Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Digital commons session - Lecture capture

As part of the Digital Commons session around lecture capture, following on from informative morning panel, Pete Mella and I facilitated a session around the benefits and concerns of lecture capture.

The aim of the session was to consider some of the points raised from the panel session, discuss these in teams and decide which were the most prominent points.

For this session we put participants into small groups and gave each table to pack of cards. These were coloured red and green.  


Red = Statements which were considered a concern around the use of lecture capture
Green = Statements which were seen as a benefit of lecture capture

In the activity we asked for each team to come up with the card that had the most important point  for each colour and have one backup, in case of duplication amongst teams. We also provided a blank “wildcard” which they could complete if they felt the issue wasn’t covered in the existing deck.

After a short discussion we brought the group back together to discuss our thoughts.

Some of the issues that were considered most prevalent were:

Confidentiality (wildcard)
This concern was to do with how and where students may access lecture capture materials. Some of our courses contain particularly sensitive data which students could potentially show to a wider audience either knowingly or unknowingly (e.g. playing the recording in a public place).

This is indeed a valid concern and advice given was to be assured that the video is only available inside the MOLE course by default, with downloads disabled. You have the ability to pause the recording, so the session could be amended slightly to bring together the parts that needed not to be recorded.

Ultimately though it was agreed that not every session is right for lecture recording and some instances it is sensible not to record. Though in most instances minor ordering amendments can allow the session to recorded without affecting the quality of the lecture.

Technical issues
One issue which still concerns people is whether the technology will work on the day and will sessions be recorded successfully. Whilst there have been some instances of failed recordings identified, the service has been going well given its growth this academic year. It was highlighted that many of these issues are being resolved and staff were reminded that if they do identify any issues to contact either the AV or CiCS Helpdesk to help issues to be resolved more quickly.

As with all synchronous technology supported activities, ensuring you have a plan B in place where possible is good practice. This could be making lecture slides available on MOLE and providing any supporting material you can give to students. The system we have in place requires almost no intervention from the tutor and the only setup required is to turn on the microphone.

Disabled students
The use of lecture capture was seen to be a huge benefit to students with a wide range of disabilities, and the benefits ranged from not needing to take verbatim notes to being able to access materials if a student is unable to attend in person.

International students
For international students where for many English is a second language, lecture capture can be used to positive effect, giving students another opportunity to view the lecture.

You are able to add subtitles/transcripts to help support the recording too, which was seen as something that could help both international and students with disabilities.

As part of the session we produced a series of slides looking at each topic and some of the research underpinning these, which you can find below.

We then passed over to Dan Courtney and James Slack who gave an overview of the system and gave people an opportunity to ask any questions about the technology supporting lecture capture.

If you have any questions about the session or are interested in running it in your area please contact tel@sheffield.ac.uk

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

The annual three week ‘Manic’ Period

Obviously the beginning of any new academic year is a very busy time for the majority of us and the TEL help desk is certainly no exception. Each year, the three week period comprising of ‘Freshers’ week and the following two, are by far our busiest. ‘Manic’ is the word I always use.

The ‘Supportworks’ enquiry system which we use, records the volume of traffic we handle and the last five years totals for this period are as follows:

2016-17 - 677
2015-16 - 613
2014-15 - 741
2013-14 - 747
2012-13 - 786

This year as in every year, nearly half (45%) of all the enquiries during this three week period are from folk (staff and students) asking to be given access to their particular MOLE courses.

For students in particular, these requests are mostly unnecessary as the MOLE system is populated with student enrolments automatically by electronic transfer from the University's main student registration system.  Once the choice of courses is completed on their main registration record, student’s MOLE accounts are automatically updated (the process runs four times each day) and the list of courses shown on their MOLE homepage then changes to reflect this.

Today’s students live in a world where they are used to things happening instantaneously (in an IT sense anyway) and having completed their registration process, if they cannot see their courses in MOLE straight away they tend to assume something has gone wrong.  We manage to answer the vast majority of enquiries the same day as they are received and in most cases in the interim period of the enquiry being sent and us reading it, we usually find that the above automated system has done its job and the student has been given access to their courses. We simply then just need to reply happily confirming this.

