Week #13 Reflection: Using Rich Media Wisely

The two using rich media wisely concepts that I want to focus on for this weeks reading reflection of Resider and Dempsey’s Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology are:

  1. The cognitive process of learning
  2. Visual design principles
  1. Improve learning by using relevant visuals to illustrate content
  2. Design relevant visuals based on their functional properties rather than on their surface features

At work I provide leadership, support and maintenance of several key Web sites utilized by prospective and newly admitted college students. I also preside over the campus Web users group. One of the goals in communicating via the Web is to engage students, assist them in creating connections to our institution, guiding them through the process of choosing a major that supports their career goals, evaluating university services holistically, and ultimately applying, being and admitted and enrolling.

Podcasting, as we all know, has been gaining a lot of popularity as a rich media communication tool: we can have audio, audio and pictures, or even video. We have a small learning community of professionals who are learning how to use podcasting to help students to learn about campus services, connect with the diverse community, and transition to a collegiate environment.

By considering the cognitive learning process when developing podcasts we can build a simple checklist to evaluate if the rich media being creative is effective. For example, a checklist could include the following questions:

  1. Attention – does the podcast have a clear focus and message, or are there more than one or two key points being communicated? If the message is overly complex, the attention of the viewer will be confused and distressed…resulting in an ineffective connection.
  2. Activation of prior knowledge/encoding – is the message being delivered presented with language and concepts that a high school student would be familiar with? If the message is not free from jargon — or a conceptual bridge related the jargon to something else familiar is not presented, then the viewer may not be able to connect to the information effectively.
  3. Transfer of learning – does the podcast refresh or relate new serialized episodes to previous content (e.g. “last time we were talking about ‘x’ as it related to financial aid…’y’ is also important)?
  4. Management of learning – does each podcast have a clear message, are there tracking statistics that show visitors revisiting previous episodes, how are the long term traffic/viewing patterns related?
  5. Motivation – is there actionable information presented in the podcast? Is there something the student could do each time — like visit a landing page that provides notes about the topics covered as well as links to more detailed information? Is the tone of the podcast upbeat and energized?

Each of these characteristics associated with the cognitive learning process could assist a group to produce a successful podcast series.

The visual design principles also can contribute to a well developed podcast. A podcast should be designed to deliver the right kind of supporting information. Creating a slide show with audio narration or a video podcast for the sole sake of having a visual that the designers think would be fun is not an effective design process. A video podcast should have imagery that is relevant to the message being communicated. For example, if we were wanting to demonstrate that the campus has a vibrant and engaging community with lots of activities, then a video showing bronco bash, very quick impressions/endorsements by student attendees, a football game, the band, other social clubs — these are relevant images that support the message. Simply having students vocalize that they like the campus and that it is vibrant does not strongly support the message. Talking heads on a podcast is video for the sake of video — it is not engaging, and does not draw in the audience.

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