By Amy Erickson
Dr. John Orlando’s article in the September issue of the Online Classroom newsletter got me thinking. In his article, “Applying Neurology to Online Videos,” Dr. Orlando shares important advice about maximizing the effectiveness and retention of material from online lectures. Even though many of us are accustomed to hour-long lectures, online students are not. It is easy to get excited about presenting material in an online lecture and, in the process, overwhelm students with too much information. Dr. Orlando (2016) recommends that we keep online videos short and focused on one to four ideas to improve retention of the material (p. 1). With that in mind, it may be preferable to create four five-minute lectures than one 20-minute lecture. If instructors create mini-lectures, each lecture can focus on a specific point students need to understand. So, instead of a literature professor going over plot, theme, point of view, tone, and characterization in one video, each topic can be addressed in individual mini-lectures in order to enhance student comprehension. If all of these topics are presented at once, students may only remember one or two points from the lecture and their subsequent work could suffer.
Many have heard of or recommended the SQ3R reading strategy. SQ3R stands for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review. The first part of this strategy encourages students to survey the material they are going to read and turn the headings into questions. Dr. Orlando’s (2016) article reminded me of this strategy in that he suggests starting video lectures with what he calls “framing questions” (p. 2). Students may listen more attentively if they are looking for answers.
Paying Attention to Content
Students may also pay closer attention if they think they will have to turn around and teach the content to their peers. In one discussion forum, I assign students the role of the teacher. They are asked to conduct library research on a specific piece of literature and teach the class something new about the piece or the author. This is a great exercise for several reasons. Students want to impress their peers, so they try to seek out material from scholarly sources from the online library. (I love it when students use the library!) This exercise also opens the students up to alternate meanings and helps to contextualize the literature in question. For example, once students understand that Maya Angelou was a black woman raised in the segregated South, her poem “Caged Bird” seems more about the institution of slavery and less about parakeets.
Alice Cassidy has a wonderful video in the Mentor Commons section of the Magna Publication website called How Can I Enhance Class Using Story, Popular Media, and Objects? Cassidy (2016) takes this teaching strategy a step further and recommends that students collaborate to create narratives, engage in debates, or perform skits to present material to the class. This is a wonderfully creative way to help students retain important content.
I often tell students to let me know if they have questions about a topic or skill because they are likely not the only one in the class with such questions. I then offer to create a personalized lecture addressing their specific question(s). This approach shows students that you are willing to take the time to help them master the material. Such effort on my behalf has resulted in stronger assignments, improved communication, and a helpful environment that can prevent students from slipping through the cracks.
What Do You Do?
If you have suggestions or strategies for helping students retain information from online lectures or online content, please share them here. I look forward to collaborating with you to ensure student success.
Orlando, J. (2016, September). Applying neurology to online videos. Online Classroom. Retrieved September 1, 2016, from http://www.magnapubs.com/newsletter/online-classroom/?ET=magnapubs:e2013:1156877a:&st=email
Cassidy, A. (2016, September 1). How can I enhance class with using story, popular media and objects? [Webinar]. In Magna 20-Minute Mentors. Retrieved from http://www.magnapubs.com/mentor-commons/?video=3162
About the Author
Amy Erickson will be contributing to Faculty Connects each week, covering ideas and issues discussed in the Magna Commons Online Classroom series, an extension of the Distinguished Faculty Webinar series discussions we have been having over the past year. She encourages you to join the conversation! Amy has been an instructional faculty member teaching liberal arts and humanities courses at Excelsior since 2012, and has been a Distinguished Faculty Award nominee for the past two years. She is an avid reader and animal lover who enjoys cycling and practicing Vinyasa yoga (not simultaneously) and is working on a project to provide fresh, organic produce to her neighbors in need.