Rich Media: Enhancing Content in Online Courses

Paul Snodgrass reports on rich media becoming a pipeline for receiving and responding to course content and other students' discussions.


For those enrolled or who are contemplating an online degree, rich media becomes a pipeline for recaeiving and responding to course content and other students' discussions. Dr. Jeff Green has seen a significant shift in online education. He witnessed these changes while pursuing a Ph.D. in...


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For those enrolled or who are contemplating an online degree, rich media becomes a pipeline for recaeiving and responding to course content and other students' discussions.

Dr. Jeff Green has seen a significant shift in online education. He witnessed these changes while pursuing a Ph.D. in criminal justice, as an instructor and while writing a new book. Online higher education has been rooted in a simple - yet boring - reading and writing presentation. It now has blossomed with the use of various media intended to keep students interested, deliver a consistent message and appeal to the numerous ways adults learn.

Courses today routinely use streaming video, Flash animation and audio clips to deliver course content. Interactivity also has invaded the once-stodgy multiple-choice quiz. When a student selects a wrong answer, learning-management software can be configured to return the participant to the question with an alternative explanation of the question and a chance to redo the answer.

Green, chief of the FBI's Leadership Development program at its Quantico, VA, academy, says rich media "tries to engage more people in the learning process. Not many people want to just read...they all learn differently. Multimedia is meant to capture the learner's attention and make the information more accessible. We use it here at the academy and Capella University too."

Green's new book Graduate Savvy touches on rich media in the online environment as its 21 chapters seek to fill a need in providing graduate students a road map for success in web-based learning. "I looked around and could not find anything that really prepared someone for an online graduate degree, so I sat down last winter and with the help of my colleagues at Capella and wrote a book," he says.

Charles Tiffin, chair of Capella's Public Safety Program, says his university has embraced rich media in delivering its online courses to provide adult learners with a variety of ways to access course content. "It's really important for us to make sure our classrooms are cutting edge - 100% of our courses are online - so we use streaming video, Flash, audio, simulations and other media components to enhance the learning experience in our course rooms," Tiffin says.

Chuck Smeby, coordinator of the University of Florida's Fire Emergency Services program, also sees the distinct advantage of rich media in the university's online delivery. "We use Flash presentations to provide short lectures to our students. You might be able to put somebody in a classroom and get away with an hour lecture, but not online," he says. The course tempo, student demographics and need for realism have driven his program far from the electronic word. A planned course will use interactive video. "We will be using webcams in one class to allow students to get accustomed to doing presentations," Smeby says. "This is important that they are able to deliver their message in a public setting as they climb the ranks."

The genesis for the University of Florida to offer a bachelor's of science degree in fire and emergency services was the lack of any such program in Florida and a pronounced need perceived by the State Fire Marshal's Office. Smeby, a retired battalion chief, sees rich media and asynchronous delivery as the best combination to reach out to working firefighters and to engage them with a variety of delivery techniques that otherwise would be impractical. In a nod to traditional delivery, Smeby adds, "We still have traditional final exams, but they are proctored by someone we select who is close to where students live or work."

For those enrolled or who are contemplating an online degree, rich media becomes a pipeline for receiving and responding to course content and other students' discussions. It has become a mainstay in the online scene, with few credible institutions ignoring some aspect the diverse media. Some of the common multimedia terminology:

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