March 2015 – Work review

Matt's notes for the month

As more of my work gets written up on the E-Learning Development Team blog these days, I thought it would be worth providing a monthly summary of my activities here.

Screen-casting comparison

Prompted by a number of requests, I wrote a comparison between Screencast-o-matic (online screen recorder), Echo360 Personal Capture (our supported program) and Camtasia 8 (recorder and media editor). You can read my recommendations on the ELDT blog, and if you’re one of those types who likes feature comparison tables, there’s one of those too.

The importance of being communicative

March saw an unexpected bout of downtime for the Replay system. The infliction lasted much longer than I would have liked, however was caused by a problem I could not have anticipated nor prevented. I was pleased to hear that my regular emails to colleagues to keep them informed of the situation as soon as I knew further information were welcomed, rather than acted as irritants. Hopefully my final tweet on the matter conveyed a sense of scale to help users understand our hosting provided had to take the time to restore all the recordings.

Facilitating webinars

I had the pleasure of showing a few colleagues Blackboard Collaborate again this month. It’s great to talk to people about how they intend to use the software for their online seminars and events. The discussions this month followed on from the exemplary facilitation of a Collaborate session on distance learning by Jane Lund, which showcased the toolset that allows participants to contribute to the content of the session through whiteboard annotations, polls, gestures and the usual text or voice chat. To support participants when they first enter a Collaborate session I’ve made available an information slide which can be pre-loaded and provides links to some useful guides too. I’ve also compared Skype, Google Hangouts and Blackboard Collaborate, and the blog post on that to help lecturers decide which tool to use will be available in the next couple of days.

Conference attendance

Always looking for examples of good practice in my field, I attended the annual conference for OpenCast (the open source lecture capture system formerly branded as Matterhorn). This provided a fascinating insight into open source technologies used to support lecture capture. It was also unsurprising that Sakai was also the learning platform name that kept cropping up. Whilst such systems do provide more flexibility and customisation, it was clear from the composition of teams that managed institutional deployments that having a dedicated developer is a good idea (probably one with more time to spend on such things than I). Having said that, it was a refreshing experience to see computer scientists and different commercial companies collaborating to develop supported solutions based on open source technology, all interoperable and without propriety lock-ins. The conference also offered an opportunity to compare another research project to my own. Stephen Marquard from the University of Cape Town also draws upon qualitative data to provide insights into the value of lecture captures for students. It’s reassuring to see that Marquard also highlights the benefits for students to control the pace of their understanding and enable more flexible choices over studying. There were even a couple of ‘counter intuitive’ conclusions, including that students felt more connected to the lecture when watching the video than they did in the room, for example if they were at the back of the room there’s a big difference in engagement compared to the close-up of the lecture content in the recording.

CMALT York Programme

We’ve kick-started a CMALT writing group at York. Dr Richard Walker, Simon Davis and I have devised a programme that will both offer a structured approach to writing a portfolio with peer-feedback and provide space for knowledge and practice sharing within a community of learning technologists. I was very much inspired by Ros Walker, University of Sheffield, who used this approach within her faculty, so I am pleased to help implement this across our institution too. For those that are looking to write your CMALT portfolio, the first tip I have is to outline your portfolio sections by identifying what from your experience and activities you will draw upon and the evidence you will use to support your reflection. This is a quick way to get going and identify where you may have gaps in your portfolio to focus your future efforts. I’ve cobbled together a template for CMALT portfolio plans on Google Docs.

#EdTech session

Simon Davis and I delivered a session on using technology to enhance learning and teaching for participants on the University’s Researcher Development programme (i.e. future academics who are postgraduates who teach at York). The session was based around three key areas: student activity, assessment and feedback, and content. After three short primers, participants were then asked to devise a technology-enhanced learning solution to a common learning and teaching problem based on either a lab session or a seminar. Throughout the session we used different presentation technologies too, including Google Presentation, Prezi and an unstructured section drawing upon a mind map and slides. We also used Padlet to digitise our group discussion activity (see my YouTube video on how you can use tablets with Lino to support discussion during a session). The Prezi on Content is available publicly and the introduction to student activity drew upon my blogs-wikis-discussion boards model previously posted along with the models presented in the following two papers I highly rate:

  • Conole, G., Dyke, M., Oliver, M. and Seale, J. (2004) ‘Mapping pedagogy and tools for effective learning design’, Computers and Education, vol. 43, nos.1–2, pp.17–33.
  • Anderson, T. (2003) ‘Getting the Mix Right Again: An updated and theoretical rationale for interaction’, International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, vol.4, no.2.

Professional@York

The Replay team was shortlisted for the Professional@York team award, but whilst our impact across campus and supporting student learning across more departments than ever was recognised, we didn’t manage to take home the trophy. I’m hoping that I can at least post the nomination online so that the team’s hard work and approach to working gets the exposure it deserves.

A proposed new relationship for departments

Simon and I were wondering how we could find out more about departmental priorities for elearning and how we could contribute more to discussions at departmental level. As a result, we proposed a new way of working with departments to our VLE Coordinators this month. We’re hoping that two scheduled meetings in Autumn and Summer will provide focal points for raising issues, evaluation and planning for development. It will also help to promote the great practice that goes on within departments, by making more people aware of the innovations that support student learning developed by lecturers and the ELDT.

Soft-launch of the ELDT website

Also at our VLE Coordinators meeting, Rosie Hare and I presented a revamped version of the ELDT blog making it into a fully-fledged website for the E-Learning Development Team at York. We’ve made significant changes to the VLE-based help tabs also to streamline the search results for ‘just-in-time’ help, with detailed guides and case studies on the EDLT website. Rosie has written an article about this which will feature in the next edition of Forum, the University’s Learning and Teaching magazine.

Ongoing research

My lecture capture research project has entered the data analysis stage now. I’ve undertaken 15 interviews with 12 students and, as a teaser, I have some really useful perspectives on the value of lecture capture to support students’ approaches to studying. I now have the delightful experience of transcribing most of these before getting to grips with NVivo. Thanks to Stephen Gow for showing me some of the tricks to getting automatic coding based on Word styles. I will be using the free ForTheRecord Player and an Infinity USB foot pedal.

I have also been working with Dr Martin Smalley in the Department of Physics in the evaluation of a video-based lecture capture pilot. Our initial results will be in the upcoming Forum magazine and Dr Smalley will be leading a presentation at the University’s Learning and Teaching Conference late in the Summer Term.

Key readings this month

This month’s reading has mainly been focused on my OU work, an assignment on evaluating change for E855 Leading Professional Practice in Education. Selected highlights include:

Fullan, M. (2013) ‘Educational Change: Implementation and Continuation’, in Wise, C., Bradshaw, P. and Cartwright, M. (eds.) (2013) Leading Professional Practice in Education, London, Sage Publications.

Giles, D. and Yates, R. (2011) ‘Re-culturing a university department: a case study’, Management in Education, vol.25, no.3, pp.87-92.

Hanson, J. (2009) ‘Displaced but not replaced: the impact of e-learning on academic identities in higher education’, Teaching in Higher Education, vol.14, no.5, pp.553-564.

Henkel, M. (2000) Academic Identities and Policy Change in Higher Education, London, Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Starr, K. (2011) ‘Principles and the Politics of Resistance to Change’, Educational Management Administration & Leadership, vol.39, no.6, pp.646-660.

Timperley, H. S. (2013) ‘Distributing Leadership to Improve Outcomes for Students’, in Wise, C., Bradshaw, P. and Cartwright, M. (eds.) (2013) Leading Professional Practice in Education, London, Sage Publications.

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