I have over the years looked at how we can store and use digital video to support and enhance learning. Generally small video clips seem to work better online (just look at the success of YouTube) rather than whole programmes.
Though having said that I am currently enjoying the BBC Archive trial and the BBC iPlayer beta and on both of those I am watching full length programmes. However I am watching it for entertainment rather than educational – raises another question, is there a such a stark difference between entertainment and learning these days?
We are storing video clips we use on the VLE (we use Moodle) using the Flash Video format. Though some staff are using YouTube or TeacherTube.
Our Flash video generally streams “okay” both inside and outside the college.
I have found that using Quicktime H.264 encoded files results in a similar file size, but much better quality. This was particularly evident with the Italian Language programme I used as my example, where the audio was out of sync with the video when using Flash video which would have proved difficult for language students to follow the foreign language.
However it does require that the client have Quicktime installed and though this is a free download for users outside the college, the Quicktime player we have installed on college machines is not capable of playing H.264 content.
The main advantage of encoding H.264 was the time it took to encode the files. Though quality and final file size were also advantageous.
To encode a 15 minute MPEG2 Freeview recording took around 15 minutes on my iMac.
To encode the same 15 minute MPEG2 recording as a FLV file took about five to six hours… and then I needed to create a Flash object which contained the FLV video file.
We now have a 15 minute limit on files just because anything longer will take too long to download. For those video recordings/files we put them on DVD and allow the students to view them via a DVD player.
Longer term for larger videos we are aiming to have a media/video server, but this will be mainly aimed at streaming internally.
We never have enough time, however I have managed to find the time to spend some time talking about time…Over the last ten years or so I have been supporting staff in FE in the use of learning technologies, all the time when I run training sessions though I hear the following comments:
“I don’t have the time.”
“When am I suppose to find time to do all this?”
“I am going to need more time.”
There are a few options when it comes to time and finding the time.
First option, double your working hours each week, this will give you more time for work, less for home, but remember it has to be for the same money!
Second option, don’t sleep! Sleep is somewhat overrated and think of all that time you are wasting sleeping, when you could be doing so much more. We live in a world which never sleeps according to an overused cliché.
Third option, use a time machine, such as the Tardis or H G Wells’ time machine and travel back in time to catch up on all the time you need, you might break a few laws of time, but I won’t tell.
Seriously though, time is finite and fixed. We can’t change the amount of time we have. All that is possible is prioritising how we use our time and working more efficiently
Everybody already uses technology to save time. People drive to work rather than walk. There are microwaves and fridges in staff areas which means it is possible to save time over lunch. Telephones enable quicker and easier communication and for planning meetings and contacts it can save time. Video recorders allow us to time-shift watching television programmes. Kettles avoid having to light a fire to make a cup of tea!
Everyday we use technology to make our lives easier and to save time.
Often learning technologies can be used to make our lives easier and importantly save time.
Do you give your learners any type of formative assessment, do you find the marking takes a large amount of time, or do you use valuable contact time, getting the students to mark each others’ assessments, or do you not bother as you don’t have the time? You can put assessments on a VLE and it can save time, as the VLE will mark the assessments for you. Importantly such formative assessment will allow you to identify learners having difficulties which can impact on retention and achievement.
Do you spend time finding or copying resources for students who missed a session, or have lost them. How do you cope with differentiation or providing a personalised learning experience in addition to this. By using a VLE and uploading interactive whiteboard notes, handouts, presentations, your learners will be able to find and access the resources they need at a time and place to suit them, saving you time and making their lives easier. However if you also provide additional resources, links, digital online collections, you can start to provide a differentiated and personalised learning experience which will challenge the more able learners and support the learners with greater needs.
Why not think about what you do have time for? What I mean by this is how do you prioritise how you spend your working week? How much time do you spend planning lessons and how much time do you spend creating resources for your lessons?
The following topics are covered significantly across many vocational and academic areas across the college. Do you create resources for these areas yourself, or do you use other peoples?
Health and Safety
Sharing makes sense and saves time. So how do you share when one of you is based at different sites on a multi-site college? You know I am going to say through the VLE don’t you?
How do you share when you are based in a college in Gloucestershire and somebody else is based in a college in York. You know I am going to say through JORUM don’t you?
Working together, both internally and externally, can have significant impact on the speed and quality of delivery. The ability to bring high quality expertise from different disciplines to share good practice, develop ideas and address learning and implementation strategies can be highly effective. Synergy means that working together produces better results than the sum of the parts working individually.
