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February 03, 2005

Distance Learning - Is Streaming Lectures "good-enough"?

In Simplifying the Recording and Streaming of Instructor-Led Presentations, James Dias writes that most College and University faculty don't have the expertise to develop truly effective and exceptional instructional materials.  Institutions can either hire expensive teams of instructional designers and multimedia developers, or they have to resort to Plan B.  

Plan B is recording and streaming the classroom lecture as-is - a technical process that re-uses the classroom format for distance learners.  He argues that doing simple lecture-capturing for distance learning isn't as good as doing custom instructional media, but it's more accessible to most schools and most students.  ('Course, he works for a company that sells classroom-capture stations, so he'd naturally be positive on that.)

But he inadvertently brings up a key point - that classroom capture as a way to replace in-class learning will eventually relegate lecture-style learning to being a commodity.  If most students aren't really physically present, then you don't need 37 colleges in Massachusetts all doing their own version of Accounting 101. 

On the other hand, institutions that create and distribute best-of-breed original content (especially advanced-level content) will maintain (even increase) their relevance in the market.  Other winners? Eeducational institutions that have classroom and distance learning techniques that add value above and beyond the lecture, such as:
  • unique lab environments, 
  • case-method teaching, 
  • or other experiential learning.
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