Microlectures = Big Learning Opportunities

Microlecture is an unavoidable buzzword in instructional media as of late, but a justifiable buzz for many reasons. Microlecturing fits with the new classroom strategies of "flipping" and blended learning. From a technical perspective microlecturing is a sustainable and scalable method to create videos that can be modularly used as you build course content over time.

The Flip

Taking the repeating face-to-face / homework sequence and inverting it is becoming more prevalent in university classrooms. John Overmeyer at the University of Northern Colorado provides a great summary of what flipping is:

It is called the flipped class because the whole classroom/homework paradigm is "flipped". What used to be classwork (the "lecture") is done at home via teacher-created videos and what used to be homework (assigned problems) is now done in class.
(via John Overmeyer, Educational Vodcasting – Flipping the Classroom)

Further information is found in The Flipped Class Manifest.

It’s difficult for many educators to imagine stepping off the lecture stage and giving things over to the students. I would contend that there is still some information that is best, or at least more efficiently, delivered with a lecture, a story, or a performative demonstration. The new perspective that Overmeyer explains is that the lecture portion of a class can deliver important, however unidirectional, content in a video or "vodcast" rather standing in front of a live class. The face-to-face time is then recovered for more engaged, student centered activity that can be guided by the instructor.

There are some benefits for both the students and instructor:

  • Lectures can be viewed at any time and multiple times as needed.
  • Recording the lecture allows the instructor to incorporate content that may be difficult to use in the classroom such as videos shot at locations that you would not be able to take the students to.
  • Recorded lectures can be significant aids for students with a wide variety of cognitive and physical disabilities.
  • The instructor can reuse lectures from semester to semester. If a lecture can be reused then more time and effort can be spent on prepping new and more timely content. One course on our campus has a "refresh" cycle in which the core lectures get redone every three years. Each year the instructor only rewrites and rerecords five of the fifteen video lectures. This means the content stays fresh and a reasonable number of video lecture updates are tackled each year.

Why Are Microlectures the Key to Flipping?

Many instructors lecture for fifty minutes because the schedule in the timetable says fifty minutes. Is the decision on duration based on good pedagogy or on the logistics of moving students through our buildings in an efficient manner? What is considered a "lesson" may only require five minutes of explanation or demonstration. What often happens is that the instructor will throw multiple five to ten minute lessons into a fifty minute class – up until now there hasn’t really been any other option to deliver the lessons. With microlecturing those lessons can be discretely packaged and offered to the students via the network.

For the instructor, the creation of a 5-10 minute lecture is a lot less effort than sitting down for a full hour.

Learning Nuggets

Microlectures can capture these five to ten minute learning nuggets and then publish the recordings within the learning management system (Compass 2g), YouTube, a campus media service, iTunesU, or all of these places. These nuggets allow quick and direct access to a particular topic without having to review full length class recordings. These shorter lectures will download or be delivered more quickly to the student. Less waiting means more viewing!

The microlecture offers flexibility in the mixing and matching of flipped lecture content. The instructor can repackage the videos by putting the microlecture nuggets together with some sort of "glue" that provides additional context. The "glue" can be instructional module creation tools within the learning management system, a blog with descriptive text between clips, even quick webcam interjections between the microlecture content.

On-the-Fly Microlectures Before and After Class

By utilizing desktop, laptop and tablet based recording tools the creation of these short "glue" videos can be a quick task and often done on a moments notice. With a one-time setup of a workflow the instructor can create and distribute microlectures nearly as quickly as sending an email.

The quick recording may also be distributed before a face-to-face meeting to prepare the students for what to expect, what to have ready, augment existing online microlectures, or explain any changes in the syllabus. Video created and published after face-to-face meetings can be used to answer hanging questions, clarify a fuzzy topic or provide feedback on the work in the previous class meeting.

Think Small and Create Big Opportunity

Creating microlectures should be thought of as an additive process; small pieces making contributing to the larger whole of the course. Certainly some content will need to be replaced over time, but many topics will have a multi-year shelf life. By not recreating microlectures every time they are used today’s efforts can be spent on new and more engaging content. The ultimate goal is to create a large media resource pool that can benefit your flipped, blended or traditional classroon.

About John Tubbs

John Tubbs is a team member of the Digital Media Group and eText.illinois digital textbook platform at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Since 1987 Tubbs has worked in the instructional technology field in k-12, higher education and as a private sector consultant. Parallel interests in audio and other temporal media combined with his focus on classroom innovation; both leading him to a strong commitment to accessible technologies. Over the past 15 years at UIUC Tubbs has been part of many pioneering efforts in new media and online learning in the areas of online audio/video and now digital textbooks. Currently he works as an embedded instructor bringing media production and digital storytelling into a variety of disciplines, and as a digital textbook managing editor for faculty authored content.
This entry was posted in ATS News. Bookmark the permalink.