Between getting photos and videos done from the field trip that I took with Science 100 last week and some of the meetings that I’ve had this week, I’ve noticed something has changed in the world. This is an obvious change, but it seems that very few people want to accept it. This change is in the way that we think about delivering information. One of my colleagues put it together perfectly in my last meeting – “we can no longer guarantee delivery”.
The University (mine as well as others) functions on the premise that it can ensure that it has contact with the student. From the assumption that they are going to open the physical mail that offers them acceptance (trapped in the age when the letter was the only way that news traveled, then one could assume that was authority and a guaranteed mode of delivery, think about all the journals that are “Letters of/in”) to the LMS that delivers their course content. It believes it so strongly that it dumps massive amounts of resources to ensure that the message gets out to the student. But for all its efforts, it still fails and seemingly, is failing far more often now than ever before. Why?
Well it seems that nobody told the generation older admins that in a media saturated universe, students won’t or can’t themselves rely on only a single source for their information. Media has to be easily accessed on an enormous range of screen sizes and through a massive range of bandwidths. These are both problems that we thought we had left behind as desktops became more powerful and then were eclipsed by laptops and those by phone and netbooks. Content has to go out over physical media, passive media (radio, TV), active media (email) and social media. If you want to be sure that the students know about an important date, there needs to be an ambient buzz generated within at least two of their content channels and if there is media to go along with it, it should be accessible by almost any device.
I don’t think there is anything here that is ground breaking or anything that regular readers won’t have already thought of or understood. But this seems to be at the heart of many of the problems that instructional designers face when trying to explain why there is no standard cut and dried way to create a course, announce a deadline or show a demo if you want to be sure you get through to your audience. Much like the advertising adage “only 50% of advertising works”, it is as likely as not as you are going to actually connect to your audience so you need to be sure you have more than one way to get to them. Again, not anything that anyone having gone through any form of teacher training won’t have heard in the past when learning about multiple encoding.
So why is this worth posting? Well, being a common sense observation, it isn’t really that common… Observing that with all the options for one to communicate, not everyone is going to use the same set.
When pressing DVDs earlier, I was asked why I was also making stand alone files by two people who were going to be using the media. I explained that this would allow the various users to play them anywhere there is a network connection. The older individual involved didn’t understand the need for the files, the younger, didn’t understand the need for the physical media. When making photos available, another individual was hoping that I would be able to provide thumbnails for easy loading and and an easy way to see the pictures (slideshows etc). This morning, in a meeting, talking about podcasting, LMS and social media, part of the room “got” it and the other didn’t – the kicker, it was a mix of get and not different topics and it seemed independent of generation.