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Traditional University Lectures Online

I started writing this post as a review of a particular website that provided recorded lectures of real in-class instruction, but the pros and cons below apply generically to the entire category and so I expanded the scope a little to cover all of the ones I know of.

Before the great MOOC movement, before the founding of Coursera, edX, and Udacity – some Universities actually did just video tape their lectures and post them online for free. These could be accessed through iTunes U, OpenCourseWare, and even right on Youtube. Not only is the content still there, colleges and universities are still actively recording their lectures and posting them online. OCW reports over 22,000 online courses in their database. I’ll do a post just on that site someday soon.

I do wish this was available when I was in school. Imagine being able to review all of the class lectures just before an exam. Instead of reading through a multi-hundred page book to extract the relevant information, one could just watch the entire semester in a single night and hopefully be prepared to answer questions. This additional resource is changing on campus education as much as MOOC’s are affecting those of us not enrolled in school.

I will warn you. The information can be a bit dry compared to video specific content. The audio is often better for MOOC courses, as well as the professor’s focused attention on the camera. In person, students often have access to other learning materials (i.e. books, assignment handouts, etc.) that the professor refers to and you are left wondering what you’re missing. Some of the live video is taken up with logistics (i.e. the professor’s office hours for the following week). The MOOC video can be edited, broken into chapters, and long pauses can be edited out. Photos and videos can be added (green screen) to better explain the topic. These are all things that are hard to do when delivering the course live.

I have yet to successfully make it through a traditional lecture online. I attempted to go through Stanford’s iOS App Development course on iTunes U, and made it through almost 2 weeks of videos before the temptation to quit finally won. It’s not the same as being in person, and it’s not the same of proper video-focused instruction.

But as technology improves, and the video recording becomes more important and not just a camera in the back of the room, these videos will improve too. I bet the 2013 edition of the iOS App Development course is way better than the 2011 version. Experience just makes people better at this.


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