Before lockdown and the onset of social distancing, classroom teaching was the norm with just a few innovators willing to experiment with technologies that are truly immersive and engaging.
Covid-19 and Social Distancing has meant we all have to think differently and about ways of delivering exciting and engaging taught sessions. When normally we would be rubbing shoulders with each other, on campus or journeying together on a shared learning experience such as a field trip or an on-location workshop. The new norm is working at distance and from home, for many of us.
For every generation there will be something radical that changes the way we view the world around us, like a movement, event, a moment or an advancement, be it technological or otherwise. The Corona Virus is devastating, having a profound effect on all our lives. And yet isolation has, for many, brought people much closer together. Working from home, relying on technology to stay connected with each other, to the weekly ritual of clapping key-worker heroes for keeping us safe and to those keeping the country moving has, for many, been an inspiration.
Arguably, less devastating but by no means less impactful, for me and those of my generation, was the battle for supremacy between Betamax and VHS video cassette “Tape Wars“. We all know how that ended! Being able to record TV programmes, purchasing the latest movie rentals from the corner shop whist at the same time, buying the family groceries for the weekend, was a revelation!
Before video was seen as mainstream in education, the viewer experience was one of, large group viewing events, and live broadcasts. Those of us of a certain age will remember watching educational programmes or significant events on an oversized television, that had to be pushed in to a large assembly hall, on a trolley, by the Head Master or Caretaker, whilst you and your fellow pupils huddled together on a cold wooden floor.
With the advent of video, academics began to add recordings to their taught sessions, taking control of when to show videos that, in some cases, they had recorded themselves, usually on a VHS or Betamax tape cassette. Video recordings could now be linked to the topic and used as important viewing, aimed at supporting learning and following sessions for added context and explanation.
The latest video technology allows us to immerse ourselves in a whole new world and enjoy a completely different viewing experience.
Today’s immersive technology has the potential for delivering new and exciting spheres of learning. Academics are beginning to take advantage and are already deploying content such as 360-degree video into the taught curriculum, as an essential part of the student learning and experience.
Here at Edge Hill University academics are encouraged to explore 360-degree VR technology. Students can learn new skills, be introduced to real-world scenarios and conditions that they wouldn’t otherwise come across, because of, either an impairment or until graduating.
Andrew Whittle (Programme Leader – Policing Degree) talks about how this technology is helping students on his courses come to terms with the complexities of being a Police Officer in today’s modern Police Force. Andrew and his team take students through real-time scenarios, where they are faced with a crime scene, with real challenges and clues for solving the case.
The English, History and Creative Writing Department has partnered up with the country’s oldest repertory theatre, Liverpool’s Playhouse Theatre, formally the Star Music Hall. The Department has worked with the University’s Learning Services to produce several recordings, including a series of 360-degree videos, artifacts and learning resources based in and around the building. Interviews with theatre staff provide a rich knowledge base, from which students can explore and use for research and course work.
Professor Paul Ward (Head of English, History and Creative Writing), talks about his vision of using technology such as 360-degree video on his programmes. Students studying English, History and Creative Writing, will explore and engage in more innovative ways of working. Paul also explains the importance of internal and external collaborative relationships, such as those his department has with Learning Services and the recent partnership with Liverpool’s Everyman and Playhouse Theatres.
Take a virtual tour of The Liverpool Playhouse Theatre, listen to Allan Williams’ (Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse Theatres, Learning Manager) commentary. Control this short video in every direction as you move through the recording toward and into the Liverpool Playhouse Theatre, situated on the eastern side of Williamson Square, before entering the auditorium views of the stage, stalls, circle and gallery space (transcript).
Inclusion and enrichment
Being able to challenge students with real-life situations and scenarios is increasingly possible. A major benefit of 360-degree video is inclusion, students can now access and experience challenging environments during lectures or from the comfort of their own home, anywhere they have access to the internet and at the click of a button.
