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As in sport, so in fiction

From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Start Writing Fiction FutureLearn MOOC from The OU

I’ve struggled on two and three week MOOCs but like hundreds, even thousands of others I am entering the penultimate week of eight weeks studying with The OU on the FutureLearn platform. I’ve said here often that I wished I’d done the Creative Writing BA and if this taster is anything to go by I would certainly have done so … but money has run out, if not the time I give to these things.

Besides writing fiction this has been the best example of many of how collaborative learning online has a significant future. It makes much else redundant; some courses here at The OU need a shake up now, not in five years time. The ‘presentation cycle’ of 8 to 12 years will need to be halved to keep up. I no longer want the traditional distance learning course of text books and DVD, even if the text and the DVD is put online. It has to be designed and written again onto a blank canvas: migrating books and video, even interactive DVD to the WEB completely misses the most valuable part of being online – interaction with others. Putting content online simply saves someone on distribution costs – not a saving that is passed onto the student.

In 1999 I was expected as a Producer to migrate DVD content to the web. It didn’t bandwidth for images, let alone video, made it redundant, let alone the spread and layout of content. It’s the kind of transitionary phase all industries go through. Suddenly the old way we learn is looking like the cart and horse, with first e-learning efforts looking like the horseless carriage. In due course hybrids will give way to something new.

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Pen and ink drawing class at the Jerwood Gallery, Hastings

Fig.1 Chair and shade

It was like being back at school: though the ratio of 15 women to 3 men felt like I’d gate-crashed the girl school’s class down the road; I was educated in all male schools from 4 to 19. Of the 15 two were under 20, two were under 30 and the others above 60 and 70. No difference. Just like school. I recognised this swimming with Masters that given any opportunity to be the child that we were we are.

My relationship with art is an odd one: a mother who taught art, had an MA from Durham University in Fine Art, but who discounted at as a career for any of her children. I took it as far as A’levels (under her tutelage).

In 90 minutes we has some history, so thoughts on kit, then we got on with it. I found a secluded spot in the central courtyard (Jerwood Gallery, Hastings). And picked first on the climbing plants on a wall, and then the chair I’d taken out of the class. My challenge was to look at different ways of adding shade. Eventually I found that changing from pen to cotton balls and ink would differentiate between the object and the shadow. This’ll take further work.

Other learning opportunities over the last few days have included:

Power Boat II (Refresher)

It is eight or more years since I did the course and seven years since I’ve been in a power boat. A bit of it came back. And new stuff was added. I need this so that I can operate a ‘rib’ during ‘racing week’ at the local sailing club: laying the course, keeping an eye on the fleet to rescue and assist. The sea can be choppy, the winds strong. Dinghies go over and their mast can pin them to the shallow sand and grit of Seaford Bay.

How to train a pigeon

In her wisdom my daughter has rescued a pigeon with a broken wing. The RSPB and animal sanctuaries aren’t interest. ‘Ralph’ is now accommodated in a garden shed; shits everywhere but is eating from my daughter’s hand. Muggins will be looking after it shortly of course. The volume of pebble-dash shit is impressive as every shit is onto a fresh patch of shed floor – it will be one shit deep, like a carpet by the weekend.

Graphic Design

The exhibition on the designer Ivan Chermeyeff at the De La Warr is so good I’ve been back three times. There is no book on this exhibition, though many of his books are nailed to a table to admire (the page it has been opened at), with a few books you can browse. There is an insightful video too – an interview with the designer talking about how he got into fine art and graphic design from an inspiration father. One of the things he talks about is ‘learning to see’. Had photography not been banned I would not have got out a pad of paper and looked more closely at his collages. Had I not taken such a close look I wouldn’t have seen, with magical surprise, that one was made from ephemera collected at the inauguration of JFKennedy as US President on January 20 1961.

Don’t make it easy

Fig. 1 Some ideas from the Ivan Chermayeff ‘Cut and Paste’ exhibition at the De La Warr, Bexhill

As photography isn’t allowed instead of moving from the gallery with my iPhone or camera clicking at everything and anything that caught my eye I was obliged to get out a sketch pad. Just as Ivan Chermayeff says in a exhibition video ‘most people don’t know how to see’.

We risk making everything too easy with e-learning: photos, screengrabs, instant research, transcripts of video, video as audio only or highlights or summaries thanks to others.

