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Digital Education team blog


Ideas and reflections from UCL's Digital Education team


Personal capture saves time, improves feedback

By Clive Young, on 8 February 2012

Interesting new webinar and report of an Echo 360 project ME2U by John Davies and Clare Hardman of the Teaching and Learning Development Unit at the University of Sussex. Echo 360 personal capture allows lecturers to record ‘ screencasts’, audio and video of desktops on their own computer. It is easy to set up and learn and can be easily integrated into Moodle. There is simple review and editing, but the tool is quite simple. The project looked at how such screencasts (maximum 10 minutes) could supplement ‘conventional’ teaching such as lectures and labs and found a number of uses:

  • Contextualisation – helped prepare course and practical/lab work, and so saved time in the face-to-face session and can often be used for several years. Although the content was available in handbooks, students liked to be orientated via the ‘narrative’ alternative. 70% of users felt better prepared.
  • Assessment preparation – enabled a more personalised introduction to tasks; these proved to be very popular, especially with first-year students.
  • Feedback  – allowed cohort-level feedback. Students found this more ‘personal’ and reassuring, and staff found it saved staff time in answering generic feedback questions by email.

The project undertook comparative studies and found (tentatively) that viewing the contextualisation screencasts produced a significant distance in marks, something like 5% improvement.

Most staff participants said they would use screencasts again and would recommend the approach to colleagues. They liked the quick non-technical nature of the system allowing ‘on-the-fly’ screencasts  from home or the office. Although some staff felt self-conscious at first, students actually preferred the informality of the quick unedited ‘rough and ready’ production values, perceiving them as more responsive and ‘personal’. As expectations adjusted to this staff found they could spent less and less time on production and focus more on speed of response and content.  The project found it useful to show lecturers examples of this approach, supplemented by appreciative quotes from student focus groups and access logs showing use.

The conclusion was that the screencast approach was time-efficient and maybe time saving, but that the big gain was in enabling richer student preparation and feedback.

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