Of course no system is 100% perfect and there are times when we have to step in to manually add a student to a course, but thankfully this is not very often in comparison.

Staff are not added to courses automatically unless the same course ran last year and they were a part of it, in which case they are automatically enrolled in this year’s course too.

New or existing staff, requiring access to a particular course for the first time always have to be added manually. We can do this and staff already having the role of Instructor in a course can add other staff to that same course.

Sometimes individual staff members don’t realise they are not added automatically to new courses and they contact us in a panic because they need to prepare material for the first teaching session to be held shortly, only to find they don’t have access to the course.

Sometimes a teaching department’s Administration/Clerical teams send us long lists of staff that need adding to courses. We also receive quite a lot of requests asking us to merge two or more courses together in MOLE. Obviously we don’t mind doing this but ideally it would be better for everyone concerned if we could receive these enrolment lists and merger requests earlier in the summer (courses are usually created in July and even earlier in some cases).

Add to the mix the usual everyday requests for assistance in how to do something, Turnitin queries, technical problems etc and it all adds up to a ‘Manic’ three weeks - but guess what? ...I love it!!!

Monday, 17 October 2016

Teaching Copyright and Creative Commons (featuring the Selfie Monkey)

Last week I led a short presentation for students in the Theatre Department, alongside colleagues Steve McIndoe and Kate Grigson from the Library, about copyright considerations to take into account when using others' materials in recorded theatre productions.

It's easy to spend sessions like this dwelling on the restrictions and getting bogged down in legal minutiae, and making copyright sound boring, overly pedantic and restrictive. While going over some of the necessary basics of copyright law, the main point of this session was to give an understanding of why protecting your artistic work is important, and to give students information about using Creative Commons material that allows them the create work that they can be confident about sharing widely without legal snags. If the work they produce at university has sound copyright thought behind it they can use it as a showreel or share it via social media, reaching new audiences and showing future employers they have the knowledge and attention to detail to use others' work with care and legal consideration (which gives them a head start on many graduates entering the creative industries).

Some good discussion was had in the session. We spent some time examining The Verve's infamous use of an uncleared sample of a Rolling Stones cover on their song Bittersweet Symphony, leading to the band losing all royalties, awards and artistic control from their biggest hit to Jagger, Richards and their publishers. We also discussed the 'selfie monkey' and who owned the copyright of the above image - the photographer who owned and set up the camera, or the monkey who took the picture (it's no-one - the monkey took the picture, but animals aren't covered by copyright law - but the photographer is challenging this!).

Hopefully the students found the session useful, and it gave them some grounding to think about these issues as they progress through their studies. As creators themselves they should know their own rights, and respect the rights of others, but perhaps as importantly know the ways Creative Commons plugs them into a rich source of material to remix and adapt creatively and legally. Teaching about copyright and IP issues, rather than being dry and draconian, can be a liberating way to allow students to work with and repurpose material, adding to their digital and information literacies, and creating more engaged digital citizens.

Pete Mella

Friday, 16 September 2016

Seven new features in PebblePad v5 you may have missed

We upgraded to PebblePad to v5 in August - and all has gone well. The main difference is a change from Flash to HTML5, which has led to a much more responsive system that is more adaptable to web-browsers, and now fully-functional on mobile devices. With this has come a redesign that is both better-looking and much less confusing.

PebblePad have focused on making existing features better, and v5 does not yet have a lot of new additions. However there are some useful new features in there which make its use more flexible. Here are some you may have missed.

1. Placeholder Pages in Workbooks
Workbooks are a great way to give learners structured reflection, but there was never the ability for them to add their own assets into the page structure (this had to be done by attaching assets to evidence boxes). Now tutors can set placeholder pages - effectively a blank page in the Workbook where the learner can insert their own page, collection, blog or activity log. This allows more flexibility for the learner to pick their own material to submit as part of a structured Workbook.

