I’m going to out some colleagues on the defensive here, but c’mom, if you are going to use video for online course materials, for our sanities sake, DO NOT SIT THERE AND READ TO ME. Talk to me. Show your passion, your interest, your humanity. Don’t point us to video of a head talking into a camera reading stuff I can read elsewhere. What is the value?

I’m talking you, the folks over at the Mother of All MOOCs (thinking of additional words to insert after “Mother”). C’mom Martin Weller, I have seen you do genius video mashups, but why are you sitting there on your video camera more or less monotoning to me what is in the web text? C’mom, this is the trailer for your session, where are the car chases and burning buildings?

And Stephen Downes, you are extremely forceful as an in person speaker, why the bleep are you doing teleprompter duty? Does this make you more austere?

The issue is, when you ask people to submit video responses, what you start with is what they are going to emulate. Are these the kinds of videos you want people to do?

Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

One might think you had never seen a funny cat video.

It’s what I was trying to get at a few posts back in talking about Sterile Professional Videos in the Era of YouTube. If this course is about digital technology, education in 2011 why are you doing videos in a style of 1970?

Talk to us. Show some passion. Excite us. Motivate us. Inspire us. Challenge us. Use Media. Heck, at least talk via a stuffed animal.

If you ever need a difference between the Mother of All MOOCs and the Godfather, just pick any video from ds106. Even Dr. Oblivion had more character.

Stop freakin’ reading to us. I’m slipping into a coma out here.

It’s 2011.

Post Script On reflection, I am regretting this post, but its out there. Sometimes you miss the mark on blog posts (or many times). This one comes off a bit childish.

I did not want in any way to snarky downplay the efforts of the Change11 folks- it is a lot of work none of them are getting paid for. And I certainly did not want to throw snark to Martin’s way, especially for what he is doing in the area of Open/Digital Scholarship.

Yes, it takes some more work to make video, and it is a new form for many people. I think though, if we are going to use video, it should be done as good as possible, and as something that goes beyond the other content. I did mean to give some credit Dave Cormier’s way for the explanations his videos provide, which are more than him talking.

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An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as @cogdog@cosocial.ca


  1. Wow. This is well said, and hopefully will be well taken. Teleprompter duty killed me. I will share this with my fellow faculty, and encourage them to wear wigs, not just on camera, but at ALL TIMES.

  2. I find it interesting that folks who I have seen in the classroom, folks that are dynamic instructors, want to read a script on camera for inclusion in online courses. I wonder to what extent that has to do with the ephemeral nature of the f2f classroom – what happens there evaporates when the class is over. Video, on the other hand, persists, and might get mashed up, made fun of, recontextualized, etc. and as such is a more vulnerable prospect.

  3. I wonder to what extent familiarity with the medium has to do with the quality of the artifact (for the average faculty member I work with, not for any specific examples above). That is, I’m not sure many people who might be including video in their online classes are necessarily entirely comfortable with the medium. This is where something like one of the many “x every day” project that gets folks into the habit of creativity in whatever medium – photography, audio, writing, video – might go a long way to helping folks find their voice. Speaking from personal experience, I found that getting on the radio was at first awkward and stilted, and over time felt more natural and familiar.

  4. Thank you for calling the question on the talking heads. I agree with you 100%. I have adapted to the talking head videos by only listening to them. By converting the experience into a purely auditory one I find it less offensive. Frankly, nobody, not even Downes, looks attractive 10″ from a webcam.

  5. First of all, thank you for the compliment. You think I’m reading from a script, as though from a teleprompter? In fact, I’m making it up as I go, doing these videos without a script. So if I’ve managed to get to the level of ‘teleprompter quality’ thus far, I’m pretty pleased.

    I know, it would be nice if I were able to do better videos. I’m doing my best. I won’t yell and shout the way Jim Groom does. It’s just not my personality. I don’t do car chases and burning buildings. And I don’t have a lot of time. I do do some interesting stuff – this, for example http://blip.tv/play/AYK0wEUA.html and this http://blip.tv/play/AYKb4AkA.htm but they take forever to do.

  6. It could be worse. It could be a damn Voki. I hate Vokis. They sh*t me no end. Vokis are inane.

    I made a couple of videos. If I have a drink they are generally better. I need to loosen up. Forget the paranoia.

  7. It’s a fair point. Actually, like Stephen I wasn’t reading a script but making it up as I went along. But yes, it’s not a big trailer is it?
    I want to do a post about one of the problems with moocs is that you do them in your spare time. I dic this in the 5 minutes spare I had before going into a meeting which went on until 9.30 in the evening. And the stuff I’ve prepared for the mooc isn’t as experimental as I’d like because I’ve had to do it in odd snatches of time in the evening. So maybe there’s a good argument for this being something that is more part of the day job. I’ll explore this more in a blog post.
    In my defence, this vid is me being chatty & fired up – it’s about as exciting as I get.

  8. I appreciated the honesty of this post. One reason you see so little video from me: I’m just not very good at it, particularly when I’m doing it one-way rather than as part of a synchronous conversation.

    Of course the only way to get better is to practice, so I certainly don’t discourage anyone from working at it (though I’m not sure “reaching teleprompter quality” makes any sense at all).

    The bottom-line question has to be: would this be just as effective as an audio track? If so, just make it one and then you can accompany it with a nice photo that GNA would appreciate.

    What I applaud here, though, is some honest open critique where you weren’t feeling it. We don’t have enough of that inside a number of communities (and too much in places outside of them).

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