Marshal McLuhan and hot and cold media.
In building a blended eLearning resource for online learning, it behoves us (you don’t get to use that word often) to take a look over our shoulders at Marshal McLuhan’s work on media in the sixties.
Radio vs. TV. We find that students are often more inclined to download course materials as an Mp3 audio filer rather than as a MP4 Video.
McLuhan had this taped. Radio is a cool medium. It does not require our total attention. For eLearning this may not seem like something we want but we have to look beyond the immediate. The Mp3 file may be listened to multiple times as the student drives to work, goes for a work out in the Jim etc.
Video on the other hand is a hot medium it requires total engagement and its difficult to combine absorbing this material with driving a car for instance.
So use video sparingly. Use it as a welcome to the course maybe and to demonstrate specific content for which it is the most compact way of presenting it.
Present it in small chunks, and if possible allow the user to alter the speed of playback.
The next piece of McLuhan is the idea that the medium is the message. And associated with it, the idea that the content of any medium is always another medium. This one plays into our practice in two ways; the first is to be aware of what we are saying by our choice of delivery system. If I prescribe the exact sequence in which you will peruse the learning content I am giving you, I may think that I am making informed and sensible choices on your behalf as to what is the most appropriate sequence in which to consume my content. You on the other hand may see it as an arrogant and inflexible set of assumptions as to just how ignorant the learner is.
The second concept here, that the content of any medium is another medium is more straightforward to apply. If my video is just me speaking, then the video content is audio. If my audio is me reading from a prepared script, then the content is text.
Maybe we are in a position to cut out some of the media middlemen.