are more of a map through the content; a way to further explain areas in the course where you know students may have difficulties of find particularly challenging.  They might give the students the detailed learning outcomes for each unit of the course, to help them focus their reading. This area is important.  It's unrealistic to expect students to automatically focus on the critical aspects of each unit without some assistance from their instructor.  It's not about daily communication or community building though. And it's not quite about building a relationship with the course content in the way the announcements can be.

Then there is the discussion area of the course.  This is where students build that relationship with the course content. It's where they wrestle with the details and try to fill in the missing pieces.  It's where they practice explaining the concepts and make sure they understand correctly.  Faculty do lecture here in discussions, but here it's critical to end the lecture with a question.  This is the part of the course where the student is supposed to talk back.  This is the area where instructors aren't taking to an auditorium where no hands go up. Some faculty structure their discussions in such a way that the learner is "led" through the material.  Early questions are more basic, later questions are more complex.  Or early questions cover material from early in the course, later questions (in a single thread) cover later material.  Questions bring in current events and possible applications. Students grapple with concepts in front of everyone else in the class.

Is the conclusion that your course needs all three?

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm, interesting. In thinking about my online courses, yes, I have "formal" lectures in each unit accompanied by mini-lectures delivered in a variety of locations depending on the topic and audience. When you break it down, these are very similar to the kinds of "lectures" you might provide students in a f-2-f class, and I don't think I ever considered them "lectures" until now. . .