360-degree creation can be as simple as using an app on your mobile device or with a standard 360 camera. Edge Hill University’s staff can call upon state of the art resources and expertise (Media Production Team). Developing external, collaborative partnerships, such as those forged by Faculties with local agencies, for example, North West Police Forces, NHS Hospitals Trusts and the creative arts industries, including Liverpool’s Everyman and Playhouse Theatres, contribute to enriching student’s experience and ultimately their learning.
Being able to explore immersive content that allows us to decide where to go, in storytelling isn’t new. However, with the latest video production techniques, it’s possible to move between spaces, access environments that might otherwise be too remote, activate portals (hot-spots) to more information and enter new unexplored realms that help tell the story on a number of levels.
2020, kick-start the New Year with several staff development activities and resources, designed to help you make your content accessible.
Learning Services are offering a range of sessions and resources to assist staff with issues raised by Blackboard Ally, from training sessions on making accessible documents, small steps videos that target a range of specific issues and guides that help with more complex document structures and conversions.
Attend a Drop-in Session.
Sessions are being run from 8th Jan to 26th Feb, every Wednesday between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. Catalyst Oak Room (session on Wed 12th Feb will run from 11-1pm).
No appointment necessary, drop into the Catalyst Oak Room (top floor) & get individual help with making your content accessible. Bring up issues you are having with particular documents and we will help you find a solution following best practice.
Book on a Digital Proficiency Staff Development Session.
Learning Services are producing a series of short how-to videos for the most common accessibility issues found in content uploaded to Blackboard Courses. All videos will be available by February and will walk you through a step by step approach to resolving issues such as; adding alt text to an image, using Header Styles in Word, saving a Word file to an accessible PDF and linking to 3rd party resources.
LinkedIn Learning specifically focuses on professional development. Industry experts provide insights and guidance to you on what you should know about in the production and remediation of PDFs. ‘Creating Accessible PDFs’ course is broken down into six key areas:
Accessibility in PDF Files.
Make an existing PDF File Accessible.
Create an Accessible PDF from Word.
Create an Accessible PDF File from PowerPoint and Excel.
Create an Accessible PDF File from Adobe InDesign.
Each category is delivered in short manageable chunks, between 2 – 12 minutes sections, this means you can dip in and out of your learning as and when it suits you.
Want to know more about accessibility and what the new legislation means for your modules in Blackboard?
Contact your Learning Technology Development Officer: AskLTD or Tel. 7755
Seamlessly integrating with Learning Edge (Blackboard), all seminar and lecture theatres are fitted with the latest recording and capture equipment, making it easy for tutors to use and access the Panopto System no matter where they are on campus. Capturing a lecture can be as simple as pressing a record button from within your computer desktop.
There are three key reasons why lecturers say it is important to provide students with Panopto recordings. These are:
To enhance student satisfaction. All students experience high quality and fulfilling University education that enriches their lives and careers.
To offer better provision for students with disabilities, medical conditions or other commitments that sometimes make it impossible for them to attend classes physically. Accessibility and inclusivity are becoming ever more important drivers for the adoption of this technology.
To improve student learning outcomes. Analytics show students are using Panopto recordings as a support mechanism and revision tool, to check key terms, concepts and understanding for a topic during the assessment period.
Safe learning for complex concept rules (Transcript).
Student Voice: Derek, 3rd Year Marketing Student (Transcript).
There’s a growing movement for online video tutorials, people are using platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo and Linkedin Learning and students are turning to these technologies to teach themselves new skills. As a result, there’s an expectation that these types of resources will form part of their learning experience at University. Panopto provides staff with the tools that offer students a safe and secure way to engage with taught sessions and content.
With a simple tick of a box, Panopto will automatically generate a webcast link and stream your sessions live so that distance students can access them.
Hosting ‘live lounges’ for music performances or concerts.
Along with the latest classroom equipment, Panopto is helping to expand your reach beyond the physical campus and offers a ‘humanised’ digital experience that makes both existing and new audiences feel like they’re part of a community of learning.
“Ally for Students” is a marketing campaign aimed at reminding students what Blackboard Ally means for them. The campaign runs alongside support for staff, helping them fine-tune skills to improve their content so that all students can use that content in a way that meets their needs and in ways they prefer to access it.
