Skip to content
Talking Heads and Beyond

A post from the e-learning Pedagogical Support Unit (EPSU)

Sal Khan of Khan Academy fame may recommend recording natural speech rather than planning every word of his instructional videos, but a fully scripted video seems to be the preferred approach for many MOOC educators.

As part of the University of Hong Kong’s small team tasked with helping faculties prepare HKU’s first MOOCs, we recognize that learners have individual preferences about how best to gain subject-related knowledge. So far we have adopted three different approaches when recording professors’ MOOC input:

HKUx Recording in the open air.

‘Talking head’ videos: Many educators’ initial choice, a short, chunked ‘talking head’ video is a familiar option but still offers room for creativity and customization based on individual needs. Professor Gabriel Leung from the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine and colleagues in their Epidemics MOOC have gone for the scripted approach, while Professor Hansen from the Philosophy Department in Humanity and Nature in Chinese Thought prefers to use key words as a cue. What both MOOCs have in common is recording the professors in front of a green screen so that still images and motion graphics can be added later on to enhance the learning process.

Panel Discussions: We are all familiar with groups of experts on TV sitting round a table discussing topical issues, but panel discussions also have a place in MOOCs. Professor David Lung from the Faculty of Architecture in The Search for Vernacular Architecture of Asia shares a table with colleagues to film the discussions that make up the bulk of the input on his course. In Epidemics, panel discussions form the final part of the course, with public health experts discussing the implications of what has previously been presented in the ‘talking head’ videos and Thomas Abraham, former editor of The South China Morning Post, chairing the discussions. Two different approaches to using panel discussions, but for the learner the same result of engaging input.

 The Search for Vernacular Architecture of Asia, Part 1

Location Filming: For such a visually rich and location-dependent field as Vernacular Architecture, including location footage seems an obvious choice. We filmed Professor Lung and his colleagues out on location, so that what was previously covered in the panel discussions and presented in still photography can really come alive. And for our team too, a trip to nearby Macau to film a Mandarin’s house was a welcome break – much nicer than when the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine wanted to send us to Yunnan province in southern China to film SARS-carrying bats!

Three different MOOCs, three different approaches to recording professors’ input. Let us know  your thoughts on Facebook orTwitter @HKUniversity with #BeyondTalkingHead.

Photo credit: Edwin Wu Ding Hang

This piece was originally written for the edX Blog