A four credit-hour graduate math course relied heavily on the use of prerecorded videos, with an instructor working through problems on a white board. The videos were decent, but sometimes the equations became a little difficult to read. We felt the recordings could be vastly improved by using visual aids, and injecting some humor.
Everything the instructor wrote on the white board was transcribed to a set of PowerPoint slides. These slides were then synchronized with the video, such that the final presentation was viewed in a side-by-side format, with the video displayed on the left, and the newly-create slide images displayed on the right. The slides were built piece-by-piece, so that, as an instructor wrote on the board, the corresponding text or equation appeared in relatively small parts.
During the development of these slides, a concerted effort was made to inject occasional humor into the slides as well, sometimes through caricatured figures with call-out boxes which contained witty remarks pertinent to the lecture.
After the lectures were revised, students were surveyed about the new lecture format. Because the conversion project began after the term was already underway, students were able to compare the two formats.
69% of the students responded that the new lecture format with video aids improved the course either "significantly" or "immeasurably." The humor was well-received as well, with 64% of the students indicating that using humor improved the course, more than double the 28% who felt neutral about it. Of the majority who felt the humor was a welcomed improvement, more than half of those reported that the humor "helped me perform better in the course." Only one respondent indicated that the use of humor was "distracting."
Overall, the end-of-course survey ratings showed a vast improvement over the previous DL offering of the course.
By having an empathetic view of the students' task at hand - namely, having to view a full academic quarter's worth of technical material on line - we were able to make the lectures more "watchable," thereby retaining interest in both the material and in the course. Participation in weekly synchronous activities seemed more active as well.
We found this to be an effective way to keep students more engaged, and improve the conveyance of information, without putting undue burden on the instructor.
One individual who can create the slides and synchronize them with the presentation. (This is a time-consuming task, yet not an overwhelmingly difficult one. It's certainly not beyond the capability of a student employee or intern.)
Some kind of software that allows manual synchronization of images and video is required as well; several such products are available.
The cost of hiring an intern or staff member for the conversions; plus, the cost of the software (if the campus does not already have such software in its inventory).