Posted by: char booth | 21 October 2008

fast-forward.

A colleague forwarded this from the Wired Campus newsletter:

Students Watch Lecture Videos in Fast Forward

Some professors report that when their students are reviewing class materials, the students speed up online recordings of lectures and zip through hour-long presentations in as little as 30 minutes. Sure, their professors sound like chipmunks. But the students say they can absorb the information faster than the professors deliver it.

The latest academic to note the trend is Jan Philipp Schmidt, manager of the Free Courseware Project at the University of the Western Cape, in South Africa. “At the University of Taiwan, students watch calculus lectures between 1.6 and 2 times faster than they were recorded,” he wrote on his blog, Sharing Nicely, summing up comments he had heard at the recent Open Education Conference in Utah. Someone from a university in the Netherlands reported that students like to play videos at double speed, he wrote, “and someone from MIT said the same was true for users of MIT OpenCourseWare.”

In an interview with The Chronicle earlier this year, Al Ducharme, assistant dean of distance and distributed learning at the University of Central Florida, said that many students there speed up lecture videos so that they can watch a 50-minute lecture in about 35 minutes. “The information is coming so slowly, but students today can absorb the information much faster,” he said.

Should professors consider speeding up their acts? —Jeffrey R. Young

I find this a bit surprising when I consider my own experience with classroom instruction – slow down has been at the top of the list of student feedback, and I have worked for years on better pacing. Does this fast-forwarded content only lend itself to lecture and/or review contexts? Is it easier for students to absorb material quickly (or even in general) when they know they have the option to back up, and how does this affect retention? When demonstration is added to the mix, does their ability to absorb sped-up information diminish? Are students speeding through screencast tutorials as quickly, and should we be giving their actual viewing pace greater weight as a design concern than we do currently? Interesting questions.


Responses

  1. I am intrigued by audio/video playback software that lets you set playback speed somewhere between 1x and 2x.

    Reading media is a skill, and some of us can do it faster than others, ok. So is reading lectures in-person a different skill? I haven’t puzzled out why, but I think it is.

  2. I totally agree, and I think it’s a skill that is starting to obsolesce as more and more instructional content is available in a form that can be replayed, sped up, or otherwise customized. It strikes me that having that do-over cushion and/or more control over instructional delivery really changes the way one interacts with content.

  3. Properly absorbing a page long math theorum via media and absorbing the news or watching a popular tv series(just as a comparison) are quite different. Sure there may be students, there will be students, who can do this, but i think we are talking aboot the minority here. My guess is most people who race through a 50minute lecture in 35minutes want to go home 15minutes earlier. The test would be then to ask people for a summary of what they’ve just raced through. On the other hand, i could be way off base here. i have not sat in a classroom for years and years, and maybe it is the case that the lectures, live or recorded are just painfully slow.

  4. thanks for your insight. i don’t think you’re off base at all, and i think to some extent your point about fast-forwarders as simply wanting to go home early is dead-on. in terms of retention, however, i think it might be interesting to see consider whether it is actually negatively affected. the way i see it, when students have the ability to pace up a painfully slow lecture they have discovered a novel way to not have to endure being bored by it. engagement is a critical aspect of information retention, so another way to think of it is that essentially students have discovered a way to manage an unengaging learning environment by effectively eliminating the amount of time they would have dozed off, checked out, or daydreamed in a traditional classroom. fast forwarding through lectures can be interpreted as the digital equivalent of skimming a textbook, a skill any faculty member will likely tell you is essential to making it through mountains of assigned reading. in skimming text you train yourself to see the salient parts of the argument and avoid the chaff, which is what i hope students are similarly able to do by managing their own lecture pace. either way you slice it, this aspect of distance learning gives students far more control of when and how they receive the information that was once totally controlled by instructors.


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