But creating recorded lectures that are engaging and interactive can be a challenge. 2U, an online learning platform, has developed a tool to address this problem. Its Bi-Directional Learning Tool (BLT) integrates real-time video communication into recorded content to deliver more interactive online learning experiences.
2U is now integrating BLT into all courses provided through Semester Online, a consortium of universities that offer for-credit online undergraduate courses through the 2U platform. Students from member schools can enroll in any Semester Online course, with credits transferred back to their home institutions. Online enrollment for each course is capped at 20 students. (See “Semester Online Offers Undergrads Choice, Flexibility” on page 62 of BizEd’s May/June 2013 issue.)
Each BLT-supported lecture is recorded as a roundtable discussion that includes the professor and two students interacting in a face-to-face setting. The camera angle places the professor directly across the table from the online student. At intervals during the lecture, the professor looks to the camera to ask online students direct questions, which they respond to either via video recordings or typed answers. At the end of the lecture, students submit their responses for the professor and other students to review.
Each week, online students watch several BLT lectures before attending a live course, where their submitted responses can be discussed further. “We create each BLT lecture with the live class in mind,” says Ian Van Tuyl, chief content officer for 2U. “It’s a way for professors to know that their students have deeply engaged with the material before coming to the live class.”
BLT is based on software that 2U created for a course delivered by Washington University School of Law in St. Louis. Because law professors rely heavily on the Socratic method, which involves asking students direct questions, the challenge was to replicate that approach in an online setting, Van Tuyl says. Once it was clear that the software worked in a law school discussion, 2U exported it to other courses.
Of 21 courses now delivered through Semester Online, five are business courses, offered by the Kenan- Flagler School of Business at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For information about Semester Online’s consortium and courses, visit www.semesteronline.org.