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