14 Jun

Why I put all my teaching videos on YouTube

At the beginning of the semester, a colleague asked me if I’d share my thoughts on the best place for hosting video content for teaching and learning with someone new to his team. I thought my response might be useful for others, too, so I’m sharing it here.

I put all of my teaching video content on YouTube. I manage this by making a channel for each of my units. Having separate channels has a number of benefits, some of which will become clear later in this post. But from an administrative perspective, the big advantage is I can give access to other members of the teaching team so they can upload or edit content. 

There are many reasons I use YouTube to host my video content. Here are some of them.

Subscriptions

Students can subscribe to the unit channel and have content pushed to them. Using a separate channel for each unit means students can subscribe to just that unit’s channel, and only see updates related to that unit. If they subscribe, students see new content in their subscription feed when it goes live. I’ve only become a big user of YouTube subscriptions in the last year or so, and I don’t think I really understood the convenience factor until I started religiously watching a bunch of channels. While I’m sure students will never be as excited to see my videos pop up in their feeds as I am to see some of the stuff I subscribe to, for frequent YouTube users, I can see the benefits. 

Curating content

Putting videos on YouTube helps me with curating resource sets using tools like Storify. I can easily pull a YouTube video into a curated content set, but I can’t pull in content that’s locked behind a firewall (i.e. any content that’s hosted on my institution’s platforms). 

I can also create playlists for topics or weeks and incorporate my own videos with other videos from YouTube. Then I only have one thing to embed in the page – the playlist – rather than lots of videos. (Caveat: Make sure you point out it’s a playlist, or some students will watch the first video and assume that’s all there is.)

Accessible embeds

I can embed YouTube videos anywhere, and students can play it in context, with no pesky logins required to get the video to start playing. I can embed content captured with Echo360 in external sites, but it requires a log in to play the recording. That’s just one extra barrier to access.

Better mobile experience

YouTube videos are easy to watch on mobile devices. I’ve tried institutional platforms on my phone, and the experience just isn’t as good.

It’s also easy for students to find the content on their mobile devices because they can just search for the channel on YouTube (or better yet, they’d just see it in their subscription feed if they had subscribed). Going through Blackboard to Echo Centre and then watching the video play there is not a whole lot of fun on a mobile device. 

Easy, fast export and upload

It’s easier for me to export from iMovie or Camtasia directly to YouTube or to upload a video file manually to YouTube than to deal with our institutional media platforms. Video uploads and processes much faster on YouTube than using any institutional platforms.

Students like it

It’s become pretty evident over time that students like the way I use YouTube. I’ve only ever had one objection to it (at least that I know about!) and I’ve had a lot of positive feedback, like the comment below from one of my undergrads this semester (used with permission).

having YouTube videos to watch was a godsend. My usual lecture-viewing method involves downloading the video or audio from Echo360 (which, in itself, can be a nightmare due to the downloaded videos sometimes not being the ones you were expecting, poor naming conventions, misuse of new tabs, etc.) and then opening the file in VLC to watch at 1.5-2.0x speed for maximum time efficiency. With this unit, all I had to do was head to YouTube and speed videos up in its video player. While Echo360 supports playback speed adjusting, the player is slow to load, laggy and inflexible with resizing.

I value openness

The Masters course I teach in champions openness and I feel like I should model that by making my content publicly accessible and (when I remember to select the right settings!) Creative Commons attribution licensed for reuse.

In a nutshell…

Basically, hosting my content on YouTube makes my life easier and it makes it easier for students to access the content, which means they’re more likely to watch it. And anything I can do to increase the likelihood that my videos get watched is a good thing!

12 Jun

Audio record assignment feedback

audio-record-assignment-feedback

I dislike marking so much that sometimes I wonder if I can actually do this academic gig for the rest of my career. It’s hard to explain my dislike because I also like it at the same time… It’s great to see how students are doing, and I particularly like marking reflective assignments where my students discuss their learning, plus assignments where they’ve built something, like a website, or made a video.

But no matter how much I like marking particular assignments, the relentless grind and the tedium that sets in after the first handful really gets to me.

Part of the problem is that I give stacks of feedback and I can’t seem to stop myself from doing that, which means I am quite possibly the world’s slowest marker. I also find it really hard not to copy edit and write stacks of feedback on the assignment document itself.

But I have found a method for marking that is speedy for me and means the students get heaps of feedback: audio recording my comments.

A couple of years ago, I slipped two discs in my lower back right when all my marking for the semester came flooding in. By necessity, I had to come up with a way to mark while lying flat on my back, and necessity is, of course, the mother of invention! So I came up with a solution where I put criteria sheets in Dropbox and used Good Reader on my iPad to highlight criteria and write the mark on the sheet. Then I saved them back to Dropbox. At the same time, I recorded my feedback on my phone using Voice Record Pro. After I made each recording, I modified the filename to match my normal naming convention, and saved them to Dropbox directly form Voice Record Pro with a single tap on my phone. In this instance, I was marking videos on YouTube, so I just played those on my iPad mini while recording on my phone and annotating the criteria sheet on my iPad. And it worked well. In fact, the audio recording worked great (highlighting the criteria sheets in Good Reader was a bit of a pain, to be honest, but served the purpose).

