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