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Three Channels for Online Education, and Why You Should ­se Them

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Debra Beck, who teaches online courses for the University of Wyoming's master of public administration program, describes effective teaching tools for online education. As Beck explains, technological innovations over the past 10 years have made it easier than ever  to deliver distance-learning programs with rich educational content that appeals to a wide audience of learners. Thanks to superior software and faster Internet connections, producing online content that can be utilized by students is no longer time-consuming. According to Beck, three types of technology are within the reach of the majority of students and are the most useful teaching tools: podcasts, wiki-based group projects, and social bookmarking.

Podcasts can give students a break from text-driven content. Students can listen to an educator discuss a topic or interview an expert from that field. Podcasts also allow educators to share information about the class in ways that better fit the learning preferences of each student. They do not replace the syllabus, but they reinforce critical information, expand upon instructions, and otherwise make sure that everyone understands what is expected. Podcasts offer a secondary benefit: the chance to reduce the perceived distance between students and instructor. With that in mind, Beck explains how and why she creates a mix of audio and video podcasts to help students with online coursework.

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