Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A review from the Online Educator Symposium

If you couldn’t attend the Online Educator Symposium on August 27, you missed 34 presenters with some awesome information for the online learning environment. Dr. Stankey kicked it off with some animated opening remarks to inspire us, and for the next seven hours faculty, staff and students presented in workshops what has been successful for them in the online classroom to enhance the online learning experience. Our keynote speaker, Dr. Ron Carriveau from University of North Texas fed us some food for thought on assessment and measurement to use in the classroom that was effective and amazingly easy to understand.

I led a workshop on how to navigate through the murky waters of utilizing sights and sounds in the choppy sea of Blackboard. I thought I would re-cap some of the information that seemed to be important to the attendees of the presentation.

First, consider the goal of the lesson or concept that you feel would be improved upon by using a visual or audio file. Non-text items can go a long way to improve upon the text you provide, but one size does not fit all – there are many reasons a picture or diagram will have more impact than a video. Once you have decided on a delivery mode, let’s look at how to get the most bang for the buck.

Images appear larger on the monitor than in real life! Somewhat like your side-view mirror in the car, images on the computer monitor seem to supersize when we insert them into an application. Even though you can resize them with the sizing handles in many applications, this does not make the file size smaller, and we are many times placing a large file where we could easily get the same performance with a fraction of the file size. Use a simple photo editor that is already on your computer such as Paint, or you can use the tools in PowerPoint to reduce the file size and make opening the files easier and faster for your students.

Audio files are usually not a problem if they were produced on your computer to begin with or if you are linking to an external site where the files reside. Most audio files are compressed to play on the computer and use technology that does not require an extended download time. If you have a file that was not created on a computer and needs to be converted to a user-friendly format, there are many audio convertor programs available to use on the Internet, and I can help you decide on one that is right for you.

Video is where most folks get into trouble with large files and uploading and downloading issues. Or the other common issue is in not knowing how to find material to use that is acceptable and meets copyright compliance. With the ever expanding reach of the Internet, I am constantly amazed at the resources that are freely available for users to use free or link to. Sites like YouTube, TeacherTube and TeachersDomain are great sites for educational resources, free for anyone to link to for extra material. Video solutions are many but still confusing for the majority of the population. Video production from the desktop has come a long way with free applications like Jing, a tool that allows you to narrate screen captures from your desktop and post to a free account for your students.

We are always happy to help explore possible solutions to your audio/visual questions. Please email or call our office for more information.

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