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Learning by Design: Go Beyond Performance in Educational Video

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In my last column, I encouraged colleges and universities to kill the lecture. In its place I called for video presentations that are more like performances, less like recitations. But effective teaching is more than performance.

While many of the best educators are indeed great performers in the classroom, they call upon a host of other approaches to engage students in the learning process, rather than simply talking at them.

This has come to be called learner-centered teaching, where the emphasis is not on what the teacher does, but what the student learns. In particular there is a focus on what a student does while learning, targeting learning outcomes. These outcomes are what a student knows and, more importantly, what problems she is equipped to solve in the real world as a result of finishing a course.

This is relevant in any type of structured learning environment, not just a typical school classroom. It should be clear how a focus on learning outcomes would be important in professional continuing education or in enterprise learning, where employees need to be trained and certified on new skills.

Learner-centered teaching has become especially pertinent in the move to online learning where some or all interaction between teacher and student is mediated by courseware. This comes into play in what is called instructional design, the process by which all instructional elements in a course are designed and brought into alignment.

Many video producers who have worked on online courses may have worked with a professional instructional designer whose job it is to assist a subject matter expert in creating a new online course or adapting an existing on-the-ground course for the online environment. If you’ve worked with an instructional designer, you may have been privy to some of that design process, and perhaps even asked to participate.

I can say for myself that working with skilled instructional designers has been an illuminating experience that has greatly influenced my approach to video production, whether or not I’m producing for a specific course. As a producer it is easy to get immersed in the ideas you want to communicate and lose sight of what you want the viewer to come away with. Having an understanding of instructional design and the principles of learner-centered teaching will help any producer keep the viewer’s experience at the forefront, no matter the genre of video.

Any video professional working in an educational institution or enterprise learning organization would be well-served by learning some instructional design principles and practices. Even if you have the advantage of working regularly with instructional designers, becoming more versant with these skills will empower you to bring additional value to course production, in addition to enhancing other productions.

Driven by growth in distance and blended learning, a significant amount of research has been invested in instructional design and crafting best practices. Many colleges and universities now offer courses, certificates, and full-fledged graduate degrees in instructional design and online learning. These can be great opportunities for professional development.

If you work for a K–12 school, college, or university, your institution may already be a member of an online-learning consortium. I suggest checking with your school’s central educational technology group or teaching resource center to see if you can access resources from groups such as the Sloan Consortium or a statewide organization. The Sloan Consortium, in particular, offers conferences, research publications, and a certificate in online teaching.

Those working the enterprise can look to groups such as ATSD (American Society for Training & Development), which also offers conferences, courses, and certification opportunities.

Video professionals working in schools or learning organizations are educators. When we embrace this role and sharpen these skills, we help our organizations create better students and employees. Importantly, we then take charge of our professional development to enhance our own careers.

This article appears in the October/November 2013 issue of Streaming Media magazine as "Learning by Design."

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Attention Colleges and Universities: Kill the Lecture!

Lectures are outdated, ineffective, and just plain dull. Online video is ready to take over, delivering information in a far better way.