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Is it live or is it Memorex?

By Lisa Neal, Saul Carliner / September 2005

TYPE: OPINION
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One of the most touted benefits of synchronous learning technologies is the convenience of joining a "live" online session regardless of where participants are located. That a session can be archived for replay is stated as another distinct advantage of these technologies. Recorded seminars are now hyped as if they deliver the same experience as the live sessions---or, in some cases better, since they can be viewed at any time.

While live sessions may be viewed as less convenient, we believe they deliver significant benefits not found in recorded sessions.

Live sessions are compelling in three ways. First is that a live speaker is far more engaging---the inevitable "ums," "ahs," and pauses notwithstanding. A recorded session can be edited to remove flaws, but a live session offers authenticity. Second is that other people have joined the session and generally participants can see who else is there. Finally, participants can interact with the presenter and with each other. Even though many people don't avail themselves of this opportunity, the fact that the possibility exists shapes the learning experience.

Authenticity, presence, and interaction are not often touted as pedagogically necessary for learning and retention. However, with technology-mediated learning, these attributes, individually or collectively, often make the difference between a learner who is engaged and one who is half-listening while doing something else.

Visiting a museum to see original artwork is less convenient than viewing a reproduction, but the experience of being in a gallery with others viewing an authentic work of art is compelling and memorable in its own way. A play or concert may be improvised or flawed in contrast to a movie or audio recording, but the authenticity can make these uniquely potent experiences stay with an audience for years. A textbook can impart clear and concise wisdom, but the lack of engagement is what drives people to take courses with professors who can discuss and illuminate course readings.

This reminds us of the old advertisement for audio tape which asked: Is it live or is it Memorex? As regards online learning, it doesn't really matter whether Ella Fitzgerald's recorded voice can break a glass like the real thing. What is important are the conditions under which people learn best and retain the most.



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ADDITIONAL READING

    Saul Carliner
  1. Designing and developing e-learning projects
  2. Long Live Instructor-Led Learning
  3. Lisa Neal
  4. Degrees by mail
  5. The Value of Voice
  6. Predictions for 2006
  7. Five questions...for Shigeru Miyagawi
  8. Five questions...
  9. Five questions...for Larry Prusack
  10. Five questions...for Karl M. Kapp
  11. Music lessons
  12. Learn to apologize for fun and profit
  13. Advertising or education?
  14. Of web hits and Britney Spears
  15. Predictions for 2008
  16. Serious games for serious topics
  17. Back to the future
  18. Predictions For 2003
  19. "Spot Learning"
  20. When will e-learning reach a tipping point?
  21. Q&A with Saul Carliner
  22. "Deep" thoughts
  23. The stripper and the bogus online degree
  24. Five questions...for Tom Carey
  25. Learner on the Orient Express
  26. Five (or six) questions...for Irene McAra-McWilliam
  27. Q&A
  28. Do it yourself
  29. Predictions for 2004
  30. Storytelling at a distance
  31. Talk to me
  32. Q&A with Diana Laurillard
  33. Online learning and fun
  34. Everything in moderation
  35. eLearning and fun
  36. The basics of e-learning
  37. Five Questions... for John Seely Brown
  38. 5 questions... for Richard E. Mayer
  39. How to get students to show up and learn
  40. Blended conferences
  41. Predictions for 2002
  42. Learning from e-learning
  43. Q&A with Don Norman
  44. In search of simplicity
  45. Five Questions...for Christopher Dede
  46. Want better courses?
  47. Designing usable, self-paced e-learning courses
  48. Just "DO IT"
  49. Senior service
  50. Formative evaluation
  51. Blogging to learn and learning to blog
  52. Predictions for 2007
  53. Not all the world's a stage
  54. Five questions...for Seb Schmoller
  55. Do distance and location matter in e-learning?
  56. Why do our K-12 schools remain technology-free?
  57. My life as a Wikipedian
  58. Five questions...for Elliott Masie
  59. Five questions...for Lynn Johnston
  60. Five questions…for Matt DuPlessie