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Henderson explores video lectures

By Sally Jongsma

Dr. Roger Henderson

Dr. Roger Henderson

Dr. Roger Henderson is always looking for new ways to do a better job of teaching his students. Over the past year, he’s been exploring how he can use technology to supplement his philosophy lectures.

When Dordt College moved from Blackboard to an open source electronic course content management system last year, it presented a better way to include video streaming. Henderson saw an opportunity to use videotaped lectures to supplement his classroom lectures. By experimenting with the technology, he also hopes to get his own sense of how online teaching might work.

“This allows me to talk about some things that I wouldn’t otherwise have time for,” he says. He has taped lectures, which range from five minutes to forty-five minutes, on topics such as Gnosticism, Pantheism, Kuyper, and Plato. He also has lectures on main course themes like worldview and creation.

“Students who would like more information can go to one of the videos and go through it at their own pace,” Henderson says.

Henderson stresses that the effort is a trial and an amateur one at that. He worked with recent graduate Jack Maatman, who did the videotaping. They used background scenes to give some context for the lectures.

“I don’t know how well this kind of instruction works with what is essentially entertainment medium, whether it adds or detracts,” he says. He believes that effective teachers build relationships with students and points to the mesmerizing effect that video usually has on viewers. He is inclined to think that any online course needs at least some classroom time in which instructor and student are physically present, but he is eager to learn what works and what doesn’t.

Henderson believes that the format presents opportunities for parents and other interested parties to get a glimpse of what goes on in Philosophy 201 at Dordt College. Because of the amount of bandwidth the videotaped lectures require, people off campus will not be able access the lectures at this point. But anyone visiting campus can get to them by going to a campus computer and clicking on "courses @ Dordt" and then entering "guest" for both the login and password requests.

With the busyness of the semester’s work Henderson has had to put the project on hold, and, since Maatman has moved away, he will have to work with a new student. Despite the fact that there are twenty-three lectures of varying lengths posted, Henderson feels like he only just “got going.” Some of the most important content, the basics of building a Christian philosophy, have not been touched yet.

“I think it would be valuable to have a presentation of Christian philosophy documented in this form as well as in written form,” he says.