Friday, March 18, 2011

Improving Student Learning

Can screen capture improve student learning? Before we answer that let me define what I mean when I write screen capture: it is when you record all activity done on your computer screen, potentially with audio, and share it through an external website. Screen capturing is literally recording what you are doing on your computer screen and sharing it. I've blogged about my favorite screen capture freeware tool, screencast-o-matic, but there are several available to choose from. What I want to tackle with this blog post is less about how to screen capture or what resources there are; I would rather discuss what the potential benefits are. Are there benefits? That is a fair question, and my response would be there are. To be candid, I am a proponent of screen capturing in an online environment, even though I do recognize potential drawbacks, so my focus here will be to promote its benefits because I believe they outweigh the drawbacks.

Consider relying on screen captures to provide supplemental and remedial information. This will free you up to focus on higher-order learning in your discussions and assignment feedback.

Screen capturing allows you to develop course content and add your personality, personalizing the online environment for students. Having content recorded allows students to record, pause, and playback information. This allows time for reflection and contemplation.  Essentially you are creating on demand instruction that is becoming increasingly mobile.

What types of content are viable screen capture options:
  • Instruction on how to complete an assignment, or clarification over an activity, are a beginning point. Even though you have your assignments written out in your syllabus, recording the instructions and adding more detail through explanation adds another level of information for students. Besides, if you think about it when you teach on-ground you don't just have students read the syllabus and call it a day. You go over the content with them to delve deeper into the purpose of the assignment or activity, so why not do that online?
  • Demonstrate an activity, dissect an assignment, display a sequence of activities, and/or convey to students how the material threads together from week to week.
  • Review of course concepts, reading materials, and/or supplemental materials. The importance of this is that it allows you to bring in your interpretation and explanation of a particular subject and topic. At Baker students are expected to cover a fair amount of material in a condensed amount of time, anyway you can aid students in retaining essential concepts and explain how they correlate to course objectives will increase retention. Screen capturing allows you to bring your voice (literally) into the online classroom.
 The last thought on this is that screen capturing will provide some flexibility to duplicate what you may have successfully done on-ground in an online course. Recently we had an instructor interview someone via a screen capture to bring them into their online course as a guest speaker; we've also had someone create entire video sequences over how to work through college algebra equations to build a support video library. It has had a positive impact on students. With minimal technological skills you can be screen capturing and, I feel, greatly enhance the online environment.

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