I have used voice recorded feedback on and off since then, but I’m going to make a wholesale switch to recording all my feedback. The great thing about it is that students get more feedback but it takes me less time.

I highly recommend Voice Record Pro for iPhone. The quality of the recordings is really good and the ability to rename the files easily in-app and then tap to save them to Dropbox is super handy.

In case you’re interested in giving this a try, here is my workflow.

Workflow

  1. Open the assignment file and criteria sheet on your computer.
  2. In Voice Record Pro, tap the ‘REC’ button. Note this will not start the recording, but will take you to a settings screen.
  3. For the first recording, you will need to click on the ‘Advanced’ tab and choose ‘MP3’ as the format (the app records in MP4 format by default). I also recommend choosing ‘Medium’ for quality. These settings should stick for subsequent recordings.
    change-settings
  4. Hit the ‘REC’ button to start recording. I start with the student’s name and a statement like ‘This is feedback on Assignment 1 in IFN616. I’m going to record comments as I work through your assignment and finish with some summary comments.’
  5. Pause the recording and start working through the assignment. Restart the recording to make comments as you work through the assignment.
  6. When the recording is complete, tap the stop button.
  7. Change the filename to match your preferred naming convention – I name my files* like this: 2015 IAB260 Davis Kate IAB260-2.
    rename-1rename-2
  8. Save the file directly to Dropbox from the app, just by tapping ‘Save to Dropbox’ (note the new filename appears at the top of the screen).
    save-to-dropbox
  9. I highlight the criteria the student has achieved and write a grade on their criteria sheet. I use the same file name for the criteria sheet except I add ‘CRA’ at the end, so the file name is 2015 IAB260 Davis Kate IAB260-2 CRA.
  10. And then I do it all over again for the next one!

At the very end, I grab all of the audio files and criteria sheets and whack them into the same folder. Because I’m pedantic about file naming, everything files nicely, which speeds up the process of returning the assignments to students.

Just a note on file size: If the files are too big, you can import them into iTunes to compress them. You just need to change your import settings first.

(* Note I’m really pedantic about file naming for assignments because good file naming means less work when it comes to course accreditation because I can easily find the files I need. In particular I like to have the year and unit code at the beginning, preferably in square brackets but the app doesn’t support that, so I add them later.)

#blogjune 12/30

09 Jun

Premium web services worth paying for

I’m always looking for ways to do things more efficiently and I thought I’d share some of my productivity ninja tips in a series of blog posts. Here’s the first!

Public domain image courtesy Pascal via flickr

Public domain image courtesy Pascal via flickr

I use about a bajillion different web services in my teaching, and I pay for premium subscriptions to many of them. This post provides an overview of the services I have premium subscriptions for, how I use them, and why it’s worth going premium.

Buffer

We use Facebook groups for discussion forums and Buffer allows me to schedule posts to the groups in advance. It means I can schedule all the ‘what’s on this week’ posts, posts reminding about assignment due dates, and posts reminding students about my availability over the weekend when they have assessments due. I also schedule reminders about activities I want them to complete between classes.

I also use Buffer to schedule tweets for my research group’s Twitter account and our Facebook page.

Buffer basically allows me to plan ahead and means I don’t have to clutter my head or my to do list with reminders to make posts at key points.

Buffer’s premium plan is called the Awesome plan and costs USD$10 a month.

The Noun Project

The Noun Project was my find of 2014. It’s a freaking awesome site where you can source Creative Commons licensed icons for use however you like. You just need to attribute the creator. If you don’t want to attribute an icon, you can buy it. I did this for an icon I use on my business card, for example.

They also have NounPro accounts, which are essentially premium subscriptions. If you have a NounPro account, you don’t ever have to cite the icons. And when you make as many presentations as I do, that saves you a whole lotta time.

When you’re a NounPro account holder, you also get a desktop app where you can search for icons and drag and drop them into whatever application you’re working in. Super handy. The only problem with the app is you can’t access your folders of favourite icons (which are called ‘kits’) from the app. But I can live with that.

A NounPro account costs USD$99.90 per year.

WPMU Dev

WPMU Dev is a premium WordPress support, plugin and theme service. I started subscribing to this service a few years back because I got sick of making my own WordPress tutorial videos for students in the unit where I host students’ blogs on a WordPress network. These guys provide unbranded help videos that you can use on your own site. But this is only one part of the service. They also make premium themes and plugins, and in particular, they make stuff that works with WordPress Multisite and BuddyPress. These make it much easier for me to manage my WordPress based course sites.

Currently you can sign up for 12 months for USD$294.

iCloud

Earlier this year a small child entered my iPhone password incorrectly enough times that my phone had to be reset. And I lost everything, including video I’d shot for teaching materials. I immediately signed us all up for 200GB iCloud plans and all of our devices now sync to the cloud when they’re plugged in.

