Posts Tagged ‘teaching’

So what’s the problem with lecture recordings?

Monday, April 18th, 2011

There has been some recent commentary about the value of recording lectures at university and elsewhere (see Mark Smithers’ blog and comments). To set up and automate such a system involve high infrastructure costs, and questions being asked about the return on investment with regard to use & reuse of recordings. Just how

At my university there is a significant usage of recorded lectures, and students demand access to them. Staff are stressed over whether the recordings have worked and are of good quality. Some staff even fear that they will receive bad student evaluations if the system fails and students complain over not having access to recorded lectures to supposedly review their study.


Photo credit: Ben McLeod

I don’t want to go into the pros and cons of recorded lectures or of the systems that support them. What I wanted to write about was the process we’ve just begun of reviewing our current lecture recording system. We undertook a logic mapping workshop with relevant stakeholders from across the university and spent some time working through strengths, problems, solutions and benefits (sort of like SWOT but different).

One of the outcomes of this process was to suggest that we may need to think differently about our idea of what a lecture is. The technology has been constraining the paradigm of what we understand the lecture to be. Originally developed to be able to record the delivery of an oration and maybe also capture a series of powerpoint slide or some video, the software was modelled on the idea of one teacher talking to an audience (of students). Blended and flexible learning paradigms are showing us that the traditional oration (while appropriate in some circumstances) needs to be adjusted to support new ways of teaching and learning.

I’ve been encouraged that we will be developing a proposal and framework that understands that we may need to record more than just a stand & deliver lecture. We’ll be seeking to be able to record interactive lectures, short ad-hoc talks & presentations (with or without video). The aim then, is to also be a catalyst to help teachers come to understand different models for getting a message across.

As Stephen Downes recently argued in a debate, ‘The Lecture Must Stand’, it just needs to be adapted appropriate to the need.


augmented reality software/applications and educative possibility

Monday, September 21st, 2009

I’m just staring to understand the applications/technologies underpinning what’s being called augmented reality. Lots of fun, amazing to see and a high potential for use in education. I had seen some of this stuff before but didn’t quite get it even though it’s been around for a while. I’m not drawing parallels or comparisons to (immersive) 3d virtual worlds as I think that they are a different application of (augmented) reality (or do you think they should be considered in the same genre of application?) I’m interested in the application of this in education and how it might support authentic learning experiences that help build students’ understanding.

Here’s a video of a demo of a free (cross platform) application from ARSights to take you on a tour (via a collection of models linked in Google Earth) of some of the significant landmarks around the world on your desktop. All you need is the marker (use the same cutout for all models) and a camera connected or built into your computer. You can also download the models from via Google Earth and view them at your leisure

Having someone demonstrate an application to me (drum sequencer) I’m starting to understand that there could be significant educative value of this technology. Basically it’s a visual marker recognition system that uses a camera to ‘read’ a marker (a bit like a QR code) that then overlays a 3D image of the object on the card that is viewed on the computer screen. These can moved/shifted around to change the output of the sequence, a little like the concept of siftables demonstrated during a TED Talk by David MerrillThe interactivity is important to note, as it adds a another dimension to this technology as suggested by this quote from d-touch website:

“The distinctive feature of d-touch, compared to similar systems, is that the markers can be visually designed to convey meaning to people. By allowing the creation of markers that support interaction both visually and functionally, d-touch can enhance most applications normally supported by visual markers, including interactive guides, mobile service access, mobile games, interactive story telling systems and augmented reality applications that have broad visual appeal and are not constrained to ugly glyphs.”

The video below shows a demo from d-touch and a drum machine ‘reading’ the markers to play a sequence.

These technologies is also being developed for mobile devices with some clever and useful applications. The demo below is nearly too cool to believe!

There must be any number of possibilities for education, eg. 3D models for architecture, medicine, chemistry, biology, etc. Are you aware of any other demonstrations/applications of this type of technology in education that you could share? … and what of uses for mobile devices?

what we need is a system bypass

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

Events have recently had me thinking about the LMS and CMS and what they can do for us with regard to student learning, and teachers being able to facilitate this. I’ve realised that we need to recognise these tools as systems and that while they can manage people and content, they need a fair bit of thinking about to be used effectively for learning.

