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About a week ago I assisted a colleague (JM) to complete a synthesis of the literature on rich media learning. For the purpose of this literature review 'rich media learning' was taken to mean the digital recording (audio and video) of teaching through centrally supported systems which enable learning objects to be fully integrated within the learning management system and other types of study materials. Notably, the intention was to go beyond the dominant paradigm of merely using the technology for lecture capture purposes.
The review was undertaken within a tight timeframe and was in the context of a major business case to expand the digital recording of teaching and learning at Massey University. Key snippets from the Executive Summary include:
• Digital recording of rich media (mainly lectures) is commonplace in many universities.
• Although the recording of lectures can reinforce traditional forms of teaching, there is strong evidence that students want rich media, and use it when it is available and well integrated within the teaching and learning experience.
• That said, students need help to effectively incorporate rich media into their learning and help to relate it to other resources and activities. It can even be counter-productive to effective and efficient learning when used as a standalone resource.
• The most frequent use of rich media is currently to provide a digital recording of what happens in a lecture. Research suggests that recording traditional lectures adds relatively little pedagogical value to the student learning experience. Indeed, there is some evidence that this type of media rich learning can actually increase student workload and lead to more passive forms of learning.
• Innovative case studies illustrate how staff can use rich media to provide active learning for students such as providing feedback on student presentations, allowing students to interact with the rich media so they can share summaries and have further opportunities to discuss and ask questions.
• Put simply, the real value of rich media learning depends on how it is used by staff and students. The principles of effective teaching apply to the use of rich media learning and the digital recording of content should be fully integrated with other learning experiences, particularly the learning management system.
• Ideally there should be a follow up activity which relates to the digitally recorded content so that students are required to engage with the material in a manner that is constructively aligned with the learning intentions and course assessment. In other words, rich media must be fully embedded in course design rather than ‘added on’ to an existing paper as an optional extra.
• Most effective use of media rich learning is when recorded content is packaged as small learning objects or nuggets which have been carefully edited or selected to scaffold the student learning experience. Such objects also have the advantage of potential reuse in related courses.
• The pedagogical benefits of rich media learning depends on the way it is used by staff and requires appropriate professional development. In addition, some teachers are resistant to digital recording due to ethical and professional concerns. Therefore, it is essential to support digital recording initiatives with appropriate policies and procedures.
• An increasing abundance of rich media is now available for learning and teaching as open educational resources (OER). Some of this material is high quality content and more universities are actively promoting the use and repurposing of OERs rather than investing in producing their own rich media.
Within the body of our synthesis we identify many of the methodological problems with research in this area, including potential Hawthorn Effects and the danger of relying on research funded by key suppliers. A list of publications that informed the synthesis appears at the end of this posting but one of the most valuable reports in this area comes from Maree Gosper and colleagues in a study funded by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council. Entitled The Impact of Web-based Lecture Technologies on Current and Future Practices in Learning and Teaching the report comes to the following conclusions:
• Students appreciate the flexibility in access and support for learning - staff have concerns
• WBLT have contributed to a blurring of the boundaries between internal and external students
• Introducing WBLT will change lecture attendance patterns and may raise questions about the role of lectures
• Using WBLT demands changes in the way students learn and teachers teach
• Introducing WBLT is more than a teaching issue – it will affect the design of the whole curriculum
• Introducing WBLT has professional and organisational development implications
In the conclusion to our own report we acknowledge that research in this area lags behind the technological innovation, as evidence takes time to accumulate. The fact that students appear to value rich media cannot be ignored. However, there is a need for further research to identify how digitally recorded rich media enhances the quality of teaching and influences student learning outcomes. In this regard, the key to effective rich media use is student engagement and future research should focus more on this dimension as opposed to latest technical innovations in digital recording. While the technology has an important role it is how it is used by teachers (and students) that will influence the benefits for learners. With this last point in mind we conclude that investing in staff development is essential to increasing the quality of teaching that leads to increased student satisifaction and outcomes for learners. No surprises here as this point remains a salient lesson about the effective use of any new digital technology for educational purposes.
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Chandra, S. (2011). Experiences in Personal Lecture Video Capture. Ieee Transactions on Learning Technologies, 4(3), 261-274. doi: 10.1109/tlt.2011.10
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Craig, P., Wozniak, H., Hyde, S., & Burn, D. (2009). Student use of web based lecture technologies in blended learning: Do these reflect study patterns? Paper presented at the In Same places, different spaces, Auckland. http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/auckland09/procs/craig.pdf
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