200GB of storage costs $4.99 a month.

Web hosting

I have three different hosting accounts with three different providers. One is a shared server plan I’ve had for years, which costs about USD$80 a year. It’s fine, but I feel like a resource hog running a WordPress multisite network on a shared server, so I also have a virtual private server (VPS). The VPS costs USD$50 a month but I bump it up to the USD$100 a month plan during semester when I’m running a multisite WordPress network. I’m really unhappy with this VPS service and as soon as I’ve got time to move the sites that live there, I’ll be switching them to my new host, Reclaim Hosting. These guys are brilliant. Their plans for students are USD$25 a year including a free domain registration. I pay $45 for the faculty or organisation plan, which also includes a free domain. It has been brilliant. I cannot recommend them highly enough. Seriously, don’t pay for WordPress premium options at wordpress.com. Run your own install with a Reclaim shared hosting package.

Dropbox

My life is in Dropbox and I quite seriously don’t know what I did without it. I have to have a premium plan because I need the extra capacity.

Dropbox Pro costs $109 a year.

Doodle

I think everyone loves Doodle for scheduling meetings. The Premium version gives you calendar integration (unless your organisation prevents it, which mine does), plus the ability to send automatic reminders, see who hasn’t responded, and ask for additional information like email addresses from responders.

Premium Doodle costs €39 a year.

Skype call credit

So this is not actually a premium service, but I always have some Skype credit available for times when I need to bring multiple people into a single phone conversation, or when I need to record a phone conversation.

CudaSign

CudaSign is a tool for filling out and signing forms, and for getting them signed by other people. I actually use it mostly to sign my own forms, where I have to use the same form repeated times. The form is set up as a template, so I just have to put in a couple of details and add my signature. It’s much faster than printing, filling out the form, signing it, and scanning it back in.

It costs US$1 a month per user and you really only need yourself on there as a user.

Spotify

Spotify is an essential productivity tool because I can’t work in silence. Spotify Premium gives you unlimited access to any content, any time, and you can listen offline.

It costs $11.99 a month.

Your turn

What premium web service do you use and recommend?

#blogjune 9/30

04 Jun

Using social technologies for connected learning

Last month I presented on using social technologies for connected learning at a QUT Twilight Teacher PD event for school teachers.

It was a lot of fun and led me to discover what I’m sure will be my next hobby: making programmable wearables. I have visions of sewing conductive thread through Miss 6’s Elsa dress and making snowflake necklaces. Zomg!

But programmable wearables aren’t the point of this post. The point of this post is to share a recording of my presentation. I broadcast this live using Periscope on my iPhone and I’ve got Periscope set to automatically save videos to my camera roll. The light was quite low in the room, so apologies for graininess. I’ve retrospectively synced the video with slides. There are a few dodgy edits at the very end where I’ve chopped out questions you couldn’t hear.

In the video, I mention I will make my rubric for assessing contributions to the learning community available. You can find it in an earlier blog post.

03 Jun

The role of academic libraries in connected learning

Earlier this year, I spoke at ALIA Information Online about my approach to teaching and learning, which you might call connected learning.

The presentation was designed to be an overview of my approach to teaching, and a provocation. I wanted to encourage dialogue around the way academic libraries currently engage with students. I told the audience that I don’t want a liaison librarian to run a two hour information literacy training session for my students. I’d rather they spent two hours engaging with my students in our online learning spaces. For example, I’d love to have a liaison librarian comment on my student blog posts, to help them with finding and citing resources in an appropriate way.

Teaching the way I and some of my colleagues do means that traditional approaches to librarians trying to embed themselves in courses just don’t work any more. I do most of my engaging with my students online in a learning community. I need the library to be there with me.

While academic libraries are great at providing static resources to help students with learning, I am increasingly aware that it is personal engagement that makes the connected learning model work. I think we’ve seen this play out in MOOCs, where many of the failings in the MOOC model have been about lack of interactivity. Connectedness and community are incredibly important because fundamentally, learning is social.

In my presentation, I emphasised that while I’m not the sage on the stage, I also don’t want to be the guide on the side. Instead, I am in the learning community with my students, facilitating, managing the community, curating resources and sharing. I’m in there as a co-learner.

I finished the presentation with a challenge. I asked academic libraries to consider where they sit, whether they’re in our learning communities or poised to jump in there, and what role they might play.

I am genuinely interested in having a conversation about this because I don’t have the answers. I’m interested both as an educator who wants to draw on the services of academic libraries more, and as a librarian and teacher-of-librarians.

I believe academic libraries need to rethink the way they do business and find ways to engage with learners that work for new and emerging approaches to online education. The library at my own institution have been very supportive in this. Our liaison librarian has created resources for us and jumped into an online community for one of our units. But I’m not sure to what extent this is the norm.

Do you have ideas about how academic libraries could embed themselves in connected learning communities? Or maybe you’re an academic who sees a need or opportunity. I’d love to have a broader conversation about this. Please share your ideas or questions in the comments.