The above ideas were for:

a) A School of Visual Arts talk he was giving with a colleague

b) Arthritis – with letters torn from a type font catalogue and jumbled around

c) Mother and Child in modern art – a signal Magritte or Matisse like cut out.

What I would have missed entirely, and I do it no justice here, is a collage of tickets and seating allocation to the inauguration of John F Kennedy on the 20th January 1961. (Before my time, I’d been conceived a few weeks before at a New Year’s Eve party. Not even I can remember that far back).

Fig.2 Sketch of an Ivan Chermayeff collage/poster using bits and pieces from attendance at the inaugurations of US President J F Kennedy

Animation of the glaciation of the North of England

The Great North Museum: Physical Geography of the North East of England animation. 

Online vs. Face to face Learning

I’ll add notes here as the differences between the online and ‘traditional’ learning experience dawn on me as I do the two in parallel. Actually there’s a third comparison I can make – that of L&D which the other week included something neither of the above formats offer – ‘learning over a good lunch!’

Time Management

The ‘traditional’ seminar or lecture forces your hand somewhat – you have to be there. Many these days are recorded, though mine will not be. I’m inclined therefore to take either a digital or audio recorder along to record these things. I have, just a couple of times over three years, got behind with the online course as I kept putting it off.

Travel … and the associated cost

It’ll be around four hours door to door once a month. This means getting up at 4.30 am. Not of course something someone in full time tertiary education needs to do. Off peak, unless booked well in advance it’ll cost £74 return … £24 if I stick to exact trains. The last train home was heaving. I could and did ‘work’ the entire journey whereas home is a constant distraction.

Eating on campus

Lunch I may have to take with me as the campus only had premade Spar sandwiches at every outlet. A jacket potato or pasta would have been better.

Nodding off

After lunch I did something I last did in double Geography on a Friday afternoon. I sat at the back, cupped my hands over my eyes as if in deep thought … and fell asleep.

When to put in the hours

Something, however common to many people on any part-time distance learning course is ‘the early morning shift’ – putting in 90 minutes or so before breakfast.

Library Services

While this and other support services are offered to us on our VLE it was invaluable to to have a person run through it as a presentation in person. This kind of stuff should be given a linear expression … a mini-module for newcomers and as a refresher. All I’ve done, two years after the event, was a webinar.

Where does corporate video production fit in our digital world?

 

Fig.1. Where does corporate video fit in a digital world?

I’ve had ample time to reflect on this. If you’d like me to talk it through just. I’ve used this to present a couple of times now. There are plenty of opportunities out there – just listen, integrate and look for ways to get your audience to sit forward and take part, rather than sit back and nod off.

 

Why two sensory modes are often better than one when creating e-learning of something complex

Fig. 1. A powerful video can get the learner’s attention – keeping it takes a different kind of skill

Too many companies are currently touting software that can take a 45 minute lecture and package it in a form that makes in bite-sized and tagged – butting it through the Magi-Mix, diced. I can’t say it will necessarily improve or add to the learning experience, though I do like to stop start, rewind, play over, repeat, take notes … go back to the start.

The definitive research on use of audio and text to enhance effective learning was done in the 1990s and published in various papers starting with ‘When two sensory modes are better than one’ (1997).

Worth the read and written with the multimedia world that was then emerging in mind. 

By then I’d already spent a decade in the industry but was lucky to be in a production company that was using first Laser Disc then CD-ROM and DVD to create content – more importantly the senior producer had a postgraduate degree in interactive design from Lancaster University so we weren’t just shooting video for the sake of it. Usually integrated with workbooks, then interactive, blended and part of a programme of study. Often highly technical for the nuclear power industry, then utilities, NHS, banks and motor industries. Video can work in 5 seconds … or in 15 minutes. Sometimes a running length of around 10 minutes would play once various shorter components had been introduced in different ways.

It takes skill and thought to get it right – we’ve all heard of ‘Death by Power Point’ – we used to try to avoid ‘Death by talking head’

These interviews should be used with care – what you want is the voice over explaining actions as they take place with text superimposed where the action takes place – even captions and subtitled can cause a cognitive split, increase mental overload and diminish the effectiveness of the learning experience.

