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Jenny S

In the last two years, I have frequently used TED talks and other short (10 to max 20 minute) online lectures. It may stem in part from the fact that I have been teaching at a university with longer lectures - 2 or 3 hours, once a week, depending on the class - so that it makes pedagogical sense to break the lecture up into shorter sections involving different activities. I have to admit that I would be far less eager to sacrifice valuable contact time with students if I were lecturing in 50 minute or 1:20 lectures.

I have found that my students respond well to these materials and frequently amaze me by referring to them (fairly accurately) in exams. I don't worry about the negative point that you raised above, Moti, because the lectures are often by the authors of assigned readings, or by extremely prominent commentators on the assigned readings. So, for example, I don't think that showing a lecture or TED talk by Nussbaum or Chomsky or Singer undermines my teaching authority when these are genuinely the experts in the field. Similarly, I find that linking to a philosophy bites podcast by Scanlon on Free Speech in the week that they are expected to be reading Scanlon on Free Speech has the net effect of raising the level of discourse in that week's discussion.

Having said that, the original thread in Philos-L seems to worry about using an entire lecture series or an entire online lecture effectively in place of lecturing yourself. In that case, I think that you may be right to worry about lost pedagogical authority.

elisa freschi

It seems to me that there are two separate issues here.
On the one hand, there is the issue of using other professors' lectures. I have experienced it as a student, since my professor often organised "guest lectures" and we had the chance to listen to some of the best professors from all over the world. Thus, I tried to repeat it as a teacher. I find it is a nice way to offer more to your students, especially if you try (as I do) to invite people who do *not* share your views. In this way, students see how variegated philosophical ideas can be and (hopefully) learn to be less dogmatic.

On the other hand, video-recorded material implies a different set of problems, most of all (in my opinion) the fact that no interaction is possible. In this sense, I would consider adding them to my teaching material because some students seem to be visual learners, but as an alternative to books or articles and not as a compulsory item.

elisa freschi

I forgot to add: thanks for the very thought-provoking links…

Moti Mizrahi

Elisa, thanks for your comment, which I could not read because it probably ended up in TypePad's spam folder. In fact, I think that my reply to Jenny's comment ended up there, too. I hope Marcus can help us resolve this issue.

Moti Mizrahi

Jenny, thanks for your comment. I think that your approach is very reasonable. Like you, I also pepper my lectures with short videos. The videos are usually not of someone else lecturing. Once in a while, however, I will post TED talks or lectures from YouTube on my blog or on Blackboard for my students to watch and comment on (and, like you, usually of authors we read). I agree with you that this practice does not undermine one's pedagogical authority.

But I am also worried about online or distance learning courses. In such courses, there is no classroom time and the interaction with students is strictly online. So I wonder if that makes a difference.

Matt DeStefano

Great title, Moti.

I agree with the comments from Jenny S about showing a prominent commentator not undermining your teaching authority. In fact, from a student perspective it always encouraged me when a professor was willing to give us the best possible material on the subject. One of my professors during undergrad consistently used Robert Kuhn's "Closer to the Truth" series to introduce topics occasionally, and I found it very helpful.


What's interesting to me about the discussion on PHILOS-L is that most of the respondents seem to assume that the question was raised about using video of lectures during class time or instead of preparing one's own lectures. My immediate assumption (probably due in part to a series of meetings on pedagogy I've had to attend this year) was that the question was thinking about using the lectures as part of a flipped/inverted classroom [For those unfamiliar, the basic idea is that in a standard classroom students listen to lectures in class and complete assignments or homework outside of class. You can "flip" the classroom by having the students view or listen to lectures outside of class and use class time for working on assignments, discussions or group projects instead]. In this context, it might make sense. For example you could have the students read a portion of Descartes' Meditations and watch a lecture video online in preparation for class. The students would arrive better prepared for discussion because they have not only the text to think about but the presentation of it in the video. It could provide more context, relevant examples, a controversial reading etc. for the students to react to. It would be something akin to the way that Jenny S mentions using the Philosophy Bites podcasts, but on a regular basis.

Moti Mizrahi

Thanks, Matt!

And thank you, Marcus, for taking care of the spam filter problem.

AGS: Using lecture videos while teaching with an inverted classroom model makes sense to me, too. But would you record your own lectures or use OPLs? And what about a strictly web-based course in which there is no classroom time at all? Would you still uses OPLs or record your own lectures?

Perhaps Elisa's approach, to use OPLs as supplementary, rather than required, course material is the way to go when teaching DL courses. What do you think?


@Moti Mizrahi: If the lectures are designed to spur disagreement or present a controversial point of view then it might make the most sense to use lectures by someone other than yourself. The students are then be exposed to two different view points on the same issue or text, the one in the video and the alternate slant you present in class. I think that approach could work well for a traditional in-person classroom and might even be helpful in terms of keeping the students from getting confused because they can attach a name and face to a particular set of arguments (I'm imagining a situation where, for example, you have the students read Mill's Utilitarianism then watch a lecture giving a set of challenges to the position. You could use class time to discuss whether or not a utilitarian could provide a good response to the counterexamples and counterarguments from the lecture).

I'm not sure how to address the online-only aspect. I admit to having spent very little time thinking about teaching online courses. It's something I hope I never have to do. I would be far more likely to want to record my own videos in that context and to provide a forum or discussion board for some sort of interaction. I'm not sure what sense it makes to say that someone is "teaching" an online class if the primary instruction is in the form of videos of someone else lecturing. Though, I admit, that could just be my complete ignorance of online classes talking. I've never taken or taught one.


I'll be teaching an online only class for the first time this summer, so I've thought a little bit about this. Since the class will be completely online, I decided not to have students watch a bunch of lectures. The reason for this is that I think it would be really boring for them and I can't imagine someone paying close attention to a prerecorded lecture for very long (my thoughts here only apply to a course that's being taught completely online). Another reason for why I wouldn't use OPLs in my online course is that I want to seem present to students. What I mean by that is that I'd like them to be aware that I'm doing the teaching and that it's me who is working with them (rather than someone else).

For what it's worth, what I've done for the class I'll be teaching in a month or so is to record very short videos (1-5 minutes) of me introducing the course and each topic. I've done this because I want the students to feel as though I'm present but to also not get bored by watching long lectures. The other thing I'll be doing is having several discussion forum assignments where students will discuss certain topics with each other. I expect that I'll also be contributing to these discussions by asking questions, presenting worries, explaining implications, etc.

Moti Mizrahi

AGS, thanks for your reply.

Anon, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think I understand your reasons for not using OPLs. Doing so might give students the impression that the professor is absent, which they might already have just because it is a DL course.

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