A Case For Asynchronous Learning

One of the things you might have noticed about EGJ is that we don’t cover video conferencing very much. The truth is – there really isn’t that much to cover. Most video conferencing news is about better quality video or better connections. Which is pretty cool – but there is just not much more to say about that. Not to mention that this is also news about expensive products that we can’t afford to buy. For me personally, there is also another reason I don’t cover video conferencing very much: I don’t believe they have much of a place in online learning.

Sure, for making a presentation or lecture from a distance, they can be great. To me, active learning is the way to go for learning in general, so presentations and lectures should take up as little class time as possible. Students should interact, in my opinion. Some feel that video conferencing tool is also excellent for interaction. I would disagree with that thought. I feel that asynchronous learning methods are better for online learning.

To me, one of the weaknesses of online synchronous meetings is time. Synchronous meetings always have an extremely limited time factor

Is Active Video Really Viable For Online Learning?

I was just in a meeting about an online video option for some courses. The basic concept was that the classroom course is recorded, and then made available for students online. This and video conferencing seem to be the two big commercial ventures for many companies in online learning.

The meeting was the most recent in a string of meetings to try and get around several problems with this system. This is true with so many active video options in online learning. I say “active video” to refer to things like video conferencing and recording lectures to offer online. Passive video would be things like embedding a YouTube video, or embedding some other video in your content – something that doesn’t change often. Those may not be the best terms for that – I just made them up on the spot.

I am all for passive video – as long as it is well-thought out and universally accessible no matter what O/S you are on or what browser you use. YouTube has the best option in this area – even though Viacom may be killing YouTube’s effectiveness.

I’ll be honest with you – I am not a huge supporter of active video usage in online learning. Maybe if you use a good video podcast (vodcast) service such as SpringDoo – maybe. Video conferencing tools and video archiving tools are very problematic at best. Bugs, recording errors, technical issues, accessibility issues, and compatibility issues abound. Not to mention quality issues (you have to decrease quality just to get something to play decently over broadband speeds), computing speed issues (takes a pretty monster machine to play a video AND do, well, just about anything else), connectivity issues (just have Hi-Speed doesn’t mean you’ll get high speed connectivity for the entire hour or two of a conference), and a whole list of other issues.

Now, I realize that it was only a few years ago that putting audio online had many of the same issues – but then there were those giant leaps forward that made online audio a viable possibility. I just don’t see anything happening down the pipe that will solve online active video issues. IMHO, I personally see online virtual worlds as a better option for synchronous meetings.