April 2015 – Work review

Work Log
Online seminars, web-conferences, webinars, call them what you will… this month I started off with a comparison of the big three apps. This is April 2015’s work review.

Web-conferencing recommendations

At the start of the month I posted a review of Google Hangouts, Skype and Blackboard Collaborate as web-conferencing tools for the higher education sector. These tools offer distinct advantages and disadvantages depending on the type of interactions to be fostered with participants. Between Google Hangouts and Skype, there’s really not much in it except for some of the detail, but Blackboard Collaborate (and similar learning-centred platforms of this kind) really do offer something different for education. In particular the ability to design-in activities, moving away from unstructured discussions and scaffolding student learning is part of what platforms such as Collaborate do best. Read my recommendations for web conferencing software on the ELDT blog, and just like the screen-casting post there’s a more detailed comparison between Google Hangouts, Skype and Blackboard Collaborate [Google Doc].

Initial findings from Physics pilot

Dr Martin Smalley and I published a short article on the video recording pilot in this term’s learning and teaching staff magazine at the University, Forum [see p.15, PDF]. As expected, students valued the video capture of the lectures which included chalkboard and OHP content. Interestingly, about a third of respondents said that they would value video recordings more than full notes provided by the lecturer. For me this reiterates suggestions that are emerging from my research with Biology and Psychology students that there is immense value in the lecture itself, and the ability to watch it back or at a pace the student determines. Particularly for maths-based courses, Pritchard (2010, see ref in full article) argues that watching the creation of formulae and derivations is part of the learning experience. As a result, simply presenting the completed formulae on a PowerPoint slide simply does not invite students to think about the maths in the same way. A fuller article that touches upon these issues with a focus on inclusivity, and includes pie charts (oh yes), is also available via the Forum Blog.

Dr Smalley will be presenting this work as part of a joint paper session [Abstract, PDF] at the University of York Learning and Teaching Conference on 10 June 2015, when I will be looking more broadly at the role of technology to support before and after lectures. The conference is open to all and is free. Further details about how to attend are on the University website.

York Award is good for staff too

One of the activities I look forward to each year is the opportunity to talk to some of our students about the different things they get up to whilst at University. Following on from the portfolio marking in February, this month I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to five students in an interview situation as part of their York Award assessment. It’s always a useful exercise for them as they get a lot of detailed feedback about their interview technique, but it’s equally useful for me to understand more about the competing priorities our students now have. Much of the interview looks at the way students have learnt from academic, work, volunteering and personal interests, and then applied what they have learnt to new contexts or translated them to future goals. The process of reflection is beneficial in helping determine the value of their actions, and witnessing such reflection encourages me to undertake the same process by thinking about my own practice, what works, what can be translated to different contexts and where might I need to go further.

Other activities

Site updates

I delved back into the depths of Terminal4, the University’s CMS for the public website, to make a few changes to the E-Learning page in the Staff section of the site this month. Wayne and I have put something together that links through to the revamped ELDT WordPress site and hopefully presents all the great things the ELDT is involved in.

Red lights mean go

This month colleagues in the AV Team have been testing the Delcom light to work with our Echo360 set up. These lights provide an indicator to staff who are presenting, showing when a recording is taking place, when it is paused and when it is processing providing reassurance to both them and students that Replay is go. We hope to also be able to offer a pause function. I’m due to gather feedback on this in the near future.

e-Accessibility

I participated in the University’s e-Accessibility group as the representative from the ELDT. The impact of changes to the Disabled Students Allowance were discussed, which will undoubtedly require a shift in the approaches for supporting disabled students in higher education. I am hoping that some of the work I have been doing on content development guidance (being made available over the summer) will support this. I was also able to use the group as a sounding board for suggested guidance to academic staff who are using multimedia resources for delivering ‘flipped classroom’ approaches and video summaries. I’ll be releasing that guidance in the next few months.

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