I had no idea how much free education there was on the internet. It’s amazing. This week I originally thought I would try out a course on the Open University UK site, and found a cool lesson on desert ecology. While I appreciated the in-depth information and the subject matter, I realized I wanted to look at something more interactive, perhaps with video and sound elements (even though I will keep the Open University site as a reference).

Instead, I cruised through some of what is offered in iTunes U. In previewing many different podcasts and vodcasts, I noticed that a lot of what is offered in iTunes U are either audio or video recordings of university lectures. While this can definitely be valuable, that’s not totally the direction I wanted to take with my e-Learning site. I want to do something more with motion graphics, video, and audio.  That’s why I was pleased to find a course by a PBS station in Boston…

lessonThe course I checked out can be found on iTunes if you search for “WGBH Earth,” and select the course titled,”WGBH Earth and Space Science.” In this series there were 12 short courses ranging from the solar system, to solar eclipses and infrared light.  Even though the subject matter is not completely related to what I want to cover in my site, I thought it was valuable for me to see how the information was presented. I thought the videos and animations that PBS put together were in interesting and informative. Below are some of the things I took away from watching.

1. Simple illustrations/ animation can be effective

Even though some of the illustration and animation was simple (and at times admittedly slightly cheesy) it was really effective for the purposes of learning.  Watching these lessons made me realize that when it comes to e-learning, it’s more important to present the information clearly than to have a mind-blowing design. solareclipse

For example, while this illustration is very simple, it was effective in teaching about how a solar eclipse works.  The artist did a good job distinguishing between the different elements and showing how they moved. This means to me that while I definitely care about making the design look good, it is far more important to actually get the lesson across to the user.

2. Present the information at a steady pace

The lessons that are worthwhile in this series keep the information going at a reasonably fast pace. I noticed during some of the slower lessons that I was getting a little sidetracked. However, with information that came a little faster, I wasn’t bored, and could always rewind if I missed something.

3. It’s important to include audio

Also, there were a couple of lessons that just used type and visual elements to convey the message. It made me realize how important sound really is in conveying a message. I found myself wanting a lot more from the lessons that did not use audio and I didn’t gain much from them. Again, I’m more of a visual learner, but I can tell having audio and narrator definitely helps in learning.

Overall, I appreciated the lessons I went through on iTunes U and will carry over what I learned into my final site.

On a final note, I loved the lamp of a guy in one of the videos I watched, see if you like it…