2. Media Picker
Similar to the Placeholder Page, there was previously no way for a learner to embed their own media into Templates or Workbooks, and this had to be attached as assets on an evidence box for the tutor to download. Now a tutor can add a Media Picker element to a Template, allowing a learner to add their own images, audio or video directly on to the page.

3. Rubrics
Rubrics are a major new feature added in the September update. These can be added to Templates and Workbooks, and allow for learners to rate their own abilities against a rubric, with optional weighting giving a tallied score. When it comes to marking, the option to turn this into an assessor field in a Template/Workbook page isn't there yet, but the rubrics can be incorporated into Feedback Templates for tutor use in ATLAS.

4. Contents menu
One less popular element of v5 was the new horizontal menu structure on Workbooks and Portfolios, which makes great sense on mobile devices but caused a lot of scrolling if tutors had set up their asset with many menu items. The good news is the September update saw a pop-out contents icon on the far left of the menu, allowing users to view a vertical index if more convenient.

5. Page-level comments and feedback
There have been very few changes to ATLAS so far, but one useful recent feature is the ability to add page-level comments, feedback and grades in Workbooks.

6. Create subsections in Workbooks more easily
It was always possible to create subsections in Workbooks, but this was a bit fiddly in v3 - you had to create a second Workbook separately, then add this as an existing template page. Now you can create stacked Workbooks easily in the Workbook editor, by clicking on the '+' on a menu tab, and selecting 'Convert to Workbook'. This means you can create your 'Workbooks in Workbooks' in one place without going in and out of the Resource Store. (This can also be done to create subsections in in Portfolios)

7. YouTube embed in Portfolios
Finally YouTube videos can now be added to Portfolios, allowing learners to add videos hosted outside PebblePad. This isn't yet featured in Workbooks, but will hopefully be added in a future update.

If you have any questions about any of these features, or anything else about PebblePad, please get in touch at tel@sheffield.ac.uk. Also keep your eyes on the PebblePad Release Notes for news of future upgrades.


Tuesday, 28 June 2016

TELFest 2016 Day 2 - Tuesday 28 June

TELFest: Lada Price explains why she uses Lecture Capture

Dr Lada Price, a university teacher at The Department of Journalism Studies, tells us why she has decided to use Lecture Capture.

She visited TELFest today to attend the session 'My Echo - Why to, and how to, record lectures' presented by Daniel Courtney (CiCS) and Suzy Stephenson (TEL Team) to learn more about Echo 360, which she plans to use from September.

Lada has used Lecture Tools in the past and told us about the main advantages and disadvantages of using such software.

Watch the video below to find out what she had to say:

What can you learn from the MOLE Exemplary Course Programme?

We spoke to lecturers to Tom Clark and Michael Livingstone as well as Danny Monaghan from the TEL Team after they presented the session 'Mole Exemplary Course Programme', which marked the start of day two of TELFest. 

Michael Livingstone, a PhD Researcher at The University of Sheffield Landscape Department, explained how he had used the programme to improve his own input into MOLE and change courses so they are more engaging and easy to use. 

He said: 'The TEL and @CiCS teams gave me loads of great ideas for how to improve our MOLE modules.'

He also praised the peer support aspect of the course, where you get paired with someone and give each other advice on how to improve your modules and also get the opportunity to present your work and get feedback from everyone on the course.

Michael said: "It was really inspiring to see what all the people had done." 

Dr Tom Clark, a lecturer in the Department of Sociological Studies, who also works for the Sheffield Methods Institute, told us how he thinks students have benefited from him attending the course. 

He said: "It allows students to take ownership over their own learning choices, they can shape their learning engagement according to their own needs."

We also spoke to Danny Monaghan from the TEL Team, who chaired the session. He explained what people can learn from attending the MOLE Exemplary Course Programme and how important it is for people to understand exactly what MOLE can do and why is it so beneficial for staff and students.


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