FDR the TA and more online teaching fun

Written by: Spencer Greenhalgh

Primary Source: Spencer Greenhalgh

In my last post, I shared a peek into my adventures recording videos for an online course. It’s easy for online classes to become sterile and impersonal, so in the instructional team I’m on, we feel that it’s important to include videos, since they provide some semblance of face-to-face contact.

The problem, though, is that very few people watch our videos. For example, one video that I contributed to the course nearly a year ago only has 5 total views, despite the fact that about 100 students have been through the course during that time. In a recent meeting, my colleague Josh Rosenberg wondered if we were having a problem similar to the airline industry. We all know that it’s important to pay attention to the pre-flight safety video (or presentation), but we also know that we’ve got more interesting things to do and that we can probably get by without paying too much attention.

I like the approach that Delta has taken to deal with this problem. The Delta video I’ve put below has all the necessary safety information, but it’s also chock-full of clever gags, weird visuals, and (my favorite), a Star Trek shout-out:

So, by cramming these interesting things into their video, Delta is essentially rewarding those who do choose to pay attention. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that it’s certainly worked for me! So, could it also work for the videos in an online course?

Well, this semester, we’re certainly giving it a try. For example, we recruited former US president Franklin Delano Roosevelt to do one of our module introductions…

… and, well, we did some other tricks with dubbing that we hope will catch students’ attention:

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Hi there! My name is Spencer Greenhalgh, and I am a student in the Educational Psychology and Educational Technology doctoral program at Michigan State University. I came to Michigan State University with a strong belief in the importance of an education grounded in the humanities. As an undergraduate, I studied French and political science and worked as a teaching assistant in both fields. After graduation, I taught French, debate, and keyboarding in a Utah private school before coming to MSU, where I plan to study how technology can be used to help students connect the humanities with their lives. I have a particular interest in the use of games and simulations to promote ethical reasoning and explore moral dilemmas, but am eager to study any technology that can help students see the relevance of studying language, culture, history, and government.