Monday, August 13, 2012

What we can learn from online education

I recently watched a talk on online learning by Daphne Koller of Stanford University  on TED: Ideas worth spreading.  Her brief presentation outlines the revolution in online learning being pioneered at Stanford and other institutions.

I love this statement by Koller:
"We should spend less time at universities filling our students' minds with content by lecturing at them, and more time igniting their creativity … by actually talking with them."

A few major points made in her presentation:
1. Online methods of course delivery are cost effective in delivering high quality educational experiences to millions around the world that otherwise would not have access to such education.

2. Online methods of education, when used appropriately, can be a lot more effective than the traditional lecture methods.

3. Online learning can teach more people more effectively with far fewer faculty and lower infrastructure costs.

4. We can use what we learn from online education to improve how we teach and how we learn by using a data-driven approach.

But she says all this in a more interesting and arresting way than I can, so take a few minutes to watch her video below.

When you've finished watching it, you may asking yourself this question (as I did):
Why do so many colleges and college faculty hesitate to experiment with and exploit this electronic revolution in education?

Want to learn more? 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Handling bullets safely

Recently, I was involved in reviewing a large of number of PowerPoint presentations created by professors (and a few professors in training) and found that there were a few folks struggling with some basics in using bullet points effectively.

For example, some professors don't even use bullet points to present a series of concepts.  Instead, they use either a paragraph or an unformatted list of sentences.  A list of key terms or phrases formatted as bullet points works much better in sketching out ideas for listeners as you talk about them.  But if you're not experienced with PowerPoint, or similar tools, then you may not realize that.

A few who were using bulleted lists were not effectively using indented levels to graphically organize concepts in a way that helps students see how it all hangs together.  Again, experience and training can help professors apply these principles that make their presentations much more effective.

To help out, I've created this 25 minute video show both basics on how to make bullet points and a few tricks on making bullet points more effective.  The second half of the video shows a bad example of a slide and then walks you through several tricks to fix it up into a much more effective slide.

This next video shows you how to animate bullet points so that they appear one at a time.  If have several different points on one slide, it is sometimes more effective to reveal them only as you get to them in your talk. If they all come up at the beginning, your students are reading ahead and not staying focused on your point.

Related blog post:  
Are your students dodging bullets?