A changed World.

Immersive technology changing the boundaries.

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.

Corona Virus - Covid-19.  Four circular cells with protruding blob like tentacles seemingly floating in a fluid.

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.

Old (1970's) CRT television in front of a red curtain backdrop.

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. 

Person operating the latest VR equipment in an immersive environment (the CAVE) within the University Tech Hub.
Computer Automated Virtual Environment (CAVE).

360-degree Policing.

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.

Student (Police Officer) peering into the Crime House mock cell containing a student playing the part of a prisoner.  Andrew Whittle is pictured in the scene.  The caption says "360-degree technology: Immersing students in the reality of a crime scene.
Transcript
VR headset icon to mark link to 360 video.

Policing Students investigate the scene of a crime, in this short 360-degree video, set within the grounds of a Victorian detached property, Edge Hill University’s Crime House Training and Simulation Facility. When viewing the video, click and drag the image to view the whole scene, as a student explores every inch for clues to help solve the case (transcript).

360-degree collaboration.

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

360 view of Williamson Square Liverpool, Professor Paul Ward pictured in the scene, The caption says "360 degree technology: Expand and change your world".
Transcript
VR headset icon to mark link to 360 video.

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.

Examples of 360 video used in education:

If you would like to learn more about using 360-degree content in teaching, talk to your Learning Technology Development Officer for more information.

Martin Baxter
Martin Baxter Learning Technology Development Officer

Technology Supported Learning – MaST Programme Embedding Technology

Edge Hill University Western Campus lake view

Mark Wilcock (Learning Technology Development Officer) has, over the last few years, been working with the Faculty of Education’s MaST Team, providing support and guidance with the introduction of a number of key technologies including:

  • iSpring (a rapid learning authoring toolkit for developing professional e-learning courses in Powerpoint.
  • Blackboard Collaborate (browser-based web conferencing solution).
  • Panopto (lecture capture software).

In this case study, Mark tells us about his work with the MaST Good Practice AwardTeam and explains how and why they began to explore the available technologies, the benefits to the department and the students on the courses here at Edge Hill University.

This is what Mark says about the project and working with the MaST team to introduce these technologies;

“For many years now I have worked with the MaST team. I’ve delivered various staff development sessions and raised awareness and confidence in using technology in teaching and learning. More recently I have worked alongside them in the adoption of new learning technologies such as iSpring and Blackboard Collaborate. As a Technologist I’ve always recognised the need to respond to the changing demands of the student expectation and of course the opportunity to collaborate with staff towards enhancing the learning experience overall with the use of Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL). Starting back in 2014, MaST explored the use of iSpring as a tool to develop and enhance their current online induction resource for students. Here they created an accessible and interactive course induction resource that included a variety of multimedia (audio narration, video guides, information & social media links and supplementary attachments) to give students the best start to the course and to accommodate for all the diverse range of learning styles of the online students. This project enabled me to not only reach out to academics, but to also understand and build even stronger relationships with the team and the course the MaST programme itself. It also demonstrated the benefits that the iSpring as a technology brought to the online student experience, highlighting the student rewards and usability for staff.

iSpring, Blackboard Collaborate and Panopto logos

Moving into 2015 and 2016, the MaST team introduced Blackboard Collaborate and Panopto into their programme. The team required a platform to support online lecture streaming and video capture. Prior to the institution having Panopto (lecture capture) at its disposal, the only tool that could deliver such an ability was Blackboard Collaborate. For those new to Collaborate, it is a real-time video conferencing tool that lets you replicate the physical classroom into a virtual one with the option to share applications and a whiteboard. Though Collaborate was not actually a dedicated lecture capture product and more of a online classroom tool, it did however provide a short term fix to live streaming for the MaST Conference days until Panopto was introduced in 2016. However, the benefits of the team using Collaborate prior to Panopto, actually worked in their favour for their future endeavours as they had already obtained an initial understanding of this tool it is now currently being considered as a communication platform for online group and one to one meetings with students.

Student with Laptop

I strongly believe that the benefits of our collaboration has supported this application of technology into the online elements of their programme, which has enabled them to replicate the traditional teaching and learning activities for blended and distance learning, meeting the modern day expectations of the online student. For me personally, the ability to transfer knowledge and key understanding to academic staff working together with the technologies provided can only improve the student learning experience by improving teaching and learning within Edge Hill University is extremely rewarding. Overall my view is that Staff who develop good digital capabilities in technology enhanced learning can offer new opportunities for their students through improved access to resources, increased interaction between staff and students, changes to learning and teaching styles and more flexibility in their choice of place and time.”

You can here from Mark in this short video about his work with the MaST Team;

YouTube Video Player

…this is what Andrea Taylor (Senior Lecturer MaST) said;

“MaST have been working with Learning Services’ Mark Wilcock for a couple of years on ways to develop and deliver blended learning session for our students, some of whom are based on campus with others at locations across the country. Initial trials with Blackboard Collaborate were very promising, this allowed us to offer face to face sessions whilst students in Birmingham were able to join the session remotely from a device or their computer.  Working with Mark was also important in developing a number of iSpring packages which allowed us to create interactive multimedia e-earning content.  As we grew in confidence, in terms of using the technology, we were made aware of lecture capture software.  

The MaST Team approached Mark again to find out more about this new resource called ‘Panopto’ to see what it offered as an alternative.

It was important the technology is easy to use and allowed us to capture the lecture electronically and live screen to the second venue without any issues, and to create accessible recording we can upload quickly to the VLE so that students have almost immediate access to this resource.  Panopto allows our students to view the keynote address after the face to face day to follow up on their learning and to encourage further reflection.  We would recommend that other departments incorporate this technology into their courses.  The support for its use had been fabulous and although we have used it at a very basic level, we look forward to utilising many of the other features that are available through Panopto”

The MaST Team;
Mary McAteer, Andrea Taylor, Victoria Grinyer, Ann Barker, Philip Rowe, Stephen Williams

If you feel inspired by Mark, the MaST Team and want to use these and/or other technologies to help enhance and support your own teaching, please get in-touch with the Learning Technology Team in Learning Services.  We will be very happy to work with you.

Mark Wilcock

 

 

Mark Wilcock
(Learning Technology Development Officer)

Introducing Blackboard Spaces

spaces_cutIf you open the Global Navigation menu in Blackboard, you will see that the bottom icon on the menu links to a tool called Spaces.

These are very simple social spaces that anyone can set up and invite people to. Members of a Space can create their own posts and comment on posts written by others.

You might find Spaces useful if you want to quickly set up a study group and invite people to it. You can even invite people from other universities and institutions that use the Blackboard Spaces tool.

We’ve created a short guide to using the Spaces tool, and members of staff can contact their Learning Technologist for guidance, or if you have any comments.

beaumont_smaller

Peter Beaumont
Learning Technology Development Officer