Should Your Online Course Sound Like 'Serial'?

Amy Ahearn, EdSurge, Jun 14, 2016
Commentary by Stephen Downes

I am an incurable listener of audio and radio - during the day I listen to CBC radio, on the road I'm a podcast addict, evenings will find me attentive to the Blue Jays broadcasts, and at night I am up with Johnny Dollar, Phillip Marlowe, and the rest of the cast of old time radio. And of course I have contributed hundreds of hours of my own voice to audio as well. What characterizes audio today more than ever is the diversity of voices you hear. So I agree with Amy Ahearn that by contrast "online learning has a mansplaining problem." It's not so much the voice as the attitude. Consider Krista Tippett: "Tippett’s sentences were long, complex and contemplative. Her tone was one of inquiry rather than authority. She sounded different than typical instructors on platforms like Udemy, Udacity, Skillshare or Coursera who lecture in tones of confident authority.... her voice might be exactly what online learning needs." Well, OK, it's the voice too. We need more voices, and we need more diverse voices. Now I can't help being who I am, so my voice isn't going to change, But maybe I should be more like Bryan Alexander and talk to different people in the field. It's worth a thought.

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