Entries in Online Theology Class (1)
This is an announcement—sort of. Maybe it would be better to call it an update on my current major project.
The video excerpt above is from the first lecture of Introduction to Theology—Part 1.
I’ve been working hard during the past three months on two new classes for Eduplex Ministries. (http://eduplex.org/)
- Introduction to Theology, Part 1: Background Issues and Method
- Introduction to Theology, Part 2: A Survey of the Major Christian Theological Traditions.
The goal is to get these classes online this fall.
Putting these classes together has involved turning my Study/Office into a production studio. I have been regularly filmed on Tuesday nights since May. A friend from church has felt the call of God to help me. Although he has not funds to donate, he has a great amount of experience in video production and has volunteered his time to videotape my lectures for the first class. It has been a great learning experience for me, a learning experience with a steep learning curve (which I am still climbing). Although I have lectured for in person for many years, lecturing to a camera is very different than lecturing to a live audience.
I never imagined how time consuming the process could be. Despite teaching this material for twenty plus years, I still had to prepare scripts for each lecture, edit them, practice, record, re-record, edit the finished lecture, divide the lecture into bite sized pieces (usually 1-3 minutes) and then save each piece in a new format!
While most of the filming for the first class is done, there is still a lot of work to pull together surrounding material that will support the videos. This includes graphics, reading, and assignments that will be appropriate for the online format, but will not leave the student to his or her own devices.
The second class has been recorded on audio and meshed with the appropriate PowerPoint slides, then produced for web distribution. This class too still needs the supporting material pulled together. Each PPT slide will have its own web page with the supporting material.
A live lecture involves a dynamic interchange between the teacher and the students and there is a symbiotic energy that gives life to the lecture. This is absent in lecturing to a camera. Excitement has to be generated from the lecturer alone. Then there is the question of style of lecture—should it be conversational, like talking to an individual, or should it be more like a classroom delivery with wider gestures and more voice projection? I am still searching for the “right” balance.
There is also the demand for “perfection”—it is one thing to misspeak, stumble or grasp for an elusive term in a live lecture, it is quite another to do so when it is being recorded for posterity. Thankfully much of the misspeaking can be rerecorded and the mistakes edited out, but it can still involve many “takes” that get frustrating and tiring. This is followed my many hours of editing.
In the 1960’s Marshall McLuhan made his famous distinction between “hot” media and “cool” media . He observed that radio, film, lecture, and photography are hot media since they involve considerable stimulus. Structurally they tend to be sequential, linear and logical. On the other hand, cool media such as television, seminar, and cartoons tend to be detached, i.e. they provide considerable stimulus with little involvement.
I have discovered my project involves taking hot medium and delivering it through a cool delivery tool—video via the internet. The constant tension? Keeping the interest of the student since there is no live interactive format. I foresee that this will be an ongoing learning experience in communication for me in the digital age.
My goal is to put the classes that I have taught for so many years into an online deliverable format.