“It was pretty universal that the faculty who were doing an
excellent job in terms of student retention rates and higher
grade point averages were at least presenting themselves as being
accessible to students for questions, problems and other issues,”
says Clark, professor of educational psychology and technology
and the director of the Center for Cognitive Technology at the
University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education.
Clark says some of the best ways to do this are by answering
emails promptly and even providing a personal cell phone
number for students to use in the event of an emergency.
• Use videos and images judiciously. It’s easier than ever
to incorporate illustrations, photos, animations and videos
into your lectures, but don’t go overboard, says University of
California, Santa Barbara, psychology professor Richard Mayer,
PhD, who examines how multimedia can enhance learning.
Among his 12 instructional principles is the finding that people
learn better when multimedia are used only to underscore the
main point of a lecture.
“People can only pay attention to a few things at any one
time,” says Mayer, whose research is summarized in the book
“Multimedia Learning: Second Edition” (Cambridge University
When instructors do use video or animation to explain a
concept — say, a video showing how a neuron fires — Mayer
found that they should break the animation into four separate,
shorter videos, and require students to click an icon to proceed
to the next video.
“By doing that, people can digest one bite of information at
a time,” he says.
Mayer has also found that students learn better from graphics
with audio explanations rather than graphics with printed text
since students can easily be overloaded with visual information,
Amy Novotney is a writer in Chicago.
Total and online enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions —
fall 2002 through fall 2009
Online enrollment as a percent of total enrollment
From the report, “Online Education in the United States,” 2010. Data collected through a College Board survey of more
than 2,500 U.S. colleges and universities.