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.

Aug 082016
 

Since 2007, Dr Sophy Smith (DMU Teacher Fellow, 2015 and HEA Senior Teacher Fellow, 2015) has been taking a fresh approach to assessing students on the MA/MSc Creative Technologies course at DMU.

In essence, Sophy and the team provide an open choice to the students with regard to what they study, how they are assessed and the format that they express themselves in.

At the beginning of the Major Project module, the students will have a conversation with Sophy and they will firstly decide whether they will go for an MA or an MSc in Creative Technologies. Then, based on the student’s aspirations regarding employability a set of learning objectives and the assessment format will be agreed.

The module is 15 weeks in total with 2 hours per week being delivered by Sophy and the other members of the teaching team. There are also workshops and seminars and a project is started around half way through.

The only rigid assessment component is that the students are required to provide a critical commentary regarding their project however the format of this component is also negotiable. Students do often opt to provide a written critical commentary but some students have also opted to provide a collection of blog posts, a film or any other media.

Sophy began taking this approach on two modules in 2007 but this negotiated approach to assessment is now the norm on all of the course specific modules that make up the MA/MSc Creative Technologies.

As part of the course there are shared modules too and students do not have the choice when taking these modules, only MA/MSc specific modules provide the opportunity to follow a tailored path for assessment.

One example of this flexible approach to assessment includes a student who knew that he wanted to work in the games industry producing Machinima style movies and therefore the module was tailored toward this goal for this student and his project title and assessment mechanism was also focused on this goal.

Linking the assessment to the student’s employability aspirations in this way ensures that students build a body of work throughout the life of the course to show prospective employees and this triangulated approach (linking learning objectives to employability goals and enabling a preferred expression format) is believed to be linked to the high employment rates that the graduates of this course demonstrate.

This tailored model also supports the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in that from the beginning the students are engaging in ways that suit them as individuals and they will be assessed in a manner that plays to their strengths.

Students also feel as though they own their learning experience on this course which helps them to feel motivated and to achieve.

When marking, the learning objectives that were agreed at the beginning of the course are made known to the marker and second marker and the student work is marked against these; alongside general marking criteria in line with PG regulations.

The negotiated learning objectives do align with the learning outcomes on each module to ensure parity and quality standards are upheld and Sophy believes that the success of this approach is rooted in the clarity of the learning objectives.

Typically, the MA/MSc Creative Technologies will attract around 15 students per year and the flexible approach to assessment is now standard across all course specific modules on this course.

There is a new MA Digital Arts that is coming on stream in 2016/17 and this good practice has been carried over to the new course where students will again be able to negotiate their learning objectives and assessment style from the beginning based on their employment related goals.

Thank you to Dr Sophy Smith, Reader in Creative Technologies at the Institute of Creative Technologies, DMU for enabling this blog post.

 

Ian Pettit.

Mar 262014
 

Using social media tools to affirm study skills

Zoë Allman is the Programme Leader, Media Production BSc, Faculty of Technology and a DMU Teacher Fellow.

Up until the 2013/14 academic year, one of the modules that Zoë taught was the Social Media and Technology module; the learning outcomes of which are focused on students developing their study skills such as how write group essays, revision techniques and other study skills. The module also focuses on how to write for social media platforms and the importance of keeping an up to date online profile.

Traditionally, when engaging with study skills tutorials, students would work in isolation during lab sessions and in quite a didactic manner, feedback would be given on the pieces of written work that the students had produced. It was obvious to module leader Andrew Clay, supported by module tutor Zoë, that this approach to teaching study skills as part of Social Media and Technology was not pedagogically appropriate as students were seen to have forgotten what they had learnt through the feedback and therefore they set about to innovate the teaching and assessment techniques used in this part of the module.

Andrew and Zoë decided to marry the subject of the module ‘social media’ with the study skills learning outcomes. This made sense as this created a situation where the students would be using the tools that the module is focused on to develop and construct their knowledge relating to study skills.

Students were already using Facebook and Twitter in other modules and in their personal lives so in consultation with the students the module team agreed that Facebook and Twitter would be used as a platform for students to engage with each other and work collaboratively on their study skills – this approach also lent itself to the curriculum as one of the summative assessment tasks is to produce a group essay.

Initially, Andrew and Zoë adapted the traditional approach by building in the use of social media. As a module team they encouraged students to share their attempts at writing in an academic style using a Facebook group. The students found that being able to see and formatively critique each other’s attempts helped them to understand the principles behind academic writing and to learn from each other’s feedback.

This approach helped students to retain what they had learnt about study skills but the breakthrough came when one group of students decided to take their learning into their own hands.

An assignment was set whereby small groups were tasked to produce a piece (written or otherwise) to demonstrate that a specific study skill had been mastered. All groups, with the exception of one, submitted either a written document or a short video in a piece to camera style.

However, Zoë was pleasantly surprised when she reviewed one group’s submission to find that they had taken a popular song, parodied the video, re-written the lyrics and presented a produced ‘pop-video’ style piece that demonstrated fully that they had learnt how to write a group assignment.

The following week, as part of the co-teaching activity, Zoë showcased this submission to the other groups which prompted one group to go directly to the media production studio and create a parody of Beyoncé’s Single Ladies for the following week.

Now, rich multimedia content has become the normal for students working in groups or individually on the study skills assignments as part of Social Media and Media technology. Submissions are now shared and critiqued using the DMU Commons rather than Facebook but the principles are the same and students also use the DMU Commons to blog using the FutureMedia site as championed by Rob Watson, Principal Lecturer.

Andrew and Zoë also encourage the students to Tweet about their learning experience. With guidance from Dr Andrew Clay, Principal Lecturer, Critical Technical Practices, Zoë and the students have been making use of the storification tools in Twitter to build up a chronological portfolio of reflective Tweets that others can see.

Students are also encouraged to stay up to date with social media trends when using these platforms to collaborate and produce pieces for assessment. For example, students embraced the ‘Harlem Shake’ trend and group’s submitted Harlem Shake style videos to demonstrate their understanding – this links to the social media focused learning outcomes of the module as it encourages students to not only use such tools for their own assessment pieces but through using these tools they are also learning how to use them in the context of their course too.

The students enjoy these approaches to teaching and formative assessment, and have taken control of their own learning by pro-actively extending their use of social media by parodying videos and talking about their experiences and the work they have produced in these spaces.

The students described here are all first year students and through these activities they are encouraged to begin to take control of their own learning through these innovative approaches to teaching study skills.


Ian Pettit

Aug 212013
 

I recently took delivery of a new piece of technology from the IT department here at DMU. It’s a telephone… or is it?

Last year DMU started the roll-out of Microsoft Lync to all of its staff members; the vision is that staff will make use of the software to video conference with each other, we will make use of Voice Over IP and we can also manage our time and meetings more effectively due to the integration with Outlook.

From a business justification perspective, all of the points above stand up by way of helping us to be more efficient and save costs but it is the other benefit that this project has ‘accidentally’ delivered that I want to talk about here.

The Centre for Enhancing Learning through Technology (CELT) works independently from the IT support department as part of the Library and Learning Services Directorate at DMU. However projects that the IT team delivers will often have a knock-on effect on CELT’s work and can sometimes deliver unexpected teaching, learning and assessment related benefits.

In order to take full advantage of MS Lync, the IT team has equipped each staff member with a new telephone – I was quite excited to take delivery of mine as my previous device would have been more at home in a museum than on my desk but aside the obvious benefits of clearer sound, being notified when I had missed a call and being able to see when my next meeting is scheduled on the telephone’s screen I also noticed that there are now some new cables on my desk.

The cable I’m really excited about (if I can get excited about a piece of black wire) is the USB cable that now plugs into my PC and the new ‘phone.

This cable not only facilitates the communication between the MS Lync desktop application and the telephone but my PC also now ‘sees’ the new telephone and its discreet devices as devices that the PC can access, control and interface with.

And here’s the point – by providing each staff member with a new telephone and the USB interface, the IT department has given everyone a good quality microphone and speaker that their computer can see and use.

Over the last couple of years, as one of the Enhancing Learning through Technology Project Officers at DMU, I have worked with a number of staff in areas such as creating screencast based resources, providing audio or audio/visual feedback and using screencast technology to provide resources and feedback using a variety of media for Distance Learners and attending students.

One area that has always been a sticking point is the provision of an appropriate microphone and speaker(s) to enable a teaching team to adopt such practice en masse.

Traditionally, I have always advised staff members to look for a mid-range wireless USB headset with microphone as this can double up as a device to be used in the office for recording audio feedback or if staff wish to record their session then the wireless USB headset can also be worn whilst teaching in order to capture audio as part of a lecture capture solution without having to loan or purchase a separate lapel mic’. However, such headsets can cost around £50 each and this cost can be prohibitive.

I have also come across instances whereby teaching staff will be in possession of a microphone but it will be an older 3.5mm jack plug style microphone. This would be ok when maybe using the Windows sound recorder to produce audio files but when interfacing with software such as Expression for the production of screencast type content, a USB microphone is required as in my experience Expression does not interface with more traditional equipment plugged into a jack plug and other applications struggle to pick up the older style microphones at a decent volume (even with a bit of tweaking of the levels).

So this brings me back to my nice new shiny telephone and the fact that when it was first plugged into my work PC it installed a few drivers, talked to MS Lync and did everything that the IT team expected it to; but now, when I open the ‘recording devices’ menu on my PC I see I have a new USB microphone available to use that Expression can also see (or is that hear) as well as other software such as Panopto and the Windows sound recorder.

The ‘phone actually has two microphones, the one in the handset and the one that is built into the body for use in loud-speaker mode, it doesn’t matter which I use when using the ‘phone to record audio on my PC, both deliver very good quality audio and the PC doesn’t need to switch between the handset and loud-speaker microphone which makes using the telephone as a USB microphone really easy – it’s just the same as plugging a USB microphone into a computer and talking to it.

The provision of these telephones at DMU has opened up a lot of potential for staff wanting to experiment with audio and audio/visual resources and feedback as everyone now has a good quality microphone on their desk that will talk to software that is free to use or other centrally supported software and they also have a speaker through which recorded content can be played for checking prior to uploading to the VLE, a real bonus for a project that was focused solely on providing a more corporate style communication tool for staff.

One member of academic staff at DMU is ahead of the game in this respect as his location was equipped early in the MS Lync project. Cormac Norton, School of Nursing, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences has already adopted the use of his new telephone as a USB microphone to add voice to PowerPoint slides – a case study that looks at Cormac’s technique in detail can be accessed on the CELT Hub here.

This experience also highlights the need for people such as myself, who support the use of technology from a teaching, learning and assessment perspective to be aware of the technology that is centrally provided and how technology that might not have been designed or implemented with teaching, learning and assessment in mind can be exploited in order to make a difference.

I’m sure if we all looked hard enough we’d be able to squeeze just a bit more out of the kit that we are supplied to work with every day.


Ian Pettit.