Posts tagged ‘online learning’
The Boston Globe reports that 2 adults sharing a hotel room and eating 3 meals spend, on average, $606 a day in New York City. I go there often for business and have no trouble believing this. There was a book, published in 1964, called New York on $5 a Day. My interest is not inflation or travel costs, but book titles: what a compelling title! And much better than New York on $606 a Day. A search for “New York” books brings up Not for Tourists 2008 Guide to New York City and The Best Things to Do in New York City: 1001 Ideas. Not for tourists – but I am a tourist! – and if this is an insider’s guide then do natives read it? 2008 in the title reminds me that I need the new edition, and, if anything like car models, 2009 will be available well before 2008 ends. 1001 ideas makes me hyperventilate – a few good ones are all I need.
When I was in high school, a friend gave me Mathematics Made Easy, which was one of the most inspirational books I ever read. I saw this book recently in a church bazaar, and thought about the title, which refers to the topic, not the reader. Now the For Dummies series offers numerous math books, as does The Complete Idiot’s Guide. I ended up a math major in college: could Math for Dummies have similarly inspired me? The titles of these new books refer to the reader, not to the topic.
In this age of Oprah’s Book Club determining what sells, I wish we could return to book titles that neither insult nor overwhelm the reader. But then what about course titles? I teach a course, “Online Consumer Health”, previously “Online Health Communities”. My primary motivation for changing the name was that one of my students last fall told me he signed up for the course not knowing what an online health community was.
What if course titles tried to grab you, like book titles, but still remained descriptive? I could rename mine “Online Consumer Health: How to Design and Evaluate Health Web Sites” or “How People without Medical Training Use the Internet for Health Education and Support”. One of my favorite courses in graduate school, “Software Engineering”, could be renamed “Software Engineering: How to be a Systems Architect and Play Office Politics to your Advantage”. Maybe these are a little wordy, but they are certainly descriptive and attention-grabbing.
Online courses, of course, have the same problem but more so, since there may be less context when a student isn’t on campus. A perusal of online course titles showed that titles like “Business Writing 101” are still in vogue. How about renaming it “Business Writing for Clarity and Managerial Praise”? I will say that I have seen a few online courses with intriguing names: Trump University has courses called “The Trump Way to Wealth” and “How to Start a Business on a Shoestring Budget”. These are certainly compelling and descriptive names and also briefer than my examples above.
Sometimes a juxtaposition is more powerful than a mashup. This morning I was at a public high school and later at a private school. While I was at each for different reasons, I was struck by the talent and devotion of the people at both schools. While I don’t know their salaries, compensation to attract and retain teachers and education support professionals is lower in the US than in other countries and lower than comparable professions. Teaching for many, myself included, is a labor of love and a chance to use one’s skills and knowledge to help others. Because of this juxtaposition I find myself wondering what triggers this devotion in people and what causes them to flourish in their profession, albeit in the very different environments I was in today. (The mental mashup here, by the way, was trying to understand the impact of salary after reading a press release about the Economic Policy Institute’s new study.)
Online teachers and adjunct faculty are typically compensated less, and have less prestige, than other teachers. While online teachers may have fewer advising or administrative responsibilities, they work very hard, sometimes harder, than teachers in the classroom because they have to master technologies and be available more hours. I wonder not only what triggers devotion in such teachers but what causes it to whither and even dissipate – and what role compensation plays in this.
Ten reasons podcasts don’t work for education are:
- It is faster to read than to listen to text.
- It is difficult to skim a podcast (fast-forward can sometimes be used) while most people skim text and carefully read the parts that interest them.
- It is easier and quicker to reread text than to replay part of a podcast.
- Interesting passages of text can be highlighted or, if online, copied into notes.
- Text can be illustrated.
- Most people, when driving, working out, etc., do not have the concentration to stay focused on an educational podcast.
- When a podcast is of high quality and slickly produced, it seems like entertainment, especially when it starts with music.
- When a podcast is of poor quality, the background noise or pauses and speech fillers are annoying to listen to.
- It is easier to get into a flow state when reading text because you are less likely to be multitasking.
- Deeper learning, as Don Norman says, “takes time and thought”, and it is harder to have deep thoughts when listening passively or when multitasking.
I developed this list after talking to some of Jared Spool’s students, who sent me an e-learning scenario centered on the use of podcasting. While writing this, I listened to a podcast that Jared made, just to make sure that my list was accurate. Part way through, my son called and I dropped off his cleats and then stopped at the track and ran because it is a sunny day and I had been sitting too long. When I got back, the podcast was still playing. Voice can convey nuances that text does not, and Jared is an entertaining speaker, but I prefer text and am unlikely to ever make podcasts for my students.