Developing Procedural Knowledge via a Distance

By David Ellis, Lecturer in Technology Education, Southern Cross University

Ever tried to assemble a flat packed piece of furniture without the pictures? How about successfully landing a passenger aircraft without stepping into the cockpit? In higher education, the nature of specific disciplines requires academics to impart procedural knowledge as well as the declarative knowledge to their students. In addition, the economic packaging of learning materials in distance education lends to a ‘one-size-fits-all’ static approach that doesn’t address the differing student learning styles (McLoughlin, 1999). The challenge for a growing number of academics is not only trying to match teaching and learning styles, but to deliver this within the constraints of a digital environment via distance education.

How is ‘competency’ in procedural knowledge being developed in distance education? This discussion will provide a specific example where procedural knowledge is being developed through the use of technology in an asynchronous learning environment.

In higher education settings, the pedagogy surrounding distance education has evolved thanks to the incorporation of the Internet into teaching and learning activities. In days gone by, the anxious waiting for literally a ream of readings has given way to the visual material form where the downloading of videos created from academics or instructors is being embraced and becoming commonplace (Stokes, 2002).

With this transition to the use of video and multimedia teaching resources, educators have been quick to capitalize on the use of visual materials to develop ‘procedural knowledge.’ As a result, programs of study, once reliant on face-to-face demonstrations are able to be delivered externally because the procedural instruction can be recorded and viewed via a distance. McCormick (1997) defines procedural knowledge as the “know how to do it knowledge” and in this context, “technological procedural knowledge” (p 144) is very appropriate.

One question that comes to mind is what types of learning media are better for developing know how? With the option of text, sound, graphics, still and animated images, one may assume that visual materials are best for developing procedural knowledge, or the know how to do things. According to ChanLin (1998), some methods are more effective than others depending on the learner’s prior knowledge. Assuming that the learners in a course of study possess a varying degree of prior knowledge, ChanLin’s research suggests that animated graphics was effective in assisting learners regardless of their prior knowledge compared to other media such as still images or text, stating that, “animated graphics provides users with two different visual attributes: images and motion” (p 2). Considering that this research was conducted in 1998, surely the addition of today’s high-definition real-time video and sound is better still! Berk (2009), on page 5 states that, “empirical findings of research on the effectiveness of videos embedded in multimedia classes or modules are very encouraging.”

Now that we recognize that learning ‘know how’ can occur with the use of videos in distance education, how do we go about doing this? We are all familiar with the humble video camera for taking videos, but how can we create a lesson out of this? Computer presentation software such as PowerPoint, Keynote, or Flash, is commonly used as a digital slate for displaying concepts and most educators would be familiar with, and use at least one of these for lesson creation. To complement this, you can record audio or capture webcam footage that is in ‘sync’ with the movements of the mouse on the screen.   ‘Camtasia’ does this beautifully, as well as freely accessible software such as ‘Jing’ or ‘CamStudio.’ The result is a combined media. Superior to ChanLin’s visual attributes of images and motion.

An example of the development of style of pedagogy can be found Ellis’ (2012) article, ‘Procedural skills and SketchUp: an example of how drawing skills can be taught over a distance.’ The article recounts the use of screen recorded videos to assist students in a drawing task they were given. A number of instruction videos were recorded using Camtasia. These captured the procedures that occurred sequentially on-screen with a voice-over of these procedures. These videos were then placed in an accessible area of the online content management system accessible to all students enrolled in the unit. Using the words of Clifton and Mann (2011, p 312) as a guide, “bite sized chunks of videos…can be easily accessed in one session” were developed and uploaded.

Considering that 80 percent of students didn’t require further instruction regarding the use of SketchUp, the pedagogy was considered a success and possibly quite useful for larger external students as opposed to answering phone calls or emails.

To find examples of screen-capturing software, go to:


Berk, R. A. (2009). Multimedia teaching with video clips: TV, movies, YouTube, and mtvU in the college classroom. International Journal of Technology in Teaching and Learning, 5(1), 1–21.

ChanLin, L.-J. (1998). Animation to teach students of different knowledge levels.Journal of Instructional Psychology, 25(3), 166-175.

Clifton, A. & Mann, C. (2011) Can YouTube enhance student nurse learning?  Retrieved from:

Ellis, D (2012), Procedural skills and SketchUp: an example of how drawing skills can be taught over a distance. Journal of the Institute of Industrial Arts and Technology Educators, 2.

McCormick, R. (1997) International Journal of Technology and Design Education 7(1-2),141-159, 1997. doi: 10.1023/A:1008819912213

McLoughlin, C. (1999). The implications of the research literature on learning styles for the design of instructional material. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 15(3), 222-241.

Stokes, S. (2002). Visual Literacy in Teaching and Learning: A Literature Perspective.Electronic Journal for the Integration of Technology in Education, 1.  Retrieved from

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