Faculty Spotlight

Darin Detwiler, an instructor in the RFA program, shares a look at his online lecture videos and provides his own tips and best practices for creating engaging lectures.

The Instructor:

Adjunct Instructor - Regulatory Affairs of Food and Food Industries

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The Lecture Video: 

The challenge:  My challenges were some that many instructors face while teaching online courses: connecting with students and covering a large amount of material (in my case 100+ years of history, geography, politics, economics, and social aspects of the changing food industry in America).

How did you solve it?  First, I set a foundation for how we would look at the content and kept repeating the four main Social Science Perspectives (Geographical, Political, Economics, and Social) as we went through the topics.  Second, I used the virtual lectures as a tool to capture their attention and push their existing knowledge further.

EDITING: For capturing their attention/interest, as well as their desire to see what was next, I used computer editing to place my lectures in different places, such as inside a lunchbox, inside a 1950’s TV Set, working inside a fast food restaurant drive-through window, and to even create my own menu-themed list of dates.

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LOCATION: Seeing as these students were in different locations, I chose to film in different locations to support the topic of discussion, such as inside a real U.S. Navy submarine to discuss the Cold War, inside a real diner to discuss their history, in D.C. at the Capitol Building to discuss legislation, and in front of a (replica) old spice ship to talk about early importing of foods to America.

screen shots 2 Location

 GRAPHICS: I used graphics as organizational tools or to highlight a point with real, primary evidence, such as actual images of newspaper articles, acts of Congress, or other documents, graphic organizers for main points, or even graphs for economic discussions.

screen shots 3 Graphics

What was the result? What made it a success?  I believe it was a success.  I could tell by the number of views on my videos (on YouTube) that some students were watching my lectures more than once.  Also, the feedback from students via emails or discussion board posts reflected on interest generated, the impact of humor, the help students found in the graphics, and even comments such as “I have heard of that document before, but have never actually seen it until your course.”  Students expressed eagerness to see my next video and find me in a new location or situation.  Students found the organization to be consistent and helpful.

Best practice recommendations:

  1. Think of virtual lectures not as a task, but as an opportunity to showcase your teaching at its finest moment.
  2. Feel free to explore interesting or even eye-catching locations for filming.  I grew tired of filming in front of a blank living room wall by the second video.
  3. Remember, learning – especially online – is a visual exercise.  Also, many young learners grew up with technology in many forms.  If video games provide more visual stimulation and interest than a virtual lecture from a great university, then why would students choose to dedicate more time to watching videos for a course?
  4. Online learners who have families and full-time careers made the choice to give a part of their day to learning from us.  We owe them the best, most thoughtful, captivating, and organized use of that time in our videos.
  5. Explore the resources available to instructors at the university or from other sources.
  6. Have fun – if the instructor cannot find the humor or anything interesting in the videos, then how will the students?

Any additional tips or tricks youd like to share with other faculty teaching online? I could not put the large amount of time and energy into every video.   Some were better than others, but I tried to make each one memorable.  Also, I worked with a person who had more video editing skills than I did and we had a great time.  We even learned new tricks along the way.