Ally’s alternative versions mean students can go to Learning Edge, access instructor generated content in their Blackboard modules, in a format they want it. Students are often on the go and may require a version of a document that they can listen to.
The audio version means students can download an audio file (MP3), that they can then playback on a mobile device.
The HTML version allows them to access content through a browser and on their mobile device.
ePub files are supported by many e-readers, and compatible software is available for most smartphones, tablets, and computers.
The “Ally for Students” campaign will run for two months beginning March through to May 2019. Students will start to see information about Ally via the Student Portal and digital display screens across campus, explaining what can be downloaded and how they can download it.
Edge Hill University investment in Blackboard Ally is, in part, to help fulfil its obligation and government accessibility requirements in line with level AA of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1). GOV.UK Digital inclusion and accessibility.
If you would like any further information about Blackboard Ally, and other learning technologies, please contact your Technologist via Ask LTD.
Martin Baxter Learning Technology Development Officer
As part of Learning Service’s “Inclusive by Design” initiative and on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Learning Technology Development (LTD) want to mention some of the things we are doing to support staff to generate content and resources that are usable for all. The team are working with others to improve content across all areas but more importantly for students to be able to use resources in a way that suites them and their needs.
Introducing Blackboard Ally (coming January 2019).
Ally provides you guidance on how to correct accessibility issues with your digital course content. Students are able to download a version of the file most appropriate for their device and need.
Social Sites – VLE Skip Link option.
Important for keyboard-only users to navigate VLE content without getting bogged down in a seemingly never ending series of clicks before they are able to move on to the next item.
Transcripts and Closed Captions.
The latest LTD video productions contain transcripts for those who prefer to follow the action in word form. Closed captions offer everyone the ability to follow what is being said, especially good for those when English isn’t their first language.
Our Staff Development Programme.
Aims to support staff in the production of content that means all students can benefit from your content, in a way they prefer and suites their learning style.
The production of 360 degree content couldn’t be easier; most of us have access to devices capable of capturing images that software or apps can stitch together to give an immersive viewing experience.
Lecturers across the university continue to explore this technology, generating good quality content for students to access through their devices whilst studying a module.
However, our own Media Production Team have invested in the latest Insta360 Pro 360º professional camera, which they explain, presents a whole range of new possibilities when filming around campus. To learn more about the Media Production Team and the Insta360, visit the Learning Services wiki pages.
Examples of use: Areas across campus where 360° video is being used and generating interest:
Faculty of Health and Social Care – Paramedics and the 360° Experience. An ambitious project which aims to expose students to a variety of environments, giving them a sense of being present at a scene without actually being there in person (virtual practitioner). Barry Mathews (Lecturer in Paramedic Practice and Pre-hospital Care) is exploring the potential of 360° images to simulate hazardous and clinical settings. Students will practice their observational skills and identify individual hazards and use this to influence their dynamic operational risk assessment.
Whilst on field trips with her students, Susan Jones (Lecturer – Geographical Information Systems) produced a series of 360° photographs of locations visited along the Northwest Coastline of scientific interest. For Sue, who is keen to start using immersive content on her modules, this was an exciting time to (metaphorically speaking), tentatively dip a toe into the immersive water. Initial thoughts suggest there is value in producing content that students can use for revision, that gives them the means to study and explore areas of interest and identify points of reference.
The University Library, as part of its introduction to staff and students, has produced a 360° tour. People can take a virtual look around the different spaces and facilities before actually visiting in person. Interactive hot-spots provide information whilst red target-like buttons make it possible to move from room to room and between floors.
Other uses of 360 content:
Capital Projects site walk-through (CATALYST). Experience Edge Hill University’s newest £26m building, go on a tour with others and see how the building looks during its construction.
Aintree Library IT Suite and Issue Desk 360° Images. Never visited Edge Hill University’s Aintree Library? These photosphere images give you an all-round view of the IT Suite, Issue Desk, study space and shelf stock.