REFERENCE

Tindall-Ford, S, Chandler, P, & Sweller, J 1997, ‘When two sensory modes are better than one’, Journal Of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 3, 4, pp. 257-287, Psyc ARTICLES, EBSCO host, viewed 30 October 201

How long should a piece of video be? How long is a piece of string – an inch or a mile – both work for me


Fig. 1. Fighting for breath – part of a corporate training series aimed at practioners and patients to create greater understanding of what it is like to be an asthmatic. Drama documentary.

Some times 10 seconds is too long for a video – while ten hours doesn’t even start to do justice to the speaker or theme.

I wouldn’t give extreme views the time of day, on the other hand, I would listen to everything Mandela had to say for nours. Horses for courses.

Stats lie – they certainly require interpretation. When do peole turn off or tunein to a piece of AV, whether a movie, TV show, video or slide show mocked-up in PowerPoint. ‘Death by Powepint’ start for me in this first second.

Research from the Open University shows that people decide whether to continue watching a piece of video in under 35 seconds. This is not the same as a 45 minute lecture from an expert that is required as part of a formal course – though there should always be a transcript. Personally I work between the two and replay if there is something important.

My 35 seconds video? A party balloon is blown up by someone with breathing difficulties. The words on the balloon gradually appear – ‘The Cost of Asthma’ – the professionally composed and perfomed music tugs at the heart strings and a professional broadcaster says some pithy words.

My 35 hour video?

Interviews with some if the greatest thinkers alive in the planet today. Vitally, especially online, as producers we offer what is a smorgasbord – the viewer decides what to put in their plate and whether to eat it – and whether to stuff it down or take it in bite-sized pieces.

You had might was well ask ‘how many pages should there be in a book?’ or ‘how many posts in a blog?’ It depends on many things: context, budget, goal, resources, subject matter, audience, platform, shelf-life …

The brilliance of well produced video in e-learning – from Open Learn at the Open University

20121015-075140.jpg
All links here : http://www.youtube.com/course?list=EChQpDGfX5e7DDGEQvLonjDQsbclAF2N-t

The brilliance of the OU team two years ago produced the History of English in Ten minutes – here we go again with ten one minute long animated vignettes on the great ideas and great thinkers in economists. Had I seen this as a 17 year old perhaps I would have stuck with a subject that I dropped after a couple of months in favour of History. I like narrative and personalities, indeed storytelling in the form of a biography is an excellent way into a subject – you relate to the person in the story and you get an easy and appealing introduction to the topic.

Getting this right takes skill – a clear brief, excellent script, high production values (artist, animators, voice over) throughout and of course a budget that makes it possible. A minute at the top of a piece of e-learning isn’t too much to expect is it? If, in this case, the video serves its key purpose of attracting those interested in economics to a Free Open Learn Course.

How long should a video be? A bit like saying should a book have one page or a thousand?

Fig. 1. Fighting for his life – part of a corporate training series aimed at the emergency services and utility companies to create greater understanding of the need to report incidents as they occur.

Some times 10 seconds is too long for a video – while ten hours doesn’t even start to do justice to the speaker or theme.

I wouldn’t give extreme views the time of day, on the other hand, I would listen to everything Mandela had to say for hours. Horses for courses.

Stats lie – they certainly require interpretation.

Is a minute or ten minutes of video too much or too little? When do people turn off or tune in to a piece of AV, whether a movie, TV show, video or slide show mocked-up in PowerPoint? ‘Death by PowerPoint start for me in this first second.

Research from the Open University shows that people decide whether to continue watching a piece of video in under 35 seconds. This is not the same as a 45 minute lecture from an expert that is required as part of a formal course – though there should always be a transcript. Personally I work between the two and replay if there is something important.

Who needs the research? You can tell intuitively if what you are about to see is of interest or not?

My 35 seconds video? A party balloon is blown up by someone with breathing difficulties. The words on the balloon gradually appear – ‘The Cost of Asthma’ – the professionally composed and performed music tugs at the heart strings and a professional broadcaster says some pithy words.

My 35 hour video?

Interviews with some if the greatest thinkers alive in the planet today. Vitally, especially online, as producers we offer what is a smorgasbord – the viewer decides what to put in their plate and whether to eat it – and whether to stuff it down or take it in bite-sized pieces.

You had might was well ask ‘how many pages should there be in a book?’ or ‘how many posts in a blog?’ It depends on many things: context, budget, goal, resources, subject matter, audience, platform, shelf-life …

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