For the past decade I’ve added multimedia content to my lectures and presentations—both for on-campus classes and those hosted online. I’ve found that, especially in online courses, the addition of photos, graphics, and videos has transformed formerly dry, text-based instruction into a far more engaging and enriching online learning experience.
If your instructors don’t augment course material with these helpful reference sources, I recommend you seek them out on your own. I am constantly amazed at the volume of commonly accessed clips such as Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech that can be found online. They can greatly enhance your online learning experience, but just be warned—doing so can sometimes lead you to get sucked in by silly videos or irrelevant articles. Learning self-control is a key skill in taking advantage of the remarkable store of human knowledge online without the experience of looking up an hour later from your search window and saying “what the heck was I searching for?”
But I digress…the moral of this story is that it’s worth it to enhance your online learning experience by seeking out additional sources. Your first stop in any research project should be the Internet—and I recommend starting with Wikipedia. The site is often criticized due to content that can be changed at will by any authorized editor. Major battles have erupted on the site to see who gets the last word in an argument about content. Wikipedia is still an excellent place to start— and you should know not to cite it directly in your papers—but scroll to the bottom of each entry to see the reference list and then look to those sources. Some are live links to related articles posted online and other links will require you to actually visit a library and find the book.
As you progress through the modules in an online course, you can enhance the multimedia impact by keeping a second window open to search for related content. Some power users have two large displays open side by side to facilitate this multi-tasking process. Do not try to process these multiple inputs at once, as research has demonstrated that excessive multitasking leads to reduced viewer comprehension, despite what you may have heard anecdotally. Access and view each site, in turn, to expand your knowledge of the topic at hand. Treat the content in your lectures as a starting point for exploration, rather than the end. You will get far more out of your online classes in the process, but know when to turn back when you start to spend time looking at photos of LOL cats and watching “fail” videos.
Leveraging online media is just one way you can make the most of your online learning experience. Read about other helpful ideas, like better ways to communicate with your professors and your peers, and ways to better manage your time as an online student.
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