But I hear you cry, “I don’t like using other people’s stuff…”
I know, but I am 100% certain that everyone does use other people’s stuff not just now and again, but all the time. When you photocopy a page from a book or an article from a journal, that is someone else’s stuff. When you use an article from a newspaper or a journal, that is someone else’s stuff. When you show a video, that’s someone else’s stuff.
We use other people’s stuff all the time. Building on the work of others is a valid way of working. It is how academic research is undertaken, building on the work of others.
Using other people’s stuff saves time.
Time is valuable, but we can’t increase the time we have, we can prioritise how we spend our time and use technologies to save time. We all use technology everyday to save time and make our lives easier.
Learning technologies can be used to save time, make our lives easier in the college; as well as enhance learning, improve retention and increase achievement for our learners.
It is very useful for a student to undertake reading or similar before the lesson, it prepares them and gives a background to the topic of the session.
Often in a course you may require students to read a chapter from a textbook in preparation for the next session.
You can do something similar with resources on a VLE.
Resources you could ask your students to read or go through could include one or more of the following:
• NLN Learning Object;
• resource from Ferl/QIA website;
• resource downloaded from the JISC JORUM repository;
• a specific web link (or selection of web links);
• a resource you have created and uploaded to the VLE;
• a series of questions to ascertain the previous knowledge.
One of the advantages of a VLE is that the use of the resource by learners can be tracked so you will have an idea of who has actually done what you asked.
A specific example of this to show how you can do this.
For the GCE AS History you need to study the Russian Revolution.
There are a range of NLN Learning Objects which cover History and one covers 1917 – the year of revolution: The failure of the provisional government and the success of the Bolsheviks.
Prior to starting the topic you could ask your students to look at and read the learning object on the VLE in the same way you may get them to read a chapter from a book.
They will then be able to have a background to Russian Revolution of 1917 which will enable you to focus on the issues rather than starting from scratch.
You can use a VLE as a starting point for a classroom session, allowing you to quickly access web sites, NLN materials and presentations, etc.. with the advantage that you can also allow your learners to access the “lesson” again on the VLE at a time and place to suit them…
You may already be familiar with using PowerPoint on a laptop and a data projector in a classroom situation.
If you have internet access you can use the VLE as a lesson planning tool with the ability to quickly access notes, NLN materials, PowerPoint presentations, web links, images and so on…
Of course once the lesson is there (whether it be a set of links, a package or a chapter) the learners can access the “lesson” again at a time and place to suit them.
Learners who were absent from the lesson can also access the “lesson” therefore avoiding the need to find out what they missed and thus saving you and them time.
Evidence shows that using a VLE in this way actually improves attendance at sessions rather than as you might think result in a drop in attendance.
The lesson can be extended on the VLE through adding additional resources and web links; and the use of discussions groups to continue and further any discussion in the classroom. These virtual discussions can certainly benefit reflective learners and those that lack confidence to speak in class but are happy to write down their views and opinions.
This lesson will also be available for the rest of the year, supporting revision for example.
The lesson will also be available next year, saving time on preparation and planning.
The VLE will never replace classroom teaching, but it can be used to supplement and enhance a classroom session that was never possible before.
Having a high level of technology for learning equipment in a school or college will dramatically improve performance, so long as there is the right support and enthusiasm to embrace it.
In terms of FE, there was recognition of the value of VLEs (or learning platforms) in enhancing and supporting learning.
In the further education colleges it was found that learning platforms extended students’ learning into the home, and the management information systems provided greater efficiency and effectiveness for managers and teachers.
The BBC is reporting on the story and they pick up on the fact that though there was greater success in the primary and secondary schools, the impact on FE was marginal, there was little change.
It can be difficult to measure the impact of technology on retention and achivement, but there is now much more evidence that it can and does make a difference.
One of the useful aspects of the Gloucestershire College VLE is the ability to store a series of bookmarked web links on a course.
These links can be accessed from any computer which is something that Internet Explorer fails to do as it is restricted to one computer.
Also these links can be accessed by your students at a time and place convenient to them (whether that be at home, in college, or at work). Rather than type them out they can click and there the page is there for them either within the campus or in a new window.
You could always use a social bookmarking site such as del.icio.us, but one of the advantages of using the VLE is that it can track who has clicked the links.
On Friday the 29th of June Gloucestershire College will be moving its Learning Gateway (library) from their old 1930’s Brunswick campus to their new state of the art new campus on the Gloucester docks.
Moving seventeen thousand odd books, fifty computers and lots of other stuff, makes you realise how moving from one VLE to another though complicated and complex, can be relatively simple to physically moving a learning environment.
The move won’t impact on the VLE as the VLE runs on servers on our Cheltenham campus, however it does mean that I personally will be quite busy and therefore won’t be online as much as I am now.