Monday, October 7, 2013

5 transferrable tips

Rexi Media founders Dr. Carmen Simon (formerly Carmen Taran) and Danielle Daly  are experts on the science of memorable presentations. They recently shared one of their presentation decks on Slideshare. It's an A to Z look at the subject.

I looked it over because I've attended online webinars that Dr. Simon has delivered and always find the helpful and enlightening. Since I may have to do a webinar someday, I thought I should take a look at what she has to say here. 

It occurred to me as I made my way through the slides, that though intended for people making in-person or webinar type presentations, there are some points that are relevant to online course content built with HTML as well. Here are a few...

"People remember content better if they contribute to it in some way."

Face-to-face or online, this point applies. So, how do you allow your students an opportunity to contribute to the content of your course? If you don't do that now, how might you?

"Present from where they are, not where you are." 

This is not a new concept from a teaching perspective. Check out Chapter 3 in How People Learn by Bransford, Brown and Cocking. You can read it online at They point out the value of building new knowledge on what students already know and can relate to.

"The more you invite them to participate, the more memorable the content, because they will remember content over which they have ownership."

Simon makes this point she makes under the letter K, "Know-it-all," where she makes the point that "there are few absolute truths," so let your audience make contributions to your materials. Think about ways you might be able to do this in your course -- face to face or online.

"Attention drops significantly after the first 10 minutes… Vary the pace and format to re-set this starting point."

This is particularly relevant to instructors using video online. I've heard about some instructors who post an entire 2 hour lecture video online for students to watch. That's deadly. Even face to face, it's really hard to maintain a high level of attention to one person speaking without any variation for that long. Think about ways you can break up the information so that something surprising or out of the ordinary happens every 10 minutes or so. The surprise should relate to the content you're presenting and should enhance the learning point being made -- an interesting but little-known fact, for example, or the way a thing looks at a certain stage of development. If you use clickers in your classroom, a quick check for understanding could be the break you need. In a Collaborate session online, a quick survey can accomplish the same thing. The possibilities are endless.

"The audience will forgive you for sub-optimal design, if you offer relevant content that means something to them."

Before you can create content that is meaningful to students, you have to find out what that is. (Refer back up the page to the point about starting where your students are). What are some ways you find out this kind of information now? No doubt your approach with a small class of 20 people differs from what you would use for a large 150+ class. 

I've addressed only 5 of the 26 points made in the Slideshare. So check it out and see if it doesn't trigger some more ideas for you. 

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