It is undeniable that distance learning has grown rapidly over the past five years. With over 12 billion dollars spent on online learning in 1998 (Burgess & Russell, 2003) and a growth rate of 30%-40% per year since then (Harper, Chen, & Yen, 2004; Hurst, 2001; Newman, 2003), it is safe to say that distance education is firmly established in many businesses and universities. One well-established advantage of distance learning is that a student controls the time, pace, and pathway of learning (Burgess & Russell, 2003; Pierrakeas, 2003). This control over learning is very appealing to a user, particularly when customized or just-in-time support is readily available (Harper, Chen, & Yen, 2004). Providing effective, timely support, though, puts considerable strain on instructors and tutors, if they are available (Harper et al., 2004; Levine, 2003; Wallace & Wallace, 2001). It is challenging to provide just-in-time help because delay is inevitable. The use of e-mail or online discussion necessitates a time lag between question and response. Instant messaging systems (IMS) are another option, however, it is cost prohibitive to have instructors and tutors available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Furthermore, IMS might be limited in the type of question that could be answered – complex formulas and equations, for example, are difficult to explain using this medium.
The Role Of Educational Mini-Clips In Distance Education
Description and Examples of Educational Mini-Clips
As stated earlier, an EMC is a 3-10 minute video of an instructor solving a specific problem. Typically, the clip is similar to watching someone solve and explain a problem on a whiteboard, however, in EMCs you only see the board, not the person. The video controls (e.g., pause, rewind, fast forward) allow the user to determine the pace of learning. EMCs are stored in a shockwave format to reduce size and download time. Ideally, EMCs should be stored in a well-organized database so that users can easily search and find what they need.
Perhaps the best way to understand what EMCs are is to view them (see Appendix A). The examples in Appendix A are based on mathematics, primarily because, currently, this is the leading topic covered by EMCs. However, clips could be created for a variety of subjects and purposes. For example, most science-related subjects, with clearly defined problems, are suitable subject matter for EMCs. In addition, administrative EMCs explaining course outlines, format, design, and assignments can work quite well. In fact, as stated earlier, it appears that a majority of questions for distance learning are based on administrative and procedural problems (Harper et al., 2004).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Annotation Software: Software to record freehand when using on a graphics tablet. It is essentially like drawing or writing on the monitor.
Graphics Tablet: A device that allows a user to write on the screen using a pen. It is often used for drawing pictures, but can be used to write words and symbols, just as if a person were writing on a piece of paper.
Customized Support: Support offered when individual students have questions or requests. This is often done using email or online discussions.
Educational Mini Clip: A 3-10 minute video clip of an instructors describing and writing the answer to a specific problem, almost as if you were recording a solution written on a whiteboard in front of the class.
Screen Recording Software: This software records everything that occurs on the screen in real time. It will also record sound if a microphone is available. It is used to create small instructional video clips to guide student learning.