Plans for future use:
Paul Ward’s (Head of English and History) interest in 360 content, to make resources that are fun and interactive. It also enables the department to address all the disciplines; so for example, a virtual fieldtrip using 360 would allow historians to look at developments across time, linguists to look at language use in different contexts, creative writers to visit new settings for fiction, and literary critics to explore literary connections or literary settings. Paul goes on to say, “It also shows students how digital technologies that they are familiar with are learning and research tools”.
Options for hosting your 360° video content.
There are many hosting options around, the trouble is most offer hosting at a price, via a subscription, or they have free versions that are limited in features or for a limited time.
Here, we look at three of the most popular services used by staff at Edge Hill University.
A free video sharing/social website where anyone with an account can view, upload and share content.
If you need your content to be shared worldwide, YouTube is the second largest search engine. However, if you wish to target your audience, for instance within a module, by hosting your videos on YouTube, you are sending your audience to a third party site. This means that YouTube videos will be more visible within Google, compared to the videos embedded on your modules.
Unwanted content, clutter can be distracting for some, particularly those with a Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD). YouTube’s auto play function means students may view unrelated content based on their own search criteria and pattern.
Aimed at giving filmmakers a platform to present and promote their work.
Unlike YouTube, Vimeo doesn’t rely on funding from ads, preferring to offer a service which has less clutter, charging a membership fee for 500MB of space per month. Unless you opt for Pro membership, Vimeo’s video player incorporates its logo alongside your content.
Institutional platform to manage, live stream, record, and share videos across an organisation and/or a specific module in Learning Edge.
A secure platform for educational content, you manage access and take control of what your audience can see, no adverts, or suggested videos and no more clutter. Unlimited space, full feature and no additional cost implications.
The University offers dedicated support and staff training. Guides and FAQs provide just-in-time resources at the point of need. Students can benefit from using assistive tools, with Panopto’s playback viewer, such as:
A graphical and textual index of PowerPoint slides.
The ability to slow down or speed up the recording.
The ability to make time-stamped typed notes and bookmarks.
A search tool that indexes on-screen text as well as spoken audio.
For a comparative view of the three services covered in this post, click the image below:
Staff, and students alike have deliberated long and hard over when, where, and how they can work more collaboratively, either in taught sessions, while engaging in a group activity, or during activities that require distance participation.
There is greater emphasis these days on giving students the space, time and flexibility to work collaboratively, on joint projects and away from the constraints and rigidity of the conventional classroom environment.
In earlier versions of Blackboard Collaborate, you’ll remember Tutors were given the role of Moderator; everyone else was given the Participant role. The Moderator is the person responsible for the room (usually the tutor), and is required to conduct sessions, and control Participant (usually the student) privileges and the availability of tools.
Captioner can be applied to any user. They are given an area to type what is being said, so that those with a hearing impairment can participate and join in with the conversation.
The Presenter role is designed to allow participants/students to use the whiteboard tools and present without giving them full moderator privileges.
Presenters can upload, share, edit, and stop sharing content. Presenters are able to share their screens and upload images or PowerPoint files, they cannot modify another users’ permissions the way a moderator can. This is a useful role, as all students are given the same, high level of user access, but can’t accidentally exclude another member from the project group activity.
Andrea Wright (Senior Lecturer – Film Studies), introduced her students to recordings of taught sessions to encourage engagement and shared understanding of her topics. Andrea’s approach to using Panopto, means that her students can review lectures in manageable bite-sized videos.
From the statistics gathered over two years of using Panopto, Andrea is able to see when students are making use of her bit-sized recordings.
Consistently, the peak periods of use are around assessment time and prior to submission deadlines. Students are using the recordings as a support mechanism and revision tool, to check key terms, concepts and understanding of the topic.
Andrea also states“following the introduction of Panopto in 2016, there is certainly some evidence of students attaining slightly better in the modules. Particularly for some students who may well have struggled to gain a pass mark, there was evidence of them getting beyond the pass mark and a larger proportion of students achieving a first class.”Andrea strongly believes, Panopto has the potential to benefit all students to gain higher marks toward their degree.