At the university where I work we have an institution-wide implementation of Blackboard (Vista 4) which works quite well (supplemented by Elluminate and Lectopia to provide extra functionality and access to resources), and helps us manage our units/courses and student/staff enrollment etc. Often a template is applied, the class ‘delivered’ via that structure because of the convenience, and the model keeps getting replicated.

My thinking has been encouraged by a recent article by Lisa Lane (in EDUCAUSE Quarterly) called Toolbox or Trap? Course Management Systems and Pedagogy and Britt Watwood’s blog post, Moving Beyond Access and Convenience to Learning. In these two pieces the questions are raised about the potential problems/issues/constraints raised by the use of the ‘management system’ and how they can stifle creativity and learning. Both suggest that many web 2.0 and/or social networking applications are better suited to providing more meaningful learning experiences and allowing students more opportunities for collaboration and inquiry learning.

What is exciting me, is that we’ve recently implemented a project (supported by a Blackboard Greenhouse grant) that has enabled us to make a couple of powerlinks available so that teachers can create drupal/SMF and mediawiki installations within their learning context.

So, I’m looking forward to working on the rollout of this, and hoping that we might get past the tools and functions to some good learning. Being able to go beyond the management system to places where we can encourage conversation, collaboration and community. Where students are able to make sense and meaning through working together…

I’m now looking for good ideas, strategies, and examples to help teachers come to see the possibilities of the social (networking/collabotaive) software they have at their disposal. Anyone able to point me in the right direction?

face to face?

Monday, April 14th, 2008

I met with some people from South Africa last week who were doing a benchmarking exercise on the use and development of multimedia materials for distance education (only). They were keen to hear how we did this sort of thing but the scale was so different (and we do teach face to face) that our conversation/experience only intersected a couple of times. Having students on-campus makes it much easier for us to be responsive and contemporary (to the day/week rather than semester/year) with the ability to provide students with commentary (recorded audio/podcasts) and even other digital objects (newspaper, TV, scans, and broadcasts etc) to support and enhance learning. While we do have off-campus students, the mix of materials we need to develop and the way we (often) integrate both modes into the online environment, mean we do things quite differently. They did want to know how to support students at a distance through online communication and it was good to be able to tell them a little about our experiences with a large corporate learning management system and our recent excursions into using open source social software (more on that in later posts).

It was interesting to hear their story and aspects of the logistics when delivering courses (and relevant material) to over three hundred thousand students (yep, 300,000)! Make a mistake with stock control and the extra mail-out will eat into the profit quick smart. There would certainly be some economies of scale with regard to return on investment for course development by selling it to so many students, but some of the logistics issues sounded scary. They did seem to have a nice model for course/material development which reminded me of we used to do it … ahhh, the good old days.

I also attended a seminar where someone shared their experience of a visit to the UK and meeting an academic from the Ultraversity. He had been quite taken with their model of offering one degree only (BA (Hons) Learning, Technology and Research) and wholly online. It does seem like it fills a market niche with three exit points and is full fee, with those living in the EU getting a good discount. Many of the students are encouraged to ‘earn while they learn’, there seems to be a focus on ‘action to improve your own workplace’ and the study is asynchronous to allow for flexibility and self-paced learning. The curriculum model is action research and involves personalised learning (negotiated with the student), inquiry/project based learning, online units of inquiry (with expert witnesses), and the assessment of learning is by e-portfolio and an exhibition for dissemination. This is sharing the inquiry finding with stake-holders and evaluated for input which all provides for real, authentic and potentially valuable learning/contribution. I like it!

Anyway both experiences were useful in exposing me to a couple of other models for doing education and learning and provided a bit of litmus test to help me see what we are doing. Looking through a different lens is always useful and you never know who you’ll meet.