Aug 122016

Dr Paul Cropper is the Programme Leader for MSc Energy and Sustainable Building Design in the School of Engineering and Sustainable Development, Faculty of Technology. Paul was an early adopter with regard to using the Multimedia Enhancement solution (Panopto) at DMU and he is an e-champion in the Faculty.

This blog post describes Paul’s early experiences of recording, some of the barriers that he had to overcome and Paul’s plans for the future.

Paul teaches two semester 2 Modules; Ventilation and Daylight Modelling, and Energy and Thermal Performance. Both Modules enrol attending and Distance Learning students with relatively small cohorts (approximately 6) attending and 15 plus Distance Learning students per Module.

In 2014/15 Paul experimented with the Multimedia Enhancement solution when delivering classes that focus on the demonstration of a proprietary piece of software. The software is complex in nature and Paul wanted to record the sessions in which the software is demonstrated to provide the Distance Learning students with an insight into these classroom sessions. With the ELT Project Officer, Paul explored the use of the recording software on the classroom computer to record the screen and he also introduced PowerPoint slides as a mechanism to automatically index the screen recording using the Events function. However, this was not successful as due to the classroom hardware set up it was not possible for Paul to project the computer screen with the complex software demonstration whilst viewing PowerPoint slides on the lectern monitor simultaneously.

Paul would have recorded further sessions in semester 2 2014/15 but he was unfortunately not always timetabled to teach in a space where the recording software was installed but following the project roll-out on January 4th 2016 Paul was able to use the Multimedia Enhancement software in any classroom and he seized this opportunity.

Subsequently, Paul has recorded every class on both Modules during the 2015/16 academic year. As described, Paul’s initial aspiration was to provide the Distance Learning students with a more engaging resource that represents the live classroom environment when demonstrating complex software and the Distance Learning students have provided nothing but positive feedback in this respect. However Paul’s small cohort of attending students have also fed back that they value having the recordings available and Paul has even gone so far as sharing recordings between the two Module cohorts in the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) to make the same material available to different cohorts. This approach to recording for everyone and sharing content speaks to DMU’s Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Principles and ideas in that the resources that were initially created with Distance Learning students in mind benefit all students on the Modules; an aspiration of the DMU Replay service that is currently being implemented at DMU ahead of 2016/17.

Paul talked about UDL and DMU Replay specifically when talking about his use of multimedia in the curriculum as this is a high profile change for DMU and Paul wants to support UDL as well as the Distance Learning students and he sees the use of multimedia as one approach to help satisfy these strategic and pedagogic needs.

Although not linked to the use of recording technology, there were two sessions this year that no students attended. Paul did not make any recordings on these occasions but none of the students raised this as an issue which suggests that the students’ non-attendance on these occasions was due to other factors rather than reliance on a piece of recorded material. Furthermore, as the subject material for all lectures is also provided as formal written lessons (in PDF form) students were not significantly disadvantaged by two sessions not being recorded. This demonstrates another advantage of providing material in more than one form, a principal of UDL.

However, although Paul has not experienced a fall in attendance there is some concern that students may see the recording of classroom activity as an alternative to attending as the DMU Replay policy kicks in and Paul does, and will continue to, re-iterate the need to attend as well as make use of recordings in induction week. Paul is also planning to gather specific student feedback with regard to the use of recorded material and its impact during semester 2 2016/17.

Going back to Paul’s aspirations to record complex software and have Panopto automatically create Events within the resource; Paul tried to create some resources at the desk. However, as has been documented before, recording at the desk can feel very different to recording classes and Paul felt that the content he created in this way was not of a standard he would wish to publish and that is easily achievable when recording in a live teaching environment.

The feeling is that when recording at the desk the student expectation may be heightened by way of production value as they may assume that more time and effort has been put in to an at the desk recording than one that is recorded on the fly as classes are delivered. Paul feels that having more detailed notes or a script when recording at the desk may help and he will try this in 2016/17.

Also, thinking about 2016/17, Paul will continue to record his classes but he is planning make use of the Panopto Editor to manually add Events to provide a resource that is navigable in the student view rather than trying to use PowerPoint where he would not usually to create Events automatically.

Outside of recording classroom sessions Paul has also used the Multimedia Enhancement solution in a variety of different ways to enhance his Modules:

  1. Paul recorded a visiting lecturer from Loughborough University to ensure that the Distance Learning students could engage with the lecture;
  2. At the desk, Paul has recorded a presentation based on a Research Project that he is involved in and this has been shared with colleagues in the UK (Loughborough University), the USA (University of California, Berkeley) and India (CEPT University); and
  3. At the request of the students, Paul has recorded materials to support his cohort to understand the requirements of assignments and with report writing, as the technical report that forms part of the assignment can be challenging and having a video resource available that outlines expectations without providing a full example (that could be plagiarised) supports the students in creating their assignments.

In summary, Paul’s early thoughts around recording specific taught sessions for Distance Learning students have grown into Paul being comfortable enough with the software to record all classes in 2015/16 along with supplementary materials and visiting lecturers (at the desk and in classrooms) that benefit all students within the cohorts with some resources being shared.

This is a great example of how a fundamental use of such technology to record classes, similar to that required by the DMU Replay policy, can organically grow into extended use of multimedia in the curriculum and for other purposes such as Paul’s involvement with and recording for the Research Group.

Paul’s top tips:

  • When recording at the desk, produce detailed notes or a script before recording as ‘teaching’ at the desk is harder than it may seem but not impossible with a bit of preparation.
  • Keep re-iterating the message that students need to attend and take advantage of the recordings being made available to help make the most of their learning opportunity at DMU.

Thank you to Dr Paul Cropper for enabling this blog post to be produced.

Ian Pettit